Government Contracts RFQ Requirement Unduly Restricted Competition
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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

RFQ Requirement Unduly Restricted Competition

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

The Comptroller General sustained a protest of the terms of a request for quotations for financial statement audit support services because an RFQ requirement was unduly restrictive of competition and the proposed task order exceeded the scope of the underlying indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. The RFQ, issued to four vendors holding an IDIQ contract for financial statement audit support, provided that the government would evaluate whether the prime contractor was an independent public accountant or proposing an IPA affiliate in accordance with the performance work statement requirements. According to the government, an unmodified opinion was of the “utmost priority” and the IPA requirement was necessary to meet this need.

No Reasonable Justifications. However, there was no basis to conclude the challenged specifications were reasonably necessary for the government to meet its needs. The government’s justification appeared to be based solely on a program manager’s belief that an IPA would provide high quality work, not on evidence an IPA was uniquely qualified to perform the services. Further, the government did not reasonably explain why a prime or prime-affiliate relationship was necessary to meet its minimum needs. The record did not demonstrate how either rationale made an IPA prime or affiliate uniquely qualified to meet the government’s needs, and the government’s views on the “bond and culture of subsidiary relationships” again appeared to be based solely on the program manager’s unsupported assertions. Although the government is entitled to great discretion in establishing its needs, it failed to provide reasonable justifications for the challenged specifications.

Out of Scope. Moreover, the proposed task order exceeded the scope of the IDIQ contract. The RFQ and the IDIQ contract involved the same audit remediation services, but the RFQ’s IPA requirement was materially different from the IDIQ contract, which only required vendors to have comprehensive knowledge of the audit process and the ability to predict and respond to the Department of Defense’s IPA. The background and scope sections of the IDIQ contract contained three references to the term “IPA,” but these general references only provided background and context for the work to be performed and did not reasonably inform vendors that future task orders would be limited to vendors that are themselves an IPA. The government also failed to show how general references to audit readiness in the strategic support labor category would make IDIQ vendors aware that future task orders would be narrowed to allow only an IPA to perform services. The Comptroller General recommended the government reassess its need with respect to the IPA requirement and either modify its procurement strategy or delete the requirement. (Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., 35 CGEN ¶116,842)

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