Beware the revolving door. It can hit you or those with you on the way in or the way out. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently reminded us of this fact when it sustained a protest by International Resources Group (IRG) regarding an organizational conflict of interest. The problem? The Agency (USAID) failed to properly investigate the awardee AECOM’s hiring of a former key Agency official – someone who had inside information about the procurement. International Resources Group, B-409346.
USAID argued that its former Director of Water “did not have access to relevant procurement-sensitive information during his employment with USAID.” But this claim was contradicted by actual emails the former director received and sent, including emails labeled as containing procurement sensitive information.” According to the GAO –
[T]he record demonstrates that the director had a deeper involvement in the procurement than the agency acknowledges, including, for example, helping to draft the [statement of work], commenting on the structure of the solicitation, and making a presentation to USAID’s Board for Acquisition and Assistance Review to gain approval of the IDIQ, participating in numerous on-going discussions about the procurement, and helping to solicit and select members of the [technical evaluation committee], including fielding their questions about the RFP and SOW.
GAO recommended that the Agency “conduct a thorough investigation of AECOM’s alleged unfair competitive advantage” and “meaningfully consider the extent of the former director’s potential access to non-public, competitively useful information”. If the Agency concludes that AECOM has an impermissible conflict, GAO has directed them to “consider whether this conflict can be mitigated and take appropriate corrective measures”. However, if the Agency finds that corrective measures would be inadequate to address the conflict, GAO recommends that AECOM’s contract be terminated.
Don’t lose your hard won contract over a conflict of interest. Know the rules and follow them.
Lindsay Simmons is responsible for the contents of this article
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