Link: GAO Opinion
Agencies: Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of Applied Science, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Experience/past performance; Key personnel
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued a request for quotations (RFQ) in August of 2009, describing the scope of work as “reviewing the existing [Office of Applied Science] OAS web site, outlining potential short-term, long-term, and ‘sustainable’ improvements, implementing the improvements selected by [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] SAMSHA, and thereafter maintaining the web site for the 1-year term of the contract.” The RFQ advised vendors that quotations would be evaluated on the basis of three factors: experience/past performance, compliance with certain regulatory requirements, and cost, where experience/past performance was significantly more important than cost.
DHHS received quotes from five firms, including Divakar Technologies, Inc. and SKY, LLC. The evaluators criticized Divakar’s experience/past performance information as being difficult to trace or match to the evaluation criteria, and disapproved of their use of jargon; in contrast, SKY received all available points under the experience/past performance category. As such, SKY’s quote was selected for the award.
Divakar’s initial protest stated that the award to SKY was improper because their cost was significantly lower than SKY’s. Divakar also claimed that SKY lacked the needed database experience for the project. Divakar then supplemented its protest after an attempt by DHHS to persuade Divakar to withdraw the protest. The supplemental protest claimed that DHHS improperly credited SKY with the experience of SKY’s key personnel at times when those individuals were at other firms or assisted by other individuals.
GAO determined that where a solicitation calls for the evaluation of experience, it will examine the record to ensure that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria and procurement statutes and regulations. Further, in evaluating a firm’s experience and past performance, it is proper for an agency to consider the experience of key personnel, which is what was proffered by SKY in their quotation. As such, GAO determined that the evaluation record provided a reasonable basis for DHHS to consider SKY’s experience to be superior to the other potential contractors and that the contracting officer reasonably justified the selection of SKY.