By Government Contracts Editorial Staff
A protest of a task order award for software development services was sustained because the evaluation record did not reasonably explain the government’s disparate treatment. The request for quotations, issued to small business vendors holding a Schedule 70 Federal Supply Schedule contract, provided for an evaluation based on experience, staffing approach, technical demonstration, and price. Under the staffing approach factor, vendors were required to complete a template that would be used to determine whether the proposed personnel were appropriate for the contemplated work. In its template, the protester entered the words “Technical Staff-III [entry level]” in the FSS labor category section for one position, and “Mid” for the associated level. For another position it entered “Technical Staff-IV EL” for the labor category section, and “Senior” for the associated level. After finding the protester did not meet an RFQ requirement to propose exclusively mid- or senior-level personnel, the evaluators assigned the protester a deficiency under the staffing approach factor, resulting in an unsatisfactory rating and the elimination of its quotation from the competition.
Insufficient Review. The Comptroller General explained that the RFQ provided that the government would evaluate the underlying FSS labor categories to determine whether the staffing mix provided the required knowledge, experience, and level of support required for performance of the task order. The protester’s FSS contract contained several tiers of “Technical Staff” labor categories, ranging from “Technical Staff-I” through “Technical Staff-IX.” For each tier, the FSS contract identified three discrete experience levels (entry, mid, and high), with each tier corresponding to a range of years of minimum experience. However, the record did not explain why, when reviewing the protester’s “Technical Staff-III EL” and “Technical Staff-IV EL” personnel, the government did not recognize the protester was proposing mid- to senior-level personnel. The limited record suggested the evaluators did not look beyond the template’s “EL” notation to recognize that each labor category tier identified varying levels of experience, and there was no indication the evaluators considered whether two to four years, or three to five years of experience, was sufficient to constitute mid-level to senior-level.
Unequal Treatment. The awardee’s template, in contrast, did not denote the corresponding level of experience of its positions. Nonetheless, the government concluded the awardee’s personnel satisfied the mid- to senior-level requirement, despite having the same, or fewer, years of required minimum experience, and it only assessed the awardee a weakness for confusion over a tester role. Thus, the record showed that the government found the awardee’s personnel, who had the same, or fewer, years of minimum experience, satisfied the RFQ’s minimum experience requirements, while finding the protester’s commensurately qualified personnel unacceptable. Although the government maintained in a supplemental declaration that it “engaged in a robust evaluation of [the awardee’s schedule contract] and had no trouble determining that this position was appropriate for the work to be performed,” the government did not explain why it was unable to perform a similar review for the protester’s quoted personnel or why comparable confusion arising from the awardee’s quotation should have merited only a weakness, as opposed to a deficiency. The Comptroller General recommended the government reevaluate quotations and make a new source selection decision. (Soft Tech Consulting, Inc., 34 CGEN ¶116,273).
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