Government Contracts Protests of IT Awards Sustained on Multiple Grounds
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Friday, November 16, 2018

Protests of IT Awards Sustained on Multiple Grounds

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

The Comptroller General sustained four protests of contract awards for information technology engineering services because the evaluation and selection decision were unreasonable. The $7.5 billion request for proposals anticipated the award of multiple indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts. Following an evaluation by 5 separate and distinct evaluation boards, the source selection authority decided to award 14 contracts. One protest was sustained because the RFP stated the government would review the fully burdened fixed-price labor rates for reasonableness and completeness in accordance with FAR 15.404, but the government failed to do so. The price evaluation board did not compare offerors’ total proposed prices or their fully burdened fixed-price labor rates, and the contracting officer did not compare any prices at any level. Instead, the CO found “[t]he presumption is that all proposed prices are fair and reasonable if there is adequate competition.” However, the mere receipt of multiple proposals is inadequate to assure proposed prices are fair and reasonable, and concluding prices are fair and reasonable without comparing prices to one another was “illogical and inconsistent with the requirements of FAR 15.404-1(b)(2)(i).”

Innovation Factor. Another decision found the evaluation under the most important evaluation factor—innovation—was unreasonable. The source selection evaluation board found a strength assigned to the protester would “have little or no impact on [c]ontract performance,” but in the same document, the SSEB concluded the protester’s proposal showed an “exceptionally strong history of innovation” that “increases the probability of successful performance on future … task orders.” Selection officers are responsible for reconciling contradictory evaluation findings that are potentially of significance to the source selection decision, and here, the SSEB’s inconsistent findings were never reconciled. Also, the government evaluated offerors unequally under this factor. One awardee received a strength for its ties with a number of universities, but the protester, which also had ties, did not. Similarly, one awardee received a strength for providing three examples for developing and sustaining solutions from infancy to full maturity. The protester also provided three examples, but it did not receive a strength in this area. Further, in two other protests, the SSEB removed strengths assessed by the technical evaluation board under the innovation factor, but nothing in the record explained why the SSEB removed the strengths.

Mechanical Tradeoff. Finally, the best-value tradeoff analysis was unreasonable. The record showed the government “mechanically made award to the 14 offerors whose proposals exhibited, in descending order, the best combination of adjectival ratings under the non-price factors.” The government “grouped similarly rated proposals into pools and made awards to all offerors in those pools,” without regard to price, until it reached a “clear break” in the proposals. This “clear break,” however, was based exclusively on the adjectival ratings assigned under the non-price factors. This mechanical approach failed to make a qualitative assessment of the technical differences among the competing proposals to determine whether the perceived technical superiority of those proposals receiving the best combination of ratings justified paying the price premium associated with those proposals, and it was inconsistent with the government’s obligation to evaluate proposals under all of the solicitation’s criteria, including price. The Comptroller General recommended the government reevaluate the proposals and prepare a new source selection decision. (Technatomy Corp., 33 CGEN ¶116,146; Solers, Inc., 33 CGEN ¶116,147; Novetta, Inc., 33 CGEN ¶116,148; OGSystems, LLC, 33 CGEN ¶116,149).

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