Competitors Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to Sneak Peek at YOUR Proposals
A growing trend in the federal procurement market exists where competitors are submitting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for ALL contracting documentation on bids – and specifically requesting the proposals submitted by the winners.
Relaxation of FOIA rules under the prior administration has led to significant increases in FOIA requests. These requests are so frequent, and so intrusive, that some RFPs now warn Offerors about potential FOIA requests and instruct Offerors to add extended protective language in their proposals.
Recently, we saw an RFP actually require the Offeror to provide an already redacted copy that CAN be released pursuant to a FOIA request. While this privacy protection offers some comfort, it is not standard practice — the real possibility of competitors gaining an original proposal exists.
This is greatly concerning to us, and should be to anyone participating in the federal marketspace. It’s analogous to someone submitting a FOIA request demanding your Mortgage Application, citing the fact that you have a mortgage as justification. While the fact of your having a mortgage is public information, your application reveals all sorts of very private and personal information about your life which you wouldn’t want disclosed.
So, too, with your proposal. To be compliant, Offerors must provide all sorts of details about operations, organization, finances, and of course, your costs and pricing with their proposal. Imagine how competitors could use this information to their advantage on the next bid on which you compete.
Anyone involved with federal contracting should be working with their trade associations to push back on these rules, as well as expressing concerns to elected officials.
In the meantime, precautions must be taken in all contracting and proposal submittals.
We can help … contact us for guidance and assistance on your next proposal.