Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Homeland Security
Disposition: Protest denied.
1. Agency reasonably evaluated protester’s proposal as containing various weaknesses and deficiencies, including rating the proposal as “Unacceptable” with regard to protester’s proposed management plan, where record shows that protester’s proposal failed to comply with solicitation requirements and the protester’s complaints constitute mere disagreement with the agency’s judgments.
2. Agency reasonably rated awardee’s proposal as “Acceptable” with regard to past performance where record established that awardee has performed various prior contracts of similar size, scope and complexity.
3. Where agency has not retained individual evaluator notes or worksheets, protest that evaluation record is inadequate is denied where the agency’s consensus evaluation report contains sufficient detail to establish that the agency’s judgments were reasonable.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
First, GAI protests the agency’s evaluation of GAI’s technical proposal, including the ratings of “Unacceptable” under the management plan evaluation factor. GAI complains that, [h]ad the Agency properly evaluated GAI’s proposal, it clearly would have received a rating of Outstanding. The record does not support GAI’s assertions regarding the evaluation of its technical proposal. GAO states that it is well settled that a proposal that fails to conform to a solicitation’s requirements cannot form the basis for an award. Where a protest challenges an agency’s technical evaluation, GAO will review the evaluation record to determine whether the agency’s judgments were reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations. A protester’s disagreement with an agency’s judgments does not render the evaluation unreasonable.
In evaluating GAI’s management plan as “Unacceptable,” the agency evaluators referred to GAI’s assumption that the agency, rather than GAI, would manage technology refreshment after the base year, stating: “The requirement of the Government, as described in Government SOW Section 4.1.1 Page 4, is for the vendor to manage the refresh throughout the life of the contract, not just for the base year.” This assumption demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Government’s needs. Another example of GAI’s failure to comply with the solicitation requirements involves the solicitation’s direction to provide Curriculum Vitae (CV), including education, experience and appropriate certifications of the offeror’s proposed project manager and technical leads for Control Environment(s). GAI’s proposal contained CVs for its Lead Program Manager and Deputy Program Manager, but failed to include CVs for either of the two CE technical leads that it proposed. In light of the solicitation’s explicit requirements regarding submission of CVs, and GAI’s failure to comply with those requirements, the agency assessed GAI’s proposal as “Unacceptable” under the management plan subfactor requiring submission of CVs.
Here, as discussed above, GAI’s final revised proposal clearly introduced conditions and limitations that were contrary to the solicitation requirements. Accordingly, award to GAI on the basis of its revised proposal would have been improper. In any event, GAO has reviewed the entire record, including GAI’s initial proposal, its final revised proposal, and the agency’s contemporaneous evaluation documentation and, based on GAO’s review, GAO finds no basis to question the ratings assigned to GAI’s technical proposal under the various evaluation factors and subfactors, specifically including the ratings of “Unacceptable” with regard to GAI’s proposed management plan. GAI’s arguments that various aspects of its proposal should have been rated higher reflect mere disagreement with the agency’s judgments and do not provide a basis for sustaining the protest.
Next, GAI protests that the agency’s evaluation of Wildflower’s proposal as “Acceptable” under the past performance evaluation factor failed to properly consider the size, scope and complexity of Wildflower’s prior contracts. In this regard, GAI asserts that Wildflower has not held contracts as large or complex as this contract and, in fact, has not been awarded any contracts over $35 million. As stated above with regard to an agency’s technical evaluation, GAO states again, that the evaluation of an offeror’s past performance is within the discretion of the contracting agency, and GAO will not substitute its judgment for reasonably based past performance ratings. Rather, GAO examines the record to determine whether the judgments were reasonable, adequately documented, and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria. A protester’s mere disagreement with agency judgments is insufficient to establish that a past performance evaluation was improper.
Here, the solicitation provided that evaluation of an offeror’s past performance would be based on its experience in performing prior contracts of similar size, scope and complexity to the requirements at issue in this procurement. The contemporaneous evaluation record shows that, in evaluating Wildflower’s past performance, the agency contacted three of the six references Wildflower provided, and discussed Wildflower’s past performance on these contracts, which were valued at $92 million, $85 million, and $80 million, respectively. Further, the agency considered the type of tasks involved in Wildflower’s prior contracts, concluding that they were sufficiently similar in scope and complexity to the requirements here. Finally, two of the three references the agency contacted rated Wildflower’s past performance as “Outstanding,” while the third rated it as “Acceptable.” As noted above, the agency assigned a rating of “Acceptable” to Wildflower’s past performance. Although GAI disagrees with the agency’s evaluation, it has not demonstrated that the agency’s considerations and assessments were unreasonable. Based on the record here, GAO does not question the agency’s conclusion that Wildflower was properly rated as “Acceptable” with regard to past performance.
Finally, GAI protests that the agency’s evaluation and source selection decision was inadequately documented, complaining that [n]o evaluation worksheets, individual evaluator notes or scales were produced. GAO states that although an agency must document its evaluation judgments in sufficient detail to show that they are not arbitrary, the necessary amount and level of detail will vary from procurement to procurement. For example, there is no requirement that the evaluation record must include narrative explanations for every rating assigned. Similarly, there is no requirement that an agency retain individual evaluator’s notes or worksheets, provided the agency’s final evaluation documentation reasonably explains the basis for the agency’s judgments.
Here, the contemporaneous record included a detailed technical evaluation report that included the agency’s narrative explanation regarding the basis for each evaluation rating of either “Unacceptable” or “Outstanding.” Further, the narrative explanations supporting the ratings consistently include specific references to the particular portions of the offerors’ proposals that formed the basis for the agency’s assessments. Finally, the agency’s source selection documentation contained a detailed comparative discussion of the two offerors’ proposals, identifying particular distinguishing features of each proposal. On this record there is no merit in GAI’s assertion that the agency’s evaluation and source selection decision were inadequately documented. The protest is denied.