Washington Business Journal by Lee Dougherty, Attorney, General Counsel PC
Contracting officers know that most contractors are only as good as the people who actually do the work. It is possible, however, to provide too much information on a proposed staffing plan.
Protesting contractor: Vinculum Solutions Inc., Broomes Island, Md.
Contracting agency: Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service
Issue: Whether the agency should have considered more than resumes when evaluating proposed personnel.
GAO decision, Aug. 22, 2012: Denied.
Postmortem: Vinculum protested an award of a blanket purchase agreement to InfoReliance Corp. of Fairfax for portal infrastructure technical management services. The solicitation stated that the award would be made to the bid that represented the best value to the government and all technical factors would be more important than price.
After initial proposals were evaluated, Vinculum was rated higher than InfoReliance with an overall technical rating of “excellent.” But the IRS informed Vinculum that company’s “pricing is considered by the Government to be too high.”
In a revised final proposal, InfoReliance revised its technical proposal and price, while Vinculum did not revise its technical proposal but did reduce its price — including a transmittal letter informing the IRS that it would “introduce less senior staff” over the life of the purchase agreement.
That approach backfired, leading the IRS to give a lower rating to Vinculum’s staffing approach. The evaluation of the final proposals determined that the quotes were essentially equal with InfoReliance offering a lower price.
Vinculum alleged several protest grounds related to personnel issues.The primary argument was that the IRS should not have looked beyond the resumes to evaluate proposed key personnel.
The Government Accountability Office did not agree with Vinculum. It found that “the agency’s consideration of key personnel availability [is] reasonably related to a comprehensive assessment” of key personnel. Vinculum’s other protests grounds were also denied.
Vinculum was faced with the decision that a lot of contractors are faced with when submitting proposals: determining how much detail to give as justification for a proposed solution. Vinculum had to justify its revised lower price, but there was no requirement to ensure that proposed personnel would be in the position for the entire life of the BPA. In this case “the solicitation did not require the submission of letters of intent or letters of commitment.”
Once Vinculum provided its transmittal letter, that letter became part of the proposal and subject to evaluation.
Contractors must carefully consider every word they include in their offer. If they choose to give information that is not required by the solicitation, then they should not be surprised if it is used to justify denial of the contract.