Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Disposition: Protest denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denied the protest of Information Ventures, Inc., regarding the award of a contract to AlphaTRAC Inc., under a request for quotations (RFQ), issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes for Health, National Library of Medicine, for services supporting the agency’s chemical hazards emergency medical management (CHEMM) website.
The RFQ was issued as a combined synopsis/solicitation set aside for small businesses under the streamlined commercial acquisition procedures of FAR Subpart 12.6. The contract was a fixed-price labor-hour contract for services supporting the agency’s CHEMM website for a base year and two option years. Offerors were informed that their proposals would be evaluated under a 100-point scale considering: understanding of requirements and technical approach; personnel; past performance; and proposed facilities and equipment. Under the first factor, offerors were to demonstrate, in a detailed manner, the approach and ability to perform every task and deliverable in a statement of work. Under the personnel factor, offerors were to demonstrate that proposed staff was competent and experienced and provide resumes reflecting qualifications and training, experience, and expertise. Under past performance, offerors were to show prior experience with similar activities, including detailed information describing the facilities and resources with which the vendor would perform work.
The protester challenges the agency’s evaluation of its proposal, specifically arguing that its proposal should have received a higher score under the past performance factor, in which it received 12 out of 15 possible points. A review of the record showed that the CO’s selection decision properly did not rely upon the point scores assigned during this evaluation, but instead considered the underlying technical merits in the firms’ respective quotations. The CO noted that Information Ventures’ quotation was “slightly superior” to AlphaTRAC’s quotation under the most important evaluation factor, technical approach, and was superior to AlphaTRAC’s quotation under the third most important factor, past performance, given its specific experience at the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. The CO found, on the other hand, that AlphaTRAC’s quotation was superior under the personnel factor, where AlphaTRAC proposed personnel with more directly relevant work experience that were better suited to performing the CHEMM website work.
GAO noted that even assuming that the agency’s error of misplacing a highly favorable questionnaire might have resulted in an even higher point score for the protester under the past performance factor, the selection official expressly acknowledged the superiority of the protester’s quotation under that factor. In addition, in the contemporaneously-prepared selection document, the CO also noted that if Information Ventures had been “significantly superior for all the other-than-price factors, it would warrant paying the price premium.” Thus, the correction of this error–at best–would increase the superiority of the protester’s quotation in an area where it was already deemed superior. In addition, any increased superiority in past performance would not change the results in any of the other non-price factors. Therefore, Information Ventures was not competitively prejudiced, which is an essential element of a viable protest.