Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Corrective Action
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: The selection of individuals to serve as proposal evaluators is a matter of discretion of the agency and GAO will not review allegations concerning the composition of evaluation panels absent a showing of fraud, conflict of interest, or actual bias on the part of evaluation officials.
Information Ventures, Inc. (IVI) protests the award of a contract under a request for proposals (RFP), issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, for technical report preparation services.
The RFP was issued as a small business set-aside, contemplated the award of a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for a five-year base period with five one-year options for technical report preparation services. Award was to be made on a best-value basis considering the following evaluation factors: technical, cost, and past performance. Eight proposals were received and a special emphasis panel evaluated each proposal. The panel then conducted discussions with the offerors. Various concerns were raised during discussions regarding IVI’s proposal, including the concern that IVI’s proposed team had not worked together before, the team would be new hires, IVI’s offices and staff were located in different areas, and its cost proposal was high compared to the government estimate. Another panel raised the same concerns with IVI’s proposal. Following award of the contract to another offeror, IVI filed a protest.
The agency decided to take corrective action, including convening a “new technical evaluation panel,” and reevaluating the “competitive range proposals, as revised.” However, the reviewers unanimously rated the proposal as unacceptable. IVI’s proposal was downgraded and received a lower point score.
IVI argues that the use of members from the prior evaluation panels was inconsistent with its promised corrective action. GAO states that the selection of individuals to serve as proposal evaluators is a matter of discretion of the agency and GAO will not review allegations concerning the composition of evaluation panels absent a showing of fraud, conflict of interest, or actual bias on the part of evaluation officials.
As for IVI’s assertion that its proposal was improperly evaluated, GAO reviewed the record and found the agency’s judgment to be reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria. For example, IVI complains about the agency’s conclusion that certain of its staff had limited experience. However, GAO finds that the panel was reasonable in concluding that this was a major defect. The protest is denied.