Link: GAO Decision
Agency: National Science Foundation
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protester’s challenge of agency’s evaluation is denied where record shows that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with terms of solicitation.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
CISGi protested the award to World Technology Evaluation Center, Inc. (WTEC) of a contract for support services for the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO). The solicitation contemplated award on a best value basis, considering the following factors in descending order of importance: technical, past performance, price, and extent of participation of small disadvantaged business concerns. The agency held two rounds of detailed discussions with CISGi and WTEC, and then accepted FPRs. Although CISGi offered a slightly lower price, the agency found that the merits of the technically superior WTEC proposal warranted the payment of the 1% cost premium.
The GAO rejected CISGi’s argument that a weakness assigned to its management plan for failure to sufficiently explain how its plan directly applied to the work of the NNCO and interaction with NNI agencies was in direct conflict with a strength relating to the plan’s organizational structure, work approach, and software tools. The GAO pointed out that these findings were not inconsistent; rather, the plan was comprehensive but not sufficiently tailored to the solicitation’s requirements. The GAO also found no conflicts in the strength and weakness assigned to its software system. Finally, the GAO found without basis CISGi’s contention that the agency’s concerns regarding its project manager’s lack of experience managing tasks as large or complex as those in the RFP were inconsistent with an assigned strength regarding the PM’s government and industry experience.
Disappointed offerors should always request a debriefing so as to better understand the reasoning behind the agency’s source selection decision and to gain insight into the evaluation of their own proposals in order to improve their offers in future procurements. Although it is easy to perceive flaws in the evaluation process shortly after losing out on a business opportunity, disappointed offerors should think carefully before pursuing a protest. It is possible to receive both strengths and weaknesses on the same aspect of your proposal, so you should thoroughly compare those ratings to the criteria in the solicitation before you file a protest.