Contractor Noncompliance with Excel Filetype Requirement Sinks Proposal
Contractors know all too well how challenging it is to win a government contract. From business development to capture, the process is labor intensive, costly, and complex. When the decision to bid is made, the path only becomes steeper, as contractors must not only submit a technically superior solution at "the right price" but also must ensure that their proposal complies with all of the stated solicitation requirements along the way.
These requirements include, for example, complying with seemingly trivial formatting instructions, such as 12 point font and what file type is required for certain proposal volumes. In Tope Technology, LLC, B-416663.6, October 16, 2019, GAO denied a protest where the protester submitted a pricing volume in PDF format rather than in MS Excel, which was required under the terms of the solicitation (Amendment 0006).
Here, under Amendment 0006, the agency stated that “[e]lectronic versions of the Cost/Price proposal shall be submitted in MS Office Excel format only” and that “PDF or flat files will not be acceptable.” Moreover, the agency also noted that a failure to adhere to proposal instructions may cause an offeror's proposal to be eliminated from competition. 
Tope submitted its revised pricing volume in PDF format and the agency eliminated its proposal as it did not comply with the solicitation's requirements.
In trying to sidestep the issue of noncompliance, Tope protested that it was mislead in exchanges and that the requirement was not material. GAO disagreed and, generally, denied its protest because offerors were on notice under Amendment 0006 that providing price volumes in Excel format was a material solicitation requirement.
Given the often high costs of competing for a government contract, contractors must remember to pay close attention to various proposal instructions and requirements. As shown here, noncompliance can be detrimental and sink your chances of award.
 Under Amendment 0006, Section M, the agency added the following new language:
The Government will perform an initial assessment of the Offerors’ proposals against the submittal requirements of Section L. Failure to submit the required documentation and/or in the format specified in Section L of this solicitation may render the Offeror’s proposal un‑evaluatable and the proposal will be eliminated from the competition without further consideration.
Further, under Amendment 0006, Section L, “Proposal Preparation Instructions,” the agency added the following new language:
IMPORTANT: Failure to follow the below proposal preparation instructions may cause a proposal to be deemed unacceptable by the Government and thus eliminated from the competition without further consideration.
. . .