NASA faces scrutiny on bid protest

Sen. Grassley, IG say agency misled GAO.

NASA has failed to keep its end of an agreement in a case in which a bid protest was dismissed in 2005, said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who wants the agency to account for misleading the Government Accountability Office on a pledge to review contracting irregularities.

In a letter sent to NASA this month, Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said NASA made specific promises that led GAO to dismiss the protest. But a review by NASA's inspector general found that the agency did not follow through on its promises, Grassley said.

'NASA needs to ensure that basic procurement principles are followed,' Grassley said in a statement. The agency also should update GAO after a protest's dismissal, so the audit agency takes NASA's commitments seriously, he said.

Parametric Technology won a contract for $5.2 million in September 2005 for mechanical computer-aided design and data management software licenses at multiple NASA centers. Two vendors protested, saying the agency improperly conducted the acquisition by not complying with competition requirements, according to Grassley's letter.

NASA found inconsistencies and said it would recompete the contract and review its procedures. Based on that, GAO dismissed the protest. But Grassley said NASA failed to recompete the contract.

'It appears NASA did not begin the agencywide review of requirements for MCAD software, as it told GAO it would after the dismissal of the bid protest,' the senator wrote. Instead, NASA officials drafted a different document in February 2006, allowing the agency to avoid another open competition.

Grassley asked NASA for details about its actions and what contracting irregularities it found in the 2005 procurement. He also asked about other inconsistencies and bid protests since 2001, and requested a list of current or ongoing procurements.

Matthew Weigelt writes for GCN's affiliate publication, Federal Computer Week.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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