Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Kingdomware Technologies
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Cancellation of request for quotations (RFQ) issued on a brand name or equal basis was proper where the RFQ failed to list any salient characteristics for use in evaluating equal products or identify a requirement that equal products be compatible with the brand name.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Kingdomware Technologies protested the cancellation of an RFQ for emergency communication management software for VA’s Federal Health Care Center (FHCC). The RFQ was initially issued as a small business set-aside on a brand name or equal basis under the FSS. The RFQ identified the Live Process Enterprise subscription services system as the brand name and required vendors of equal items to provide detailed specifications showing that the item satisfied all the salient characteristics of the brand name item. The RFQ did not, however, identify any salient characteristics.
After receiving information from Kingdomware regarding the availability of SDVOSB vendors, the agency reissued the RFQ as an SDVOSB set-aside under the FSS. Kingdomware provided the only quotation, which quoted an equal product and provided a general description as to how its product could satisfy the requirements. FHCC informed the agency that Kingdomware’s system would not meet its needs, and the agency concluded that the RFQ should be cancelled because it did not identify any salient characteristics.
The GAO found that the agency had a reasonable basis to cancel the solicitation, as the RFQ failed to state salient characteristics that equal products must meet. It noted that the RFQ did not apprise vendors of the agency’s requirement that the equal software be compatible with the brand name. It found no merit to Kingdomware’s contentions that the requirement for compatibility was merely a pretext to avoid issuing the purchase order to Kingdomware.
Contracting agencies need only establish a reasonable basis to support a decision to cancel an RFQ, and the GAO will generally defer to the agency’s decision. While a prospective offeror may be disappointed in the cancellation of a solicitation, a protest is unlikely to succeed. The company should consider whether resources are better spent responding to the reissued solicitation, rather than pursuing a protest.