Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Disposition: Protest denied.
- Protest objecting to agency assignment of rating of acceptable to proposal containing multiple strengths is denied where assignment of such a rating was consistent with rating definitions set forth in solicitation.
- Agency was not obligated to reopen discussions to give offeror the opportunity to remedy a defect that first appeared in its revised proposal.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
Akal argues that given the number of strengths in its proposal, it was unreasonable for the evaluators to assign it an overall technical rating of merely acceptable. GAO states that in reviewing a protest of an agency’s evaluation of proposals, GAO will not reevaluate proposals; rather, it will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. The protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s judgment does not establish that an evaluation was unreasonable.
The RFP here stated that a rating of outstanding would be given to a proposal that meets and significantly exceeds the requirements of the RFP; a rating of good to one that meets or exceeds the requirements; and a rating of acceptable to one that meets and sometimes exceeds the requirements. GAO notes that the solicitation definitions for ratings of good and acceptable are overlapping. It appears from the record that the agency differentiated between the two ratings by assigning a rating of acceptable where the evaluators identified only a few strengths under a subfactor and a rating of good where they identified multiple strengths. For example, the evaluators identified five strengths in both Akal’s and the awardee’s proposals under the transition plan subfactor, and accordingly assigned both proposals ratings of good for the subfactor; in contrast, under the transportation plan subfactor, the evaluators identified only one strength in Akal’s proposal and only two strengths in the awardee’s and thus assigned both proposals ratings of acceptable under that subfactor. GAO finds that this approach was reasonable. Moreover, the protester has failed to assert, and the record is devoid of evidence suggesting, a lack of even-handedness on the part of the evaluators in their assignment of ratings; that is, there is no evidence that the evaluators assigned Akal’s proposal a lower rating than the awardee’s under any subfactor for which they identified an equivalent number of strengths in the two proposals. Given that the evaluators reasonably assigned Akal’s proposal ratings of acceptable under four of the five equally-weighted technical evaluation subfactors, it was reasonable for them to assign its proposal an overall technical rating of acceptable.
Akal also argues that the agency should have conducted discussions with it regarding its general and administrative rates given that the contracting officer questioned the firm’s understanding as to how such rates were to be calculated. This argument is untimely since it is based on information that was made available to the protester as part of the initial agency report filed on July 10, but was not raised until August 17; accordingly, GAO will not consider it. The protest is denied.