Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: United States Coast Guard
Disposition: Protest denied.
1. Where solicitation provided for award to offeror submitting lowest-priced, technically acceptable proposal, protest that agency improperly conducted discussions with offerors other than protester is denied where protester’s proposal had already been found technically acceptable and protester was given the opportunity, like all other offerors, to submit a revised proposal after discussions had concluded.
2. Protest challenging evaluation of proposals is denied where the record establishes that the agency’s evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
CDG argues that exchanges, which took place between the agency and all offerors other than CDG, constituted discussions under Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) sect. 15.306(d), and were therefore required to include all offerors.
GAO states that while the exchanges in question constituted an additional round of discussions under FAR sect. 13.506(d), under the circumstances here, the discussions were not unfair to CDG and CDG was not prejudiced by the agency’s action. The solicitation provided for a low-priced/technically acceptable competition and a pass/fail evaluation of technical proposals. Accordingly, technically acceptable was the highest available technical rating, and a proposal rated technically acceptable could not be further improved. CDG’s proposal was rated technically acceptable after the agency’s initial evaluation of the responses to the February 2 discussion letters. Therefore, because it was not possible for CDG to improve its technical proposal after the initial evaluation, the agency’s subsequent discussions with offerors whose proposals were not technically acceptable did not deprive CDG of any opportunity afforded to other offerors in the competition. Further, CDG was not deprived of the opportunity to make revisions to its proposal had it chosen to do so, as all offerors were directed to submit final revised proposals after they were informed that the discussions period had closed on March 24. Thus, given the circumstances here, the challenged discussions do not provide a basis for GAO to sustain the protest.
CDG next alleges that even in light of the information provided during discussions, Bara failed to demonstrate that one of its proposed personnel met the minimum requirements of the solicitation. Specifically, CDG asserts that the working experience of one of Bara’s proposed personnel is inadequately documented, and that the record does not support the conclusion that the individual has six years full-time working experience with Graphisoft ArchiCAD, as required by the solicitation. GAO states that the evaluation of proposals is a matter within the discretion of the contracting agency. In reviewing protests of alleged improper evaluations and source selection decisions, it is not GAO’s role to reevaluate submissions; rather, GAO will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws and regulations. Implicit in the requirement that the agency’s judgment be reasonable is the requirement that these judgments be documented in sufficient detail to show they are reasonable.
The record shows that, in response to its February 2 discussion letter, Bara submitted new resumes for each of its proposed personnel. The new resume of the individual challenged by CDG stated that he had six years of experience in Graphisoft ArchiCAD, and listed 12 years of professional experience consisting of work at four design and building firms. However, work experience with ArchiCAD was only referenced specifically in the most recent of the four professional experience entries, which accounted for slightly less than two of the 12 years of the individual’s work history. In the initial evaluation of Bara’s response to its discussion letter, the agency’s technical evaluator concluded that the resume in question provided insufficient information to demonstrate whether the proposed individual had the required six years experience with ArchiCAD, and found the resume unacceptable. This issue was then the subject of additional oral discussions between Bara and the agency contract specialist and technical evaluator. After the discussions, the contract specialist asked the technical evaluator to reevaluate Bara’s proposed personnel. The technical evaluator responded by email stating that all proposed personnel other than the challenged individual appeared acceptable. On March 17, the contracting officer conducted an independent review of the technical proposals. With regard to Bara, the contracting officer stated that the technical evaluator had found in many areas that the information provided with the resumes was not sufficient, but that after additional exchanges, Bara Infoware provided supporting documentation that demonstrated that each of the [proposed personnel] met the minimum requirements of the solicitation. Here, the record includes the challenged Bara employee’s resume, the contract specialist’s contemporaneous notes on her oral discussions with Bara, and Bara’s written statement detailing how its proposed employees met the solicitation’s requirements. GAO concludes that these three documents, taken together, represent more than a blanket statement of compliance as alleged by CDG, and are sufficient documentation to support the contracting officer’s determination. The protest is denied.