Government Contracts Protester’s Elimination Was Unreasonable, Undocumented
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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Protester’s Elimination Was Unreasonable, Undocumented

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

The elimination of the protester from a competition for professional and technical system support services was improper because the past performance evaluation was unreasonable and there was no best-value tradeoff. The solicitation required offerors to “identify all previous contracts … performed in the last five years which highlight[ed] experience relevant to the [performance work statement] and of similar scope and type of services,” and to provide a past performance questionnaire for each contract identified in the technical proposal volume. After reviewing the protester’s three PPQs, the government assessed the protester a weakness because “[t]he past performance submissions [were] not related to mission planning support engineer specific skillsets,” and assigned the protester past performance ratings of “marginal” and “moderate risk.” According to the government, the protester did not provide “any explicit past performance information” for a mission planning software engineer position.

Unstated Evaluation Criterion. The Comptroller General sustained the protest, finding the weakness reflected the application of an unstated evaluation criterion. The PWS requirements included but were not limited solely to “mission planning support engineer specific skillsets.” “Indeed, the [solicitation] specifically identified ‘professional services for USSOCOM/DOD’ as past performance that would be considered similar to the PWS requirements, and [did] not provide any other definition of a ‘specific skillset applicability’ against which offerors’ proposals would be evaluated.” Moreover, the past performance evaluation and ratings were unreasonable in light of the PPQ responses. All three PPQs gave the protester the highest available rating of “satisfactory” for each applicable question. The solicitation’s definition for a “marginal” rating stated “[p]ast performance reflects serious problems” and “[t]he offeror’s proposed actions appear only marginally effective or were not fully implemented,” and the definition for a “moderate risk” rating was that the proposal had “some potential to cause disruption of effort or increase in cost/price of performance.” Nothing in the PPQ responses or any other evaluation materials indicated the protester’s prior performance “reflect[ed] serious problems” or had “potential to cause disruption of effort or increase in cost/price of performance.”

No Tradeoff. Moreover, the solicitation stated that when combined, the management/technical evaluation factors were significantly more important than the cost factor, and award was to be made to the offeror whose proposal was determined to provide the best value to the government using a tradeoff analysis. Nothing in the contemporaneous record indicated that the protester’s lower-cost proposal was considered by the technical evaluation team in its recommendation to the source selection authority, or independently by the SSA. Although the government’s post-protest explanation identified the awardee’s higher ratings and “significantly higher probability of successfully transitioning the incumbent work force without a disruption in service,” it did not explain why a higher-rated proposal that included a transition with no disruption was worth the $9 million price premium. The Comptroller General recommended the government perform and adequately document a reevaluation of proposals and a best-value tradeoff. (Addx Corp., 35 CGEN ¶116,781)

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