By Government Contracts Editorial Staff
A protest of the terms of a request for proposals for operations and maintenance services was sustained because the evaluation criteria and adjectival ratings were in conflict regarding the basis on which proposals would be evaluated. The RFP sought O&M services for 55 sites in Afghanistan for the Afghan National Defense Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The evaluation criteria for the experience factor stated the government would “evaluate each Offeror’s experience” and “rate each Offeror on the basis of relative depth of their experience in managing and executing projects that are similar in magnitude of $5M and complexity ….” The RFP also provided a chart explaining the ratings that would be applied to proposals. A “good” rating, for example, was appropriate where the proposal “indicate[d] a thorough approach and understanding of the requirements and contain[ed] at least one strength, and risk of unsuccessful performance [was] low to moderate.” If the proposal failed to demonstrate “an adequate approach and understanding of the requirements, and/or risk of unsuccessful performance [was] high,” a “marginal” rating was warranted. According to the protester, the experience factor’s evaluation criteria were inconsistent with the adjectival ratings.
Ambiguity. The Comptroller General agreed with the protester that the experience factor was ambiguous. The proposal instructions and evaluation criteria stated offerors should identify their relevant experience, but the adjectival ratings stated that the government would evaluate an offeror’s understanding and approach to the requirements. “Thus, regardless of how the award decision ultimately utilize[d] the adjectival ratings assigned, it [was] unclear whether offerors [would] be evaluated based solely on the information requested for this evaluation factor—i.e., experience—or whether offerors [would] also be evaluated based on different information concerning their understanding and approach to the requirements.” The government cited prior decisions explaining that adjectival ratings are only “guides for intelligent decision-making in the procurement process,” but these decisions were distinguishable because they did not address solicitation ambiguities. The Comptroller General recommended the government amend the solicitation to clarify what offerors should address in their proposals and how the government would evaluate proposals. (IDS Int’l Government Services, LLC, 35 CGEN ¶117,021)
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