On 23 November 2021, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained a protest, in part, against the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) regarding their handling of mentor-protégé joint ventures in the Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 4 (CIO-SP4) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC).

NITAAC limited the number of past performance examples that could be submitted by a large business mentor in a mentor-protégé joint venture. However, the Small Business Administration (SBA) manages the mentor-protégé program and counts the capabilities of large business mentors or small business mentors in a mentor-protégé joint venture as small business capabilities.<

The GAO agreed in part with the protestor saying:

“When a mentor-protégé joint venture is approved by SBA, that entity is treated as small for competitions where the protégé firm qualifies as a small business offeror. 13 C.F.R. § 125.9(d)(1). In light of the purpose of the mentor-protégé joint venture program, we do not find that the agency explains why it has the discretion to competitively disfavor a mentor-protégé joint venture with a large business mentor as compared to all other small business offerors. We also do not find that the agency reasonably explains why it has the discretion to, in effect, favor mentor-protégé joint ventures with small business mentors over mentor-protégé joint ventures with large business mentors. We therefore sustain the protest on this basis.”

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