Bid Protest Weekly Newsletter by Bryan R. King, Attorney, General Counsel PC
Date: Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 10:29am EST
Sentrillion Corporation, B-406843.3, B-406843.4, B-406843.5, April 22, 2013
It is a fundamental principle of negotiated procurements that when an agency conducts discussions with offerors, those discussions must be meaningful. In a previous Bid Protest Weekly article, we discussed a case in which an agency asked a bad discussion question that failed to lead the offeror to the actual problems in its proposal. This week, we will focus on slightly different version of the issue: a bid protest decision recently released by GAO where the agency actually did identify the area of an offeror’s proposal leading to a deficiency, but failed to identify all of the deficiencies.
In Sentrillion Corporation, the United States Marshals Services issued a solicitation for security services at federal courthouses and other government facilities nationwide. The solicitation was split into three regions—East, Central, and West—and offerors had the option of submitting proposals for one or more of the individual regions, as well as a single proposal for the nationwide requirement. The agency intended to offer up to three single regional contracts, or one nationwide contract. The protester, Sentrillion, submitted proposals for each of the three regions, but did not submit a nationwide proposal.
According to the evaluation criteria of the solicitation, offerors were required to provide either a copy of a state license, or evidence that the company had submitted an application for such a state license, for any company an offeror was proposing to provide security services. After initial evaluations, the agency entered into discussions with Sentrillion and the other offerors in the competitive range. During discussions, the agency informed Sentrillion that it received deficiencies in its proposals for all three regions due to two issues:
- It did not submit proof of either a current company license, or license application for each of its proposed service providers; and
- Some of the licenses submitted for proposed service providers were expired.
After receiving Sentrillion’s revised technical proposals, the agency concluded that Sentrillion addressed both of the deficiencies raised during discussions. However, the agency also concluded that several of the license applications submitted by Sentrillion were incomplete, and in the agency’s view, were not valid. Thus, Sentrillion’s technical proposals were deemed unacceptable, and Sentrillion was eliminated from the competition.
Sentrillion protested the agency’s decision, arguing that the agency failed to identify during discussions all of the deficiencies in its proposal. Sentrillion argued that had it been informed that the agency considered several of the license applications to be incomplete, it would have addressed the issue in its revised proposals. GAO agreed, noting that the record demonstrated that Sentrillion did address each of the deficiency issues that were identified during discussions.
The agency argued that the discussions were in fact meaningful, because it led Sentrillion to the general area of its proposals requiring revision—that it needed to provide a current license, or license application, for each proposed service provider. GAO disagreed with the agency. GAO found that the agency eliminated Sentrillion from competition due to a concern with Sentrillion’s proposal, but did not identify the concern during discussions. Thus, GAO sustained the protest, and recommended that the reopen the procurement and conduct meaningful discussions with offerors in the competitive range.