Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: NikSoft Systems Corporation
Agency: Department of the Treasury
Disposition: Protest Denied.
- Agency reasonably concluded that protester’s responses to agency’s discussions questions introduced risk regarding the level of resources that protester was committing to perform the fixed-price portion of the solicitation requirements.
- Agency reasonably evaluated protester’s past performance as very good, rather than excellent, where protester’s references rated the quality of protester’s prior performance between very good and excellent, and the record indicates that protester’s prior contracts were more relevant to the less significant of the solicitation’s two basic requirements.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
NikSoft Systems Corporation protested the award to Delmock Technologies, Inc. (DTI) of a contract to perform middleware IT services for the IRS’s Middleware Support Services Section. The RFP, issued as an 8(a) set-aside, contemplated award on a best value basis, considering management solution, quality assurance plan (QASP), past performance, past experience, and price evaluation factors. The agency determined that the proposals in the competitive range adequately addressed staffing for the software development portion of the RFP, but asked offerors to detail the number of personnel, key personnel, labor categories, and experience level proposed to support the Middleware O&M portion of the RFP. NikSoft responded that its initially proposed team was for O&M support, but removed its designation of SME for several of its key personnel.
NikSoft’s response gave the agency additional concerns regarding the breadth of expertise it was committing to the O&M requirements, and so the agency gave NikSoft another opportunity to address its proposed O&M staffing. NikSoft maintained generally that it understood the solicitation’s O&M requirements, stating that it added support staff for the service desk as well as software developers. It did not discuss its reduction in SMEs in the earlier response, nor did it address the agency’s concerns that it had committed a low number of SMEs to the O&M portion of the contract. Although NikSoft offered a lower price, the agency selected DTI based upon the risks associated with NikSoft’s proposal increasing the potential for disruption of schedule and increase in cost or degradation of performance.
The GAO disagreed with NikSoft that the agency’s evaluation of its proposed approach to performing the O&M requirements was flawed, finding reasonable the agency’s conclusion that NikSoft’s proposal did not demonstrate sufficient SMEs to support the O&M requirements. The GAO then found without merit NikSoft’s objections to its past performance evaluation, pointing out that, while NikSoft may have disagreed with the agency’s conclusions, it had failed to meaningfully challenge the past performance questionnaires on which the evaluation was based.
Offerors bear the burden of submitting a well-written proposal that complies in all material aspects with the terms of the solicitation. An agency is not obligated to search through a proposal to piece together a determination that the proposal adequately addresses certain tasks under the requirement. Where the RFP provides detailed instructions as to proposal preparation, and gives clear criteria against which proposals will be evaluated, offerors should strive to present a proposal that clearly lays out how their approach will satisfy each of those criteria.