Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Technical Requirements
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Agencies may reasonably rely on the accuracy of information provided by an offeror in its proposal.
GAO denied the protest of Beckman Coulter, Inc. regarding the issuance of a delivery order, under a request for quotations (RFQ) issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for a laboratory centrifuge.
Beckman asserts that the awardee’s centrifuge does not satisfy the RFQ’s compatibility and containment requirements where vendors were informed that their centrifuges must be compatible with Beckman’s centrifuge rotors and Beckman’s rotors are unique to its own centrifuges and are not interchangeable. GAO states that a contracting agency has the primary responsibility for determining its legitimate needs and for determining whether an offered item will satisfy those needs, since it is the agency that is most familiar with the conditions under which the supplies or services will be used and that must bear the burden of difficulties incurred by reason of a defective evaluation. In this regard, a procuring agency enjoys a reasonable degree of discretion in determining whether a particular product meets the solicitation’s technical requirement as set forth in the salient characteristics and GAO will not disturb the agency’s determination unless it is shown to be unreasonable. Thus, in reviewing an agency’s technical evaluation under an FSS competitive acquisition, GAO will not reevaluate quotations, but will examine the record to ensure that the agency’s evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation and the stated evaluation criteria.
The awardee submitted detailed technical literature which included specifications such as speed, capacity, temperature range, and dimensions, as well as relevant relative centrifugal field (RCF) formulas and calculations. The awardee’s technical literature also assured that its centrifuge was compatible with 90 different models of rotors, including the eight rotors used by the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) lab. Moreover, the awardee represented that other parts of HHS had been using Thermo centrifuges, including the model quoted here, with Beckman rotors for years without any problems. Contrary to Beckman’s arguments, the agency could reasonably rely on the awardee’s technical literature and assurances of compatibility in finding that the awardee’s ultracentrifuge met the RFQ’s salient requirements. As a general matter, in evaluating proposals an agency may reasonably rely as accurate upon information provided by an offeror in its proposal. The protest is denied.