Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Disposition: Protest sustained.
Keywords: ID/IQ; Multiple Awards
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Under FAR §16.504(c)(1)(i), a contracting officer must, to the maximum extent practicable, “give preference to making multiple awards of indefinite quantity contracts under a single solicitation for the same or similar supplies or services to two or more sources.”
Information Ventures, Inc. (IVI) protests the determination by the Department of Health and Human Services to award a single indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract, rather than multiple contracts, under a request for proposals (RFP) for support services for the preparation of toxicological profiles.
GAO states that under FAR §16.504(c)(1)(i), a contracting officer must, to the maximum extent practicable, “give preference to making multiple awards of indefinite quantity contracts under a single solicitation for the same or similar supplies or service to two or more sources.” The FAR also sets out a number of conditions under which the multiple award approach is not to be used. Two of the conditions include when the expected cost of administration of multiple contracts outweighs the expected benefits of making multiple awards, or where multiple awards would not be in the best interests of the government. The contracting officer is required to document the determination for reasonableness. Where GAO concludes that the rationale advanced by the contracting officer is not sufficient to overcome the preference for multiple awards, it will sustain the protest.
GAO finds that the contracting officer, in reliance on the two exceptions to the use of multiple contracts referenced above, determined that both conditions were met.
The argument to make a single award under the RFP is that the award of multiple contracts will require it to reestablish a quality assurance branch to ensure the consistency and accuracy of the profiles submitted by the various contractors and thus, the expected costs of administering multiple contracts will outweigh the expected benefits. GAO finds that the problems that the agency encountered were a result of the novelty and complexity of the requirement when the first awards were made and were not as a result of its decision to award multiple contracts. Also, GAO sees no basis to conclude that, as a result of its experience in administering contracts for preparation of the profiles over the course of the past 20 years, the agency is not now in a position to define the technical requirements for the profiles with sufficient precision to eliminate the issues of inconsistency. The protest is sustained.