Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Disposition: Protest denied.
Protest alleging that agency deviated from solicitation’s stated evaluation scheme in evaluating price proposals is denied where protester failed to show that it was competitively prejudiced by any alleged deviations.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
ALJUCAR in essence, raises three arguments about the selection decision here. First, ALJUCAR argues that the agency improperly abandoned the solicitation’s stated scheme for price evaluation when it evaluated prices using different estimates for some CLINS, and eliminating other CLINS from the analysis altogether. In this regard, the protester argues that its pricing strategy was based on the announced evaluation scheme, and contends that if it had known that the agency would deviate from this methodology it would have changed its pricing strategy. Second, ALJUCAR argues that the agency converted this best value procurement to a lowest-priced, technically-acceptable procurement. Finally, ALJUCAR argues that the agency did not do a proper tradeoff consideration before rejecting its higher-priced and allegedly higher-quality proposal.
With respect to ALJUCAR’s contention that the agency improperly changed the estimates in some CLINs (and omitted other CLINs entirely) in performing its price analysis, ALJUCAR is essentially correct. As a general matter, where an agency’s award methodology materially changes after a solicitation has been issued, the agency must issue an amendment to notify offerors of the changed ground rules and afford them an opportunity to respond. Nonetheless, even if we assume that the contracting officer acted improperly in making changes to the estimated quantities identified in some CLINs, and in removing some of the CLINs entirely from her analysis of price, a protester must demonstrate a reasonable possibility that it was prejudiced by the agency’s actions. Specifically, GAO will not sustain a protest absent a showing of competitive prejudice, that is, unless the protester demonstrates that, but for the agency’s actions, it would have a substantial chance of receiving award.
Here, ALJUCAR has failed to establish that it was competitively prejudiced. The protester submitted a proposal that was priced approximately $22,013,951 higher than RVS’ and $12,602,118 higher than SLS’ respectively, over the five-year performance period. In its challenge, ALJUCAR has provided no more than bare statements that if it had been aware of the assumptions used by the agency in performing the price evaluation, it would have changed its pricing strategy. In fact, the protester has neither explained how it would have changed its proposal, nor analyzed the effect of the specific changes that were made in the price evaluation. GAO has reviewed the specific changes and finds no basis for concluding that ALJUCAR was harmed by the agency’s actions here.
Moreover and significantly, the agency has also recalculated the prices without making the changes in estimated quantities and line items the contracting officer used in her price analysis–i.e., using ALJUCAR’s interpretation of the RFP’s price evaluation scheme, where the prices for all CLINs for the base and option years are added together to arrive at an overall total price. Under this approach, the record shows that ALJUCAR’s evaluated total price would still be significantly higher than either of the other two offerors who received an award. Specifically, the record shows that the protester’s price of $16,196,421 was approximately $9,102,653 higher than RVS’s price and $5,334,052 higher than SLS’s price. On this record, GAO concludes that ALJUCAR has failed to show that it was competitively prejudiced by the agency’s actions here.
With respect to the protester’s second contention that the agency improperly converted a best-value procurement, to one conducted on a lowest-priced technically-acceptable basis, the record again does not support this contention. In this regard, the record shows that while the lowest-priced proposal with an overall rating of satisfactory was selected for award, the agency made a trade-off decision between the second- and third-lowest priced offerors considering the comparative technical merit of the two offerors’ proposals. Had this procurement been converted in the manner the protester claims, no such trade-off would have been made.
As to the protester’s third contention that the agency should have performed a price/technical tradeoff including its proposal, GAO disagrees. Both awardees and ALJUCAR received overall ratings of satisfactory under the non-price evaluation factors. Since the protester’s higher-priced proposal was not evaluated as technically superior to either awardee, the SSA did not have to perform a tradeoff between ALJUCAR’s proposal and that of either awardee. The protest is denied.