Government Contracts Government Disparately Evaluated Proposals
Thursday, June 25, 2020

Government Disparately Evaluated Proposals

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

An evaluation was unreasonable because the technical evaluation panel treated the protester and the awardee unequally. The request for proposals sought consultation, research, and development activities in support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work to prevent and respond to influenza epidemics and pandemics. The technical approach evaluation factor included a task to “[c]onduct laboratory studies assessing innate and adaptive immune responses to influenza vaccination and infection populations of different ages and developing appropriate animal models to test novel vaccines and therapeutic interventions against seasonal, novel, and pandemic influenza.” This task included a subtask that required the successful offeror to “[i]nvestigate the role of CD8 T-cells in influenza infection[.]” The TEP assessed the protester a weakness because its proposal did not specifically describe a technical approach to performing the subtask. The awardee received two weaknesses related to its performance of the task, but it did not receive a weakness for failing to describe its approach to the subtask. In response to the protester’s allegations of disparate treatment, the government maintained the awardee’s two weaknesses encompassed its failure to address the requirement to investigate the role of CD8+ T-cells in influenza infection.

Neither Proposal Addressed Subtask. The Comptroller General sustained the protest, finding the record did not support the government’s assertion. The awardee’s two weaknesses concerned the methodology for its investigative techniques. The protester’s weakness, on the other hand, involved its failure to address a subject matter for investigation, and this raised a concern with the TEP that the awardee did not understand the significance of these cells in relation to influenza infection. However, the two proposals were substantively indistinguishable in this regard. Neither proposal addressed investigating the role of CD8+ T-cells in influenza infection, but only the protester received a weakness for this failure. Thus, the government disparately evaluated proposals when it assessed a weakness in only one of the two proposals for the same failure to address the subtask. With respect to prejudice, the two proposals were separated by a price difference of less than two percent and the government considered the proposals to be technically equivalent. The closeness of the two proposals in terms of technical merit and price was sufficient to establish competitive prejudice. The Comptroller General recommended the government reevaluate the protester’s and the awardee’s proposals and make a new source selection determination. (Battelle Memorial Inst., 35 CGEN ¶116,824)

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