(a)General. A protest based upon an alleged violation of the procurement requirements of §§ 35.936 through 35.938-9 of this subpart may be filed against a grantee's procurement action by a party with an adversely affected direct financial interest. Any such protest must be received by the grantee within the time period in paragraph (b)(1) of this section. The grantee is responsible for resolution of the protest before the taking of the protested action, in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section, except as otherwise provided by paragraph (j) or (k) or § 35.938-4(h)(5). The Regional Administrator will review grantee protest determinations in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section, if a timely request for such review is filed under paragraph (b)(2) of this section. In the case of protests which he determines are untimely, frivolous, or without merit, the Regional Administrator may take such actions as are described in paragraphs (f)(7), (i)(2), and (k) of this section.
(1) A protest under paragraph (d) of this section should be made as early as possible during the procurement process (for example, immediately after issuance of a solicitation for bids) to avoid disruption of or unnecessary delay to the procurement process. A protest authorized by paragraph (d) of this section must be received by the grantee within 1 week after the basis for the protest is known or should have been known, whichever is earlier (generally, for formally advertised procurement, after bid opening, within 1 week after the basis for the protest is, or should have been, known).
(i) However, in the case of an alleged violation of the specification requirements of § 35.936-13 (e.g., that a product fails to qualify as an “or equal”) or other specification requirements of this subpart, a protest need not be filed prior to the opening of bids. But the grantee may resolve the issue before receipt of bids or proposals through a written or other formal determination, after notice and opportunity to comment is afforded to any party with a direct financial interest.
(ii) In addition, where an alleged violation of the specification requirements of § 35.936-13 or other requirements of this subpart first arises subsequent to the receipt of bids or proposals, the grantee must decide the protest if the protest was received by the grantee within 1 week of the time that the grantee's written or other formal notice is first received.
(2) A protest appeal authorized by paragraph (e) of this section must be received by the Regional Administrator within 1 week after the complainant has received the grantee's determination.
(3) If a protest is mailed, the complaining party bears the risk of nondelivery within the required time period. It is suggested that all documents transmitted in accordance with this section be mailed by certified mail (return receipt requested) or otherwise delivered in a manner which will objectively establish the date of receipt. Initiation of protest actions under paragraph (d) or (e) of this section may be made by brief telegraphic notice accompanied by prompt mailing or other delivery of a more detailed statement of the basis for the protest. Telephonic protests will not be considered.
(c)Other initial requirements.
(1) The initial protest document must briefly state the basis for the protest, and should—
(i) Refer to the specific section(s) of this subpart which allegedly prohibit the procurement action;
(ii) Specifically request a determination pursuant to this section;
(iii) Identify the specific procurement document(s) or portion(s) of them in issue; and
(iv) Include the name, telephone number, and address of the person representing the protesting party.
(2) The party filing the protest must concurrently transmit a copy of the initial protest document and any attached documentation to all other parties with a direct financial interest which may be adversely affected by the determination of the protest (generally, all bidders or proposers who appear to have a substantial and reasonable prospect of receiving an award if the protest is denied or sustained) and to the appropriate EPA Regional Administrator.
(1) The grantee is responsible for the initial resolution of protests based upon alleged violations of the procurement requirements of this subpart.
(2) When the grantee receives a timely written protest, he must defer the protested procurement action (see paragraph (h) of this section) and:
(i) Afford the complaining party and interested parties an opportunity to present arguments in support of their views in writing or at a conference or other suitable meeting (such as a city council meeting),
(ii) Inform the complainant and other interested parties of the procedures which the grantee will observe for resolution of the protest;
(iii) Obtain an appropriate extension of the period for acceptance of the bid and bid bond(s) of each interested party, where applicable; failure to agree to a suitable extension of such bid and bid bond(s) by the party which initiated the protest shall be cause for summary dismissal of the protest by the grantee or the Regional Administrator; and
(iv) Promptly deliver (preferably by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by personal delivery) its written determination of the protest to the complaining party and to each other participating party.
(3) The grantee's determination must be accompanied by a legal opinion addressing issues arising under State, territorial, or local law (if any) and, where step 3 construction is involved, by an engineering report, if appropriate.
(4) The grantee should decide the protest as promptly as possible—generally within 3 weeks after receipt of a protest, unless extenuating circumstances require a longer period of time for proper resolution of the protest.
(e)Regional Administrator review.
(1) A party with a direct financial interest adversely affected by a grantee determination made under paragraph (d) with respect to a procurement requirement of this subpart may submit a written request to the Regional Administrator for his review of such determination. Any such request must be in writing, must adequately state the basis for the protest (including reference to the specific section(s) of this subpart alleged to prohibit the procurement action), and must be received by the Regional Administrator within 1 week after the complaining party has received the grantee's determination of the protest. A copy of the grantee's determination and other documentation in support of the request for review shall be transmitted with the request.
(2) The Regional Counsel or his delegee will afford both the grantee and the complaining party, as well as any other party with a financial interest which may be adversely affected by determination of the protest, an opportunity to present arguments in support of their views in writing or at a conference at a time and place convenient to the parties as determined by the Regional Counsel or his delegee, and he shall thereafter promptly submit in writing his report and recommendations (or recommended determination) concerning the protest to the Regional Administrator.
(3) Any such conference should be held within not more than 10 days after receipt of the request for review and the report should be transmitted to the Regional Administrator within 10 days after the date set for receipt of the participants' written materials or for the conference. The Regional Administrator should transmit his determination of the protest with an adequate explanation thereof to the grantee and simultaneously to each participating party within 1 week after receipt of the report and recommendations. His determination shall constitute final agency action, from which there shall be no further administrative appeal. The Regional Counsel may extend these time limitations, where appropriate.
(4) The Regional Administrator may review the record considered by the grantee, and any other documents or arguments presented by the parties, to determine whether the grantee has complied with this subpart and has a rational basis for its determination.
(5) If a determination is made by the Regional Administrator which is favorable to the complainant, the grantee's procurement action (for example, contract award) must be taken in accordance with such determination.
(1) Where resolution of an issue properly raised with respect to a procurement requirement of this subpart requires prior or collateral resolution of a legal issue arising under State or local law, and such law is not clearly established in published legal decisions of the State or other relevant jurisdiction, the grantee or Regional Administrator may rely upon:
(i) An opinion of the grantee's legal counsel adequately addressing the issue (see § 35.936-2(b));
(ii) The established or consistent practice of the grantee, to the extent appropriate; or
(iii) The law of other States or local jurisdictions as established in published legal decisions; or
(iv) If none of the foregoing adequately resolve the issue, published decisions of the Comptroller General of the United States (U.S. General Accounting Office) or of the Federal courts addressing Federal requirements comparable to procurement requirements of this subpart.
(2) For the determination of Federal issues presented by the protest, the Regional Administrator may rely upon:
(i) Determinations of other protests decided under this section, unless such protests have been reversed; and
(ii) Decisions of the Comptroller General of the United States or of the Federal courts addressing Federal requirements comparable to procurement requirements of this subpart.
(3) The Regional Counsel may establish additional procedural requirements or deadlines for the submission of materials by parties or for the accomplishment of other procedures. Where time limitations are established by this section or by the Regional Counsel, participants must seek to accomplish the required action as promptly as possible in the interest of expediting the procurement action.
(4) A party who submits a document subsequent to initiation of a protest proceeding under paragraph (d) or (e) of this section must simultaneously furnish each other party with a copy of such document.
(5) The procedures established by this section are not intended to preclude informal resolution or voluntary withdrawal of protests. A complainant may withdraw its appeal at any time, and the protest proceeding shall thereupon be terminated.
(6) The Regional Administrator may utilize appropriate provisions of this section in the discharge of his responsibility to review grantee procurement under 40 CFR 35.935-2.
(7) A protest may be dismissed for failure to comply with procedural requirements of this section.
(g)Burden of proof.
(1) In proceedings under paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section, if the grantee proposes to award a formally advertised, competitively bid, fixed price contract to a party who has submitted the apparent lowest price, the party initiating the protest will bear the burden of proof in the protest proceedings.
(2) In the proceedings under paragraph (e) of this section—
(i) If the grantee proposes to award a formally advertised, competitively bid, fixed-price contract to a bidder other than the bidder which submitted the apparent lowest price, the grantee will bear the burden of proving that its determination concerning responsiveness is in accordance with this subchapter; and
(ii) If the basis for the grantee's determination is a finding of nonresponsibility, the grantee must establish and substantiate the basis for its determination and must adequately establish that such determination has been made in good faith.
(h)Deferral of procurement action. Upon receipt of a protest under paragraph (d) of this section, the grantee must defer the protested procurement action (for example, defer the issuance of solicitations, contract award, or issuance of notice to proceed under a contract) until 10 days after delivery of its determination to the participating parties. (The grantee may receive or open bids at it own risk, if it considers this to be in its best interest; and see § 35.938-4(h)(5).) Where the Regional Administrator has received a written protest under paragraph (e) of this section, he must notify the grantee promptly to defer its protested procurement action until notified of the formal or informal resolution of the protest.
(1) Noncompliance with the procurement provisions of this subchapter by the grantee shall be cause for enforcement action in accordance with one or more of the provisions of § 35.965 of this subpart.
(2) If the Regional Administrator determines that a protest prosecuted pursuant to this section is frivolous, he may determine the party which prosecuted such protest to be nonresponsible and ineligible for future contract award (see also paragraph (k) of this section).
(j)Limitation. A protest may not be filed under this section with respect to the following:
(1) Issues not arising under the procurement provisions of this subchapter; or
(2) Issues relating to the selection of a consulting engineer, provided that a protest may be filed only with respect to the mandatory procedural requirements of §§ 35.937 through 35.937-9;
(3) Issues primarily determined by State or local law or ordinances and as to which the Regional Administrator, upon review, determines that there is no contravening Federal requirement and that the grantee's action has a rational basis (see paragraph (e)(4) of this section).
(4) Provisions of Federal regulations applicable to direct Federal contracts, unless such provisions are explicitly referred to or incorporated in this subpart;
(5) Basic project design determinations (for example, the selection of incineration versus other methods of disposal of sludge);
(6) Award of subcontracts or issuance of purchase orders under a formally advertised, competitively bid, lump-sum construction contract. However, protest may be made with respect to alleged violation of the following:
(ii) Provisions of this subpart applicable to the procurement procedures, negotiation or award of subcontracts or issuance of purchase orders under §§ 35.937-12 (subcontracts under subagreements for architectural or engineering services) or § 35.938-9 (subcontracts under construction contracts).
(k)Summary disposition. The Regional Administrator may summarily dismiss a protest, without proceedings under paragraph (d) or (e) of this section, if he determines that the protest is untimely, frivolous or without merit—for example, that the protested action of the grantee primarily involves issues of State or local law. Any such determination shall refer briefly to the facts substantiating the basis for the determination.
(l)Index. The EPA General Counsel will publish periodically as a notice document in the Federal Register an index of Regional Administrator protest determinations. (See, e.g., 43 FR 29085, July 5, 1978.)
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