- Starting May 1, 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will charge a $350 fee for each protest filed through its new Electronic Protest Docketing System (EPDS).
- After May 1, all protests must be filed through EPDS except those containing classified information and documents that, for reasons of size or format cannot be filed through EPDS.
- There are no exceptions for small businesses.
As required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014, GAO’s EPDS has been developed and is soon ready to go live. EPDS is a web-based bid protest docketing and filing system that will be used to disseminate all filings under the protest between the interested parties and the government.
Pursuant to final rules issued on April 2, 2018, anyone who files a bid protest after May 1, 2018 will have to pay a fee to support the establishment and operation of EPDS. In the published rules, GAO set that fee at $350 and stated that the fee was derived by taking into account the EPDS development costs, hosting and maintenance costs, estimates of future bid protest filings, and a recovery period for development costs of approximately seven years. Additional fees will not be required for supplemental protests or requests for reconsideration.
The fee will not be automatically reimbursed by GAO in the event GAO sustains the protest as suggested by some commentators. GAO did clarify, however, that the fee will be reimbursable in the event a protest is sustained or an agency takes corrective action and GAO recommends that the agency reimburse protest costs in those matters.
In the Summary of Comments section of the final rules, GAO, in response to commenters that opposed the fee, expressed its opinion that the fee is not meant to discourage or reduce the number of protests. In addition, GAO stated that, after seeking feedback from business groups and associations that represent small businesses, the $350 fee was appropriate given the cost of the system.
Registration for EPDS, which is already available, can be accessed online at https://epds.gao.gov/login. Any representative of a protester, intervenor, or agency may register.
The new rules will go into effect on May 1, 2018 and are published here. The EPDS Protestor/Intervenor User Manual, which provides information regarding the procedures for using EPDS, is available at GAO's website here.