Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Clarifications and Discussions
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Where an Agency has determined an offer to be unacceptable, communications that would render the offer acceptable would constitute discussions and not mere clarifications.
The Department of the Army issued a request for quotations (RFQ) for laundry equipment at Fort Richardson, Alaska. The RFQ was a total small business set-aside, with specific requirements and specifications to allow for the new equipment to be installed into a preexisting space. In particular, the solicitation called for bidders to include an installation and a modification plan in their quotes. Three quotations were submitted, but only the quote by Automated Laundry Systems & Supply (ALSS) was deemed technically acceptable, thus earning ALSS the issuance of the order. Chicago Dryer Inc. (CDI) protested this award by challenging nearly every deficiency that the agency identified in CDI’s quote.
In considering a protest of a government agency’s quotation evaluation, GAO solely looks at whether the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation, as well as any applicable statutes and regulations. Here, GAO denied the protest, but highlighted three of CDI’s protest grounds for discussion.
The first ground that GAO highlighted related to CDI challenging the Army’s determination that the quote lacked necessary detail. CDI claimed that the Army was not specific in what processes it was interested in receiving detail on, and thus, since its quote addressed each factor it should not have been rejected. GAO found this to be flawed. In fact, the solicitation had provided sufficient guidance for preparing the quote, including specific requirements for what should be included in the installation and modification plans. Because CDI’s quote did not provide sufficient detail in these areas, this protest ground failed.
Next CDI points to the fact that its quote stated that “all systems offered would easily fit in the space made available and would provide the necessary clearances as specified” and that its drawings “clearly indicated” how its equipment would fit in the space as described in the RFQ. GAO again found the Army’s evaluation reasonable, the protester’s broad statements inadequate, and the protester’s accompanying drawings to be conflicting and confusing. Due to the inability to adequately show how its plan would meet the Army’s requirements this protest ground also failed.
Finally, CDI claimed that the Army should have sought clarifications on any unclear portions of its quotation. However, agencies generally do not have to conduct discussions when their solicitations state that decisions will be made on initial quotations and without discussions. Where an Agency has determined an offer to be unacceptable, communications that would render the offer acceptable would constitute discussions and not mere clarifications. Because discussions were not required prior to award, the Agency was under no obligation to open discussions here. GAO determined the Army’s evaluation to be reasonable and denied CDI’s protest.