PROTESTING BID SPECIFICATIONS – Beware of the Deadlines
In IFBs, RFPs, RFQs, RLIs, etc., sometimes there are problems with the specifications. The specifications are the instructions, parameters, or guidelines within the public agency’s solicitation. Problems range from typographical or substantive mistakes, vagueness, or parameters that give one bidder or proposer an unfair advantage. When you see any of the above in the specifications, you might need to protest them immediately.
The deadline to challenge the specifications usually comes up very quickly. And if you miss the deadline, your ability to file such a protest is forever waived. For example, under Florida’s Statutes, a challenge to the specifications must be made within 72 hours after the solicitation is posted. If you snooze, you lose.
Different agencies may have different deadlines and procedures for challenging the specifications, so you have to look at the agency’s code or the solicitation itself for guidance. Some agencies do not have any rules for specification challenges. If they don’t you might be able to challenge the specifications at the end of the process, like in your bid protest following the award.
One important, and often overlooked, note. In many government project advertisements, there are amendments or addenda. These are changes, including additions, to the specifications by the public agency made after the initial posted solicitation. You may also be able to file a specification challenges as to amendments or addenda. Usually the same time limitations for regular specification challenges apply to addenda specification challenges. For example, you might have to challenge an addendum within 72 hours after it is posted. Again, it depends on the public agency involved, and the rules are not always the same.