Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Defense
Disposition: Protests denied.
Protest challenging agency’s evaluation of protester’s past performance and technical proposal is denied where record shows that the evaluation was reasonable.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
IMC first challenges the evaluation of its past performance. In this regard, the RFP required offerors to submit information regarding relevant contracts and subcontracts performed within the four year period prior to issuance of the solicitation. IMC listed nine contracts and provided resumes for several key personnel. One listed contract was not considered in the evaluation because it was performed prior to the relevant four year period; two contracts for grounds maintenance at military bases in the U.S. were considered moderately relevant; and the remaining six contracts were deemed only slightly relevant on the basis that “the scope of work described was either unquantified or small in scope” based on the dollar value of the contracts. In this regard, the agency noted that, while the contract under the RFP is valued at approximately $25 million annually, the average annual value of all of IMC’s listed contracts was only $3.9 million. This led the PPET to conclude that there was no evidence in IMC’s proposal that IMC had performed work of the scale and level of integration of the requirement here. In addition, the PPET concluded that the key personnel resumes submitted by IMC did not “reflect a strong direct connection to the scale of work required by the GSMP,” since they either did not reflect experience with work on the same scale as the GSMP or were unclear with regard to the employee’s role in performance. Accordingly, IMC’s prior contracts were rated only slightly relevant overall. With regard to customer satisfaction, however, IMC’s performance was rated outstanding. Consistent with the scheme established in the RFP for the rating of performance risk, IMC’s slightly relevant and outstanding performance ratings resulted in an overall moderate performance risk rating.
The evaluation of IMC’s past performance was reasonable. A review of IMC’s past performance submission confirms the agency’s finding that most of IMC’s submitted references were for contracts that were significantly smaller in size and scope. For example, two of IMC’s submitted contracts (for Ft. Polk North and Whiteman Air Force Base) had an average annual value of approximately $126,000 or less, that is, significantly less than the $25 million estimated annual value of the GSMP work. Indeed, as the agency points out, the total annual average value for all 9 contracts submitted by IMC was only $3.9 million, less than 16% of the estimated annual value of the GSMP requirement. As for the protester’s assertion that its submitted contracts were “geographically located throughout the United States encompassing a larger area logistically,” GAO finds nothing unreasonable in the agency’s conclusion that experience with geographically dispersed, but relatively small contracts is not equivalent to experience with contracts of similar scope, size and complexity to the requirement here.
IMC next challenges the evaluation of its technical proposal. Technical proposals were evaluated under two subfactors–management and technical–encompassed by the technical factor. Under the management subfactor, offerors were required to describe their management approach with regard to a phase-in schedule, staffing plan and procedures, subcontractor management, communication, and quality control plan. Under the technical subfactor, offerors were to describe their technical approach, provide a hazardous material and waste management plan, and provide an asbestos management plan. The technical evaluation team (TET) concluded that IMC’s proposal “contained major errors, omissions, and deficiencies,” and that IMC “did not have a clear understanding of the Government’s requirements.” Specifically, the evaluators found four broad deficiencies in IMC’s proposal: its staffing was very low, particularly for grounds maintenance and routine maintenance, and was inadequate to meet oversight requirements; its asbestos plan did not adequately address air sampling; its phase-in schedule did not meet the solicitation requirement for a 30-day phase-in period and did not address the required coordination with local agencies; and its subcontracting plan did not take into consideration all areas where subcontract work would be required. Consequently, the TET rated IMC’s technical proposal unsatisfactory and high risk.
As noted above, the agency determined that IMC’s technical proposal included inadequate proposed staffing. While IMC believes its staffing should have been deemed adequate, its arguments fail to establish that the agency’s concerns were unreasonable. For example, notwithstanding IMC’s proposed cross-utilization approach, neither that approach nor the proposal of specifically allocated grounds maintenance team members, on its face, addressed the relatively small number of personnel proposed to perform this work. We note, in this regard, that IMC’s proposed staffing levels were significantly lower than those proposed by the awardee–overall, while SKE proposed a total of 32 FTEs for grounds maintenance, IMC proposed only 6.61 FTEs for the same requirement. SKE Tech. As the agency points out, IMC’s reliance on cross-utilization of personnel is a shortcoming under these circumstances, since cross-utilization presupposes that adequate staffing was proposed for routine and preventive maintenance, such that personnel would be available when grounds maintenance requirements arise. The agency found that this was not the case, and IMC has not shown otherwise.
The TET found that IMC’s quality control approach did not provide for sufficient quality control staffing to ensure adequate oversight. In this regard, the agency noted that IMC had proposed to use middle managers and workers in a quality control role, which the agency determined would not provide appropriate oversight, since the middle managers would in effect be evaluating themselves. IMC challenges the agency’s concern, noting that its proposal provided for a “quality control manager” who will instruct supervisors and managers to ensure that they exceed accepted standards of performance, and asserting that its proposal does not provide for inspections by workers below the Hausmeister-level. As noted by the agency, however, IMC’s proposal specifically abjured “separating Quality Control personnel and production personnel” and instead proposed to “empower all of the production employees as quality control staff.” In these circumstances, GAO finds that the agency could reasonably conclude that IMC’s proposal provided for “forcing the QC function down” such that managers would be responsible for evaluating their own performance, which the agency reasonably viewed as a weakness.
The TET found that IMC’s asbestos management plan failed to address air sampling in a way that demonstrated an understanding of procedures mandated under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA), 15 U.S.C. sections 2651 et seq. (2006). IMC generally asserts that it provided an adequate asbestos monitoring plan. However, GAO finds that the record supports the agency’s evaluation. In this regard, the RFP required that offerors address compliance with AHERA and air sampling requirements in their asbestos management plan. IMC’s asbestos management plan was found to address air sampling in only a perfunctory way, merely stating, without elaboration, that IMC would “take air-monitoring readings in addition to those furnished by any asbestos contractor used by IMC, as a final reading to ensure the clean air quality in any asbestos removal area.” The agency noted that, among other omissions, IMC’s proposal did not address the difficulty of following required air sampling protocols in Germany; in that country, there is no legal requirement for Transmission Electron Microscopy testing and, therefore, there are few, if any, laboratories in Germany to perform the necessary tests, resulting in the need to send most samples to the U.S., with appropriate accountability. Given IMC’s failure to address this issue, GAO thinks the agency could reasonably find IMC’s asbestos management plan to be inadequate. The protest is denied.