Earlier this month, the GAO announced that its long-awaited electronic protest docketing system (EPDS) is now operational and undergoing limited pilot testing with certain designated protests filed since February 1. EPDS is a major step forward from the current system of emailing all protest-related filings to a single GAO email address (or faxing or hand-delivering them to the GAO if you are particularly old-school). (See our previous discussion of EPDS here.)
One of MoFo’s recent bid protests was selected for participation in the pilot program, and we’re looking forward to trying out the new system. Our very preliminary impression is that the system is easy to navigate, straightforward, and user-friendly – and will significantly relieve the current aggravation of keeping other parties’ email addresses straight and finding documents emailed to one (but not all) of a party’s counsel. You can get a sense of the new system’s features by viewing the how-to videos now up on the GAO website. Importantly, you can also register for an account now in anticipation of the system going live. We would recommend that protest counsel do so to avoid a scramble to register at the same time as a protest may become due.
A few of the notable features of EPDS:
- Once it goes live for everyone, EPDS will become the only way to file new protests (except for protests containing classified material).
- After the pilot program ends, there will be a modest $350 filing fee (by credit card, PayPal, or certain other electronic payment methods) for each new protest to fund the operation and maintenance of the system.
- Full implementation of EPDS is likely to be accompanied by a significant update to the GAO’s bid protest rules. Proposed amendments were published nearly two years ago.
- Although it is not clear exactly how it will work in practice, EPDS is expected to automate the GAO’s notification to the Agency that a protest has been filed – the magic moment that triggers the requirement to stay contract performance if done by the statutory deadlines. Currently, the protester must file early in the day to give the GAO time to telephone the contracting agency before 5:30 pm, then make status calls to the GAO until there is confirmation that the agency has been notified. Earlier statements from the GAO have suggested that EPDS will eliminate the need for all of that.
We’ll keep you apprised as we learn more.