Surprising Statistics About Federal Bid Protests


Wally Zimolong over at Supplemental Conditions posted a piece about federal bid protest statistics.

There were a few statistics in the report that I thought were pretty telling. First off, the number of formal bid protests rose almost 50% between 2008 and 2012. But the statistic that stayed consistent was also pretty disturbing. Over 40% of the time, either the agency took voluntary corrective action (i.e. admitted they made a mistake) or the Government Accountability Office found the agency had “violated a procurement law or regulation in a prejudicial manner.”

A few things could be going on here. This is just data. And by looking at one datapoint, you can’t see the full picture.

For one, bidders might be more apt to protest bids these days. My gut tells me that, in general, bidders are reluctant to protest because they don’t want a “black mark” on their reputation with a key client.

Has the number of bid protests risen simply because there are more federal procurements? There were fewer federal procurements in 2012 than in 2008 (according to But during those in-between years, the number of federal procurements rose significantly. So, it’s tough to say.

However, here is one interpretation of the data. If you are in a federal procurement and something feels fishy, there’s about a 50/50 shot that procurement rules were broken.

Key Takeaway: One thing is clear. Procurement rules were broken by Federal agencies at least 670 times in 2012. We’re not talking about one or two slip ups. We are talking about over 670 documented occasions in one single year. Procurement regulations are clearly being broken by Federal agencies.

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