U.S. GAO sees drop in successful contract protests

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of successful U.S. contract protests fell sharply in fiscal 2014 to 13 percent, the lowest rate seen in over a decade, but government agencies are taking other corrective actions at a higher rate, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said on Wednesday. Ralph White, GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, told Reuters the drop in the percentage of protests upheld in fiscal 2014 did not reflect any change in the philosophy or staffing of the congressional agency, which rules on federal contract protests. He said the so-called effectiveness rate, which measures the percentage of protesters who obtained some form of relief from the agency, either as a result of voluntary corrective action or having their protest upheld, remained steady at 43 percent. "Even though the sustain rate is lower, the effectiveness rate has stayed the same, which means that agencies are taking voluntary corrective action in response to protests at an even higher level," White told Reuters. In its annual report to Congress, GAO said 2,561 cases were filed with the agency in fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, an increase of five percent from a year earlier. Of those, GAO issued a ruling in 556 cases and upheld 72, or 13 percent. In fiscal 2014, it sustained 87 of 509 cases in which it issued a ruling, or 17 percent. The 2014 sustain rate was the lowest reported by GAO since 2001, the first year in which it included the sustain and effectiveness rates in its reports to Congress. Of the 2,458 cases closed in fiscal 2014, 292 involved large umbrella contracts in which agencies award multiple indefinite quantity contracts to multiple bidders, GAO said. White said GAO had seen a number of cases in which multiple protests were filed against such contracts, reflecting growing concerns by losing bidders about being locked out of such large business opportunities. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bernard Orr)