The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acted improperly when it decided to cancel a solicitation for grants management training courses. Gonzales-McCaulley Investment Group, Inc., Comp. Gen. Dec. B-299936.2, Nov. 5, 2007. The HHS initially selected three offerors for award, but then rescinded one of the awards based upon the agency’s determination that the company had plagiarized material from the website of the incumbent contractor. After this offeror filed a bid protest with the GAO challenging the HHS’s rescission of its award, the HHS cancelled the solicitation because it discovered that the contracting activity (the HHS University) lacked the necessary delegated procurement authority to conduct the acquisition. Although the GAO noted that such a lack of authority ordinarily would provide a reasonable basis to cancel a solicitation, it concluded that doing so here was improper because the cancellation was essentially a pretext to avoid further scrutiny of the offeror’s bid protest. The record showed that this was the only acquisition – out of hundreds of acquisitions that had been conducted by this contracting activity without properly delegated authority, including several ongoing procurements – that was cancelled when HHS became aware of the lack of authority. The GAO further concluded that the HHS’s decision to rescind the protester’s award was not reasonably based because the HHS did not attempt to properly investigate its suspicions of plagiarism. In that regard, the record indicated that the material that the awardee allegedly plagiarized from the incumbent’s website (specifically, course descriptions and learning objectives) was virtually identical to material contained in publicly available Government training catalogs, including HHS University catalogs.
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