The Comptroller General recommended the government reimburse a protester some of its costs of challenging a contract award for fuel transportation services because one protest ground was clearly meritorious and the government unduly delayed taking corrective action. The request for proposals required offerors to propose sufficient equipment and provide documentation to verify ownership or control of the vessels to be utilized during contract performance. If the offeror did not currently own a particular vessel, the offeror had to provide supporting documentation demonstrating the ability to obtain it. The government initially contested the protester’s argument the awardee failed to propose the required vessels and include the required documentation, but after filing the agency report, the government decided to take corrective action. In response to the protester’s request for reimbursement of costs, the government stated it took corrective action because the evaluators failed to notice a discrepancy in the awardee’s bareboat charter. According to the government, this “administrative oversight,” and not the merits of the protest, was what prompted it to take corrective action.
Not Administrative Oversight. However, the “discrepancy” involved a mortgage agreement in the awardee’s proposal that showed the awardee would use a vessel owned by another firm, and this should have rendered the awardee’s proposal technically unacceptable. Thus, a reasonable inquiry into the merits of the protest prior to the submission of the agency report would have revealed the awardee failed to provide the required documentation demonstrating ownership or the ability to obtain the proposed vessel, and this oversight constituted a failure to adhere to the stated solicitation criteria. Further, since the government waited until five days after filing the agency report to take corrective action, the corrective action was unduly delayed. The protester’s challenge to the conduct of discussions was not clearly meritorious, so the protester was not entitled to the costs of pursuing that protest ground. (Vane Line Bunkering, Inc.—Costs, 33 CGEN ¶116,107)
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