Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Evaluation; Source Selection Authority
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Source selection officials have broad discretion in determining the manner and extent to which they will make use of technical and price evaluation results. GAO reviews the decision, not of the evaluators, but of the source selection authority. Evaluators’ judgments are relevant only to the extent that they affected the source selection authority’s best value determination.
All Points International Distributors, Inc. (API) protests the issuance of a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) to Thermo Bond Buildings, LLC (Thermo), under Department of the Army request for quotations (RFQ), for dog kennels and supporting equipment. The RFQ was issued to holders of contracts under specified General Services Administration (GSA) schedules, for dog kennels and materials. The RFQ provided for issuance of a BPA based on a “best value” evaluation. The source selection board (SSB) evaluated the quotations and determined that Thermo’s quote was the overall best value, even though API’s price was low.
API first asserts that the SSB’s evaluation was inconsistent with the evaluation factors stated in the RFQ. GAO finds the arguments without merit. Source selection officials have broad discretion in determining the manner and extent to which they will make use of technical and price evaluation results. GAO reviews the decision, not of the evaluators, but of the source selection authority. Evaluators’ judgments are relevant only to the extent that they affected the source selection authority’s best value determination. GAO finds no indication in the record that any of the asserted improprieties with regard to the SSB’s evaluation affected the source selection authority’s decision. The source selection authority did not make use of the scores and other determination by the SSB that API asserts were inconsistent with the RFQ. Since the source selection authority did not base her best value determination on the SSB’s judgments, the fact that the evaluators may have deviated from the RFQ’s evaluation scheme in arriving at its judgments is irrelevant.
API next asserts that the finding that its special features were not unique or innovative was inconsistent with the RFQ since there was no mention in the RFQ of “innovative” or “unique.” GAO finds that an agency properly may take into account specific matters that are logically encompassed by, or related to, the stated evaluation criteria. The Army states that “innovative” and “unique” are reasonably subsumed within the term “special,” and therefore are encompassed by the evaluation factors in the RFQ. GAO agrees.
API asserts that the accessibility of the sleeping area and the height of the exercise area are unclear and therefore had a negative impact on its quotation’s evaluation. GAO states that it will not sustain a protest unless the protester can demonstrate a reasonable possibility that it was prejudiced by the agency’s actions. Here, there is no indication that these findings affected the source selection.
GAO finds API’s last two assertions without merit as well. API asserts that the SSB identified six special features in its quotation, but the contracting officer identified only three. GAO repeats that source selection officials are not bound by the recommendations of lower-level evaluators. API’s disagreement with the contracting official’s conclusions does not render the evaluation unreasonable. Finally, API asserts that the Army improperly double-counted certain strengths of Thermo’s quotation by crediting them under multiple evaluation factors. GAO finds nothing improper in an agency’s finding that a single strength has value under multiple factors. The protest is denied.