Case of the Month – November 2020: Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc.

PCI has started a new webinar series, the Case of the Month Club.  Each month PCI’s Government Contracts law experts will discuss one or two recent cases.  The first November case is AT&T Coproration. View the session free.

Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc.
Government Accountability Office
Decided September 25, 2020

Facts: NASA awarded a $651.6 million Marshall, Operations, Systems, Services and Integration (MOSSI) contract to SGT. One of the senior NASA procurement officials assisting in the source selection decision had a close personal relationship with a high-level employee of COLSA.  COLSA is a prime contractor on a related contract.  Additionally, COLSA is one of the largest subcontractors to SGT on this contract.  The senior official attended weekly social events with the COLSA employee, involving “camaraderie, friendship, dinner, and …  competitive foosball.”  When NASA was informed of the relationship, ethics counsel recommended removing senior official from the procurement or not allowing him to attend the weekly social events.  The official was not removed, and only light mitigation efforts were attempted.  The senior official was deeply involved in the creation of the RFP.  Teledyne Brown Engineering (TBE) protests the award on several grounds, including a conflict of interest involving the senior official.

Issue: Was there a personal conflict of interest involving the senior NASA official?

Holding: Yes, there was a personal conflict of interest that should have been mitigated.

Reasoning:  FAR 3.101-1 prohibits “any conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest in Government-contractor relationships.”  The GAO found that even if the relationship and attendance at the weekly social events had not prejudiced any offeror, the appearance of impropriety was sufficient to taint the procurement.  The GAO recommended that NASA cancel the contract, and rewrite it without the involvement of anyone with a personal conflict of interest.

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