Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Deloitte & Touche LLP
Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Agency evaluation of vendors’ past performance is unobjectionable where agency reasonably concluded that awardee’s highly relevant past performance was superior to protester’s based on awardee’s prior performance of more relevant contracts.
Agency evaluation of vendors’ key personnel is unobjectionable where agency reasonably determined that awardee’s proposed personnel met solicitation requirements.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Deloitte & Touche LLP protested the award to Grant Thorton LLP (GT) of a blanket purchase agreement for activity-based costing (ABC) modeling services and other financial services. The RFQ was provided to 10 vendors holding FSS contracts, and advised vendors that award would be made on a best-value basis considering price and the following four factors in descending order of importance: past performance, key personnel, strategic approach, and socio-economic considerations. The TET concluded that GT’s quotation was superior to Deloitte’s from a technical perspective, based on the determinations that GT had the “most relevant” past performance and proffered “slightly better” key personnel. The agency conducted a trade-off analysis and determined that GT’s slightly-higher priced quotation offered the best value to the agency.
The GAO first found that Deloitte erroneously characterized the terms of the RFQ, pointing out that the RFQ did not provide for any subfactors, as argued by Deloitte. The requirement that offerors “demonstrate relevant past performance” did not establish a factor of relevancy under the past performance evaluation factor, nor did scope, magnitude, and complexity constitute subfactors to relevancy. The GAO found reasonable the agency’s decision to assign a highly acceptable rating to GT and an acceptable rating to Deloitte under the past performance factor based on GT’s provision of two directly relevant contracts, while Deloitte only provided one. The GAO also disagreed that the agency treated vendors unequally, pointing out that the past performance evaluation was not based solely on a vendor’s past performance questionnaire rating. It dismissed as untimely arguments made in Deloitte’s supplemental comments that the agency erred in aggregating certain past performance information.
With regards to the agency’s evaluation of key personnel, the GAO found no basis to object to the agency’s determination that GT’s key personnel had the requisite number of years in supervisory positions. The agency was allowed to rely on the personal knowledge of a TET member with regards to one proposed individual in determining that certain experience requirements were met.
Agencies are required to evaluate offers in accordance with the stated requirements in the solicitation. A disappointed offeror should request a debriefing so as to better understand how its proposal was evaluated and to ensure that the proposal was evaluated in accordance with the stated criteria. However, disappointed offerors should be careful not to read additional factors or subfactors into the evaluation criteria in hopes of establishing sustainable grounds for protest. Procuring agencies are not required to specifically list every area that may be taken into consideration during an evaluation, so long as those areas are reasonably related to or encompassed by the stated criteria.