Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Navy
Disposition: Protest denied.
Protest of the rejection of the protester’s quotation is denied, where the solicitation required the contractor to satisfy business licensing requirements in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and where the agency was informed by the Northern Mariana Islands that the protester’s quoted business arrangement would not satisfy the Island’s licensing requirements.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GDMA contends that the Navy improperly rejected the firm’s quotation where GDMA had relied upon the Navy’s previous assurances that its business arrangement would satisfy a valid business license for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In this regard, GDMA argues that “a bidder is entitled to rely on interpretations provided by Government officials who lead the bidder to reasonably regard what they say as being authoritative.”
Here, the RFQ unambiguously required firms to satisfy licensing requirements to conduct business in the Northern Mariana Islands, and GDMA does not dispute that it is required to satisfy the business licensing requirements of the Northern Mariana Islands. Rather, GDMA’s complaint concerns the application of this unambiguous requirement to GDMA’s quoted relationship. Although the Navy initially believed that GDMA’s proposed business arrangement would satisfy the licensing requirement, the Navy did not–contrary to the protester’s arguments–subsequently change its interpretation of the solicitation’s requirement, rather it simply learned that GDMA’s quoted business relationship was not acceptable to the government of the Northern Mariana Islands. From GAO’s review of the record, GAO finds reasonable the agency’s rejection of GDMA’s quotation where the agency was informed by an official of the Northern Mariana Islands that the firm’s quoted business relationship would not satisfy the Island’s business licensing requirements, and where GDMA did not otherwise show that the firm would satisfy the licensing requirements.
Although the protester contends that the official in the Liaison Office of the Northern Mariana Islands, who rendered the judgment that GDMA’s quoted business arrangement would not be acceptable, was not a lawyer or qualified to provide such an opinion, that official heads an office that, as noted above, is “the single point of contact and clearinghouse on all matters relative to the U.S. Military and Veterans Affairs in the [Northern Mariana Islands].” GAO finds no merit to GDMA’s argument that the Navy could not reasonably rely upon this judgment. Moreover, the record shows that, before rejecting the firm’s quotation, the Navy informed GDMA that the Northern Mariana Islands did not accept the firm’s quoted business relationship and provided GDMA with a an opportunity to “fix” its quoted relationship to satisfy the licensing requirements. The protest is denied.