Always make sure to submit proposals to government agencies in exactly the format for which the Request for Proposals (RFP) asks.  It is the offeror’s responsibility to meet the expectations of the RFP, and the government agency has no duty to adapt their standards to incorrectly submitted proposals.

The Department of Homeland Security sent out a RFP for the maintenance and repair of U.S. boarder and customs infrastructure.  The RFP required offerors submit, among other things, a price proposal in Microsoft Excel. 

The proposal from contractor Herman Construction Group, Inc. was rejected for submitting documents in portable document format (PDF) instead of in Microsoft Excel like the RFP required.  Despite using Microsoft Excel to create their price proposal, the document they submitted to the Department of Homeland Security was in PDF format.

Herman Construction submitted a bid protest to challenge the Department of Homeland Security’s awarding the contract to a competitor.  

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied the bid protest of Herman Construction Group, Inc. In its decision, the GAO pointed out that the RFP stated multiple times that the price proposals should be submitted in Microsoft Excel. 

Herman Construction argued that their price proposal was in the proper format and included all the information for which the agency asked, but the GAO said that it was Herman’s responsibility to follow the RFP’s directions, which they did not do.

While the differing formats may seem like a mere formality, the GAO showed just how much discretion is given to government agencies when reviewing proposals; any differing from the express requirements of the RFP is grounds for rejection.