The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Oct. 16  denied a bid protest filed by Equifax with the IRS. The bid protest is a result of Equifax losing a taxpayer identification and verification services contract with the IRS to rival consumer credit reporting agency Experian.

With the denial, the IRS can now begin work with Experian on a one-year contract worth up to $795,000.

Equifax alleged that Experian did not have the necessary technical knowledge to fulfill the IRS’s needs. However, GAO dismissed that allegation.

“In its protest, Equifax argued that the approach set out in the Experian quotation (or offer) should have been found unacceptable, because, in Equifax’s view, Experian was not able to meet all of the technical requirements of the solicitation. GAO denied Equifax’s protest, concluding that the IRS reasonably found that the Experian offer would meet the agency’s needs,” said Ralph White, managing associate general counsel for procurement law at GAO, in a statement. “In essence, GAO’s decision concludes that Equifax’s contentions were based on an unreasonable interpretation of the solicitation.”

Earlier this month the IRS informed lawmakers that the pending protest was the reason it awarded Equifax a $7 million sole-source contract on Sept. 29 to continue providing critical services. After lawmakers questioned why the agency would award such a significant contract to Equifax, which recently exposed records of 145 million Americans, the IRS suspended the contract.

White also noted that GAO’s decision “addresses only the underlying year-long [blanket purchase agreement] challenged by Equifax in July.” He further noted that the decision doesn’t address the $7 million contract the IRS awarded and then later suspended.

The IRS praised GAO’s decision.

“We’re looking forward to the start of the new contract,” the IRS said in a statement. “We will move as quickly as we can, but it will take some time to begin service under the new contract. We are continuing to assess the time frame for the new service. In addition, we continue to review the status of our short-term contract with Equifax, which was temporarily suspended last week.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.