Government Contracts GAO Declines Review of Alleged Organizational Conflict of Interest
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Thursday, February 27, 2020

GAO Declines Review of Alleged Organizational Conflict of Interest

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

The Comptroller General would not consider an allegation an awardee had an organizational conflict of interest, because the allegation constituted a dispute between private parties. The request for task order proposals for intelligence support services required offerors to disclose any OCI issues and provide an OCI mitigation plan for identified conflicts. The RTOP stated “OCIs exist when an [o]fferor would face an actual or potential conflict of interest if it worked on the proposed task order, due to its other business interests or due to the nature of the effort to be performed.” The protester contended the awardee had an “unmitigatable conflict of interest” that afforded it an unfair competitive advantage. According to the protester, one of the awardee’s corporate officers previously served as a third-party consultant conducting due diligence for a possible acquisition of the protester, and the officer obtained the protester’s “confidential information and highly sensitive … trade secrets” during the course of that transaction.

Private Dispute. However, the protester failed to allege a cognizable OCI. An unequal access to information OCI exists where a firm has access to nonpublic information as part of its performance of a government contract. Here, the allegation focused on the awardee’s hiring of an individual who obtained the protester’s proprietary information through a private business transaction, with no government involvement. Management Sciences for Health (33 CGEN ¶115,973) explains “where information is obtained by one firm directly from another firm … this essentially amounts to a private dispute between private parties that [the Comptroller General] will not consider absent evidence of government involvement.” The situation described by the protester did not involve access by the awardee to nonpublic information obtained as part of the firm’s performance of a government contract, and the facts did not otherwise implicate government involvement. Thus, the protest presented a dispute between private parties, not unequal access to information under FAR Subpart 9.5. (Absolute Business Solutions, Inc., 35 CGEN ¶116,686)

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