Government Contracts IDIQ Awards Were Improperly Based Solely on Technical Merit
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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

IDIQ Awards Were Improperly Based Solely on Technical Merit

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

A best-value determination was unreasonable because the tradeoff analysis failed to meaningfully consider price and excluded technically acceptable proposals from consideration for award. The protests arose from the award of indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts under the unrestricted portion of a request for proposals for information technology support services. Following prior protests (35 CGEN ¶116,782, 35 CGEN ¶116,785), the government reevaluated portions of four proposals and selected for award the seven proposals that exhibited, in descending order, the best combination of adjectival ratings under the non-price factors. For the selection decision, the government arranged similarly rated proposals into groups and made awards to all offerors in those groups—regardless of price—until it reached what it called “logical breaks” in the proposals. One break appeared after the top five proposals, all of which received an overall very good rating, and the second break occurred after the next two proposals, which were rated satisfactory overall and received a very good rating under one subfactor.

Mechanical Approach. In sustaining the protests, the Comptroller General explained that source selection decisions must rest on a qualitative assessment of the underlying technical differences among competing proposals and cannot be based on a mechanical comparison of the offerors’ technical scores or ratings. Here, the government used such a mechanical approach and never considered whether the perceived technical superiority of the highest-rated proposals justified paying the associated price premiums. Further, the government made the awards based strictly on technical merit without performing a price/technical tradeoff. The technical evaluation panel determined that, because technical factors were significantly more important than price, there needed “to be some additional compelling price, technical or other reason,” to displace a higher-rated offeror. The panel found no reason to do so and went on to conclude it was unnecessary to conduct a tradeoff of every higher-rated, higher-priced proposal, against every other lower-priced, lower-rated offeror possessing the same overall adjectival rating.

No Price Tradeoff. However, in a tradeoff source selection process, the government “may not so minimize the impact of price to make it merely a nominal evaluation factor because the essence of the tradeoff process is an evaluation of price in relation to the perceived benefits of an offeror’s proposal.” Since there was no tradeoff analysis considering price, there was no basis for concluding the best value determination was reasonable. The Comptroller General recommended the government document a new best-value tradeoff analysis and prepare a new source selection decision. (Qbase, LLC, et al., 35 CGEN ¶117,009)

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