Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Interior
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Technical Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: A vendor has the burden of submitting an adequately written quote, and it runs the risk that its quotation will be evaluated unfavorably when it fails to do so.
D’Andre Insurance Services, LLC (DIS) protests the issuance of a purchase order, under a request for quotations (RFQ), issued by the Department of the Interior, for professional services for the Risk Management Agency (RMA), U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The RFQ, issued as a combined synopsis/solicitation under the streamlined commercial item acquisition procedures of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Parts 12.6 and 13, provides for the issuance of a fixed-price purchase order for the evaluation of, and recommended improvements for, the Nursery Crop Insurance Program, which is administered by RMA, and recommendations for alternative designs for providing insurance for nursery crops. A detailed statement of work (SOW) was provided. Vendors were informed that the purchase order would be issued on a best value basis considering the following factors: technical approach, project management, past performance, and price.
The protester quote was found to be unacceptable under the technical approach factor. The evaluators determined that DIS failed to demonstrate knowledge of how the nursery crop insurance program currently works and that the protester’s quotation contained a deficiency and numerous weaknesses.
DIS broadly challenges its rating under each of the non-price factors, disagreeing with the agency’s technical judgments and asserting that the agency’s evaluation of its quotation reflected bias and bad faith. GAO states that in reviewing protests challenging an agency’s evaluation of quotations, it will not conduct a new evaluation or substitute our judgment for that of the agency; rather it will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, and with procurement statutes and regulations. A vendor has the burden of submitting an adequately written quote, and it runs the risk that its quotation will be evaluated unfavorably when it fails to do so. A protester’s mere disagreement with the agency’s evaluation does not establish that the evaluation was unreasonable.
Here, the protester’s arguments reflect nothing more than disagreement with the agency’s judgment as to the merits of the firm’s quotation. As noted above, the agency found that the protester’s quotation was deficient with respect to addressing how it would conduct the evaluation of the current program, because DIS only discussed alternatives to establishing maximum insurable prices for each insurable nursery plant. DIS disagrees with the assigned deficiency, arguing that developing alternatives can only be done after performing the program evaluation, and that, in any event, its quotation provided a preliminary discussion of developing alternatives. There is no merit to this argument. Vendors were instructed to discuss their approach to performing the SOW evaluation and recommendation requirements, which included, among other things, providing alternative methods for establishing liability on fluctuating nursery inventory, indemnifying nursery producers, and establishing the maximum insurable price.
Similarly, DIS disagrees with the agency’s assignment of weaknesses in the firm’s quotation. For example, with respect to the agency concern that DIS had proposed excessive effort to perform this work and failed to demonstrate knowledge of the current program, DIS argues that the “resources needed is a professional determination” and that it has experienced insurance professionals, and not “academics or economists.” With respect to the evaluators’ concern that providing three individuals for each listening session seemed excessive, DIS contends only that it sees this as a positive and not negative attribute of its quotation. Similarly, with respect to the agency’s concern that the firms’ plan to review underwriting after reviewing loss adjustment standards was not a logical sequence, DIS only states that there is an advantage to performing the work in the sequence it offered and that therefore it should not be penalized for its “superior business analysis.” As noted above, arguments such as these that only disagree with the agency’s judgment do not demonstrate that the agency unreasonably evaluated the firm’s quotation. GAO finds that the agency reasonably rejected the protester’s quotation, given that the record supports the agency’s determination that the quotation was deficient and contained a number of weaknesses. The protest is denied.