In a post today at Sunlight’s Real Time Investigations, I report that the General Services Administration has promised to provide online a censored version of its $9.5 million contract with Smartronix, Inc. for the redesign of Recovery.gov.
The contract had been withheld, the Recovery and Transparency Board had said, pending a “protest period” where losing bidders on the contract could cry foul.
Two companies put in unsuccessful proposals and neither filed complaints, and the board chairman said last week that it would release the contract to pre-empt public records requests from watchdog groups–a recourse that could seem ironic for a board founded on transparency. (Incidentally, Sunlight had filed already filed a FOIA request for it the prior week.)
Sunlight Labs and its citizen-coder community worked on drafting our own proposal, you’ll recall, on the project that eventually turned into the shrouded contract (worth more than $18 million if it’s extended).
We turned our efforts elsewhere after it became clear that, due to a lack of time, resources and fluency in bureaucracy, submitting a bid would be a shooting for something we’d never win.
Perhaps the only conceivable benefit to submitting a futile proposal–and Sunlight would have to be a subcontractor in all this, not being on the approved-contractor list–would be the retention of petitioning rights. Any written petition from a losing bidder would have immediately stalled the contract–despite its urgent deadlines–until it could be considered, barring a special exception. What does a petition entail?
The broad petition powers are, on their face, a regulation designed to protect one government contractor from another one company which it suggested was engaged in corruption with the government. The problem is that the contract on which the jilted companies would be objecting isn’t made available to them until after the petitioning period!
“Unsuccessful offerors can protest based on several issues that do not require access to the contract document itself,” a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration said in an e-mail to Sunlight.