United States: Offeror Due Diligence: Electronic Proposal Submission Using Agency Mandated Portals - Contractor Diligence

The days of submitting hard copy proposals are going the way of the 8-track tapes, as are faxed or emailed offers and delivery of compact discs or thumb drives or any other physical form of electronic media. More and more agencies are relying on electronic portals for the delivery and receipt of proposals. With a Government-furnished portal, the offeror generally will first browse and select from its server the proposal files that it wants to upload to the portal, and then the offeror transfers those files via an upload command from the offeror's server to the Government's portal/server. Once the offeror's proposal files have been uploaded to the Government portal, the offeror then submits the proposal files with a click or other electronic command. This process should be easy to complete regardless of the portal platform used by the Government; and yet, offerors are finding that there are complications and challenges with which they must contend.

Even though it is a Government-mandated portal, the burden still resides with the offeror to make sure that its entire proposal is timely submitted and received by the agency. And to meet that burden, offerors should document confirmation of receipt or, at the very least, confirmation of submission. More than one offeror has learned the hard way that not all of its proposal files were actually selected for uploading or, if selected, were not actually uploaded or, if uploaded, were not actually delivered (i.e., received by the agency). The result invariably is that the offeror's proposal submission will be deemed incomplete and it will be eliminated from the competition. So what should offerors do when submitting proposals via agency or third-party portals? Several best practices should be considered:

  • Read carefully the instructions for proposal submission and make sure to follow those instructions to the letter.
  • Conduct a trial run to test the operability of the transfer process to confirm that designated files are successfully selected, uploaded, and ready for submission.
  • Plan in advance how to select and upload files (e.g., individual files, file groups or categories, or single integrated file). Weigh the options against the risks that go along with those options and make an informed decision about the approach that best meets your needs, realizing that the overarching need is to make certain the entire proposal is timely submitted to and received by the agency.
  • Determine in advance whether there are any file size constraints (too big) associated with the portal, and make sure your files fit within the limiting parameters. Consider proposal formatting (e.g., Excel, Word, PDF, or other native applications) as the file format may materially impact the upload or submittal process.
  • Consider file transfer rates (a test run will help you determine whether it is quick and efficient or takes forever). Transfer rates are very important should you wind up submitting your proposal within minutes of the stated deadline. Select, upload, and submit the proposal files well before the deadline for submission of offers.
  • After the proposal has been submitted, print and save any evidence that demonstrates that the proposal, including each file and part thereof, was successfully submitted and/or received. To the extent that the agency later claims that it did not receive the entire proposal, your record of transfer and file delivery can be used to show that you did everything as instructed and that the Government is to blame for any nonreceipt of files.
  • Confirm receipt of each file comprising the proposal with the agency.
  • To the extent allowed by the solicitation and/or the contracting officer, submit a copy of the proposal through other means, such as through electronic mail or by hand delivery, as a failsafe measure.

By following these best practices, contractors can mitigate the risks associated with proposal submission through electronic portals.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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