Engineering News-Record had an interesting editorial commenting on the bid protests on the New Orleans airport. The article analogized bid protests to video reviews at a football game — they cause delays, but more often than not, they provide a clearer picture of what occurred. The same can be said of bid legitimate protests.
Bid protests allow for a review of the decision making process. In the New Orleans airport situation, two members of the board selecting the builder for the project incorrectly completed the voting forms. The contractor that was not selected protested the award and the process was reviewed. Once it was discovered that two board members improperly completed their ballots, the award was rescinded and the project was again. Now the board must again review the bids and select the winning bid.
In my experience, bid protests can shed important light on a decision and reveal errors in the process. Of course, every losing bidder should not protest a bid. But, if a review of the outcome reveals a failure to follow the proper process, a protest should be considered.
Perhaps another football analogy is appropriate when considering a bid protest. Much as the head coach only gets so many protests during the game, a contractor should seriously reflect on whether to challenge a bid. Before throwing out the red flag, a contractor should have had the bid process reviewed by experienced counsel and have concrete evidence on which to support its challenge. Although a contractor will not be charged a time out, an unsuccessful bid protest can be a time consuming process and impact your credibility with an agency from which future work may be obtained.
Take Away: Bid protests are a tremendous tool to challenge the award of a project. But, a bid protest should only be pursued when problems with the underlying process can be established through witnesses and documentary evidence.