Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Office of TRICARE Management Activity
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Discussions; technical evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: The FAR requires agencies conducting discussions to inform offerors of deficiencies and significant weaknesses, but the content of discussions is largely a matter of the contracting officer’s judgment.
TRICARE Management Activity (TMA), a Department of Defense Field Activity, procures and administers contracts for TRICARE healthcare support services. TMA issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a contractor to provide independent audits of TMA healthcare support contractors’ reimbursement determinations and healthcare claims processing services. The RFP also stated that award would be made to the offeror with the lowest-priced, technically acceptable proposal based on technical and price factors.
A set of subfactors were set forth under the technical factors. Specifically at issue in the protest, was the “staffing plan” subfactor. IntegriGuard LLC (IntegriGuard) submitted a proposal that was deemed inadequate because of its proposed staffing. IntegriGuard’s price was also considered too low. Following two rounds of discussions, IntegriGuard submitted final proposal revisions (FPRs) in which it reduced the staffing for four of five option periods. The agency still deemed the proposal technically unacceptable and considered the price too low.
IntegriGuard claims that the agency unreasonably found its proposal technically unacceptable under the staffing plan subfactor on the basis of an unsupported productivity estimate. IntegriGuard’s estimate for the number of claims processed per day was found to be unreasonable by the agency since it was “such an aggressive productivity level” and it “demonstrates a misunderstanding of the audit process.” GAO states that the evaluation of technical proposals is a matter largely within the agency’s discretion and it finds no basis to question the productivity estimate on which the agency based its conclusion.
The record demonstrates that all three of the evaluators have extensive knowledge of the TRICARE program and relevant experience in auditing TRICARE claims. The three evaluators had determined a reasonable daily workload for claims analysis and IntegriGuard’s proposed rate was inadequate to meet the RFP requirements. GAO cannot conclude that the estimate in the RFP was unreasonable.
IntegriGuard next claims that the agency ignored aspects of its proposed “team approach” to claims auditing. GAO states that offerors bear the burden of submitting a sufficiently detailed proposal and IntegriGuard failed to identify the staffing position responsible for conducting initial claims review audits and failed to specify any other labor category as sharing this responsibility. Therefore, the evaluators reasonably concluded that only certain staffers were devoted to initial claims review.
As to IntegriGuard’s assertion that the agency failed to conduct meaningful discussions, GAO states that the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires agencies conducting discussions to inform offerors of deficiencies and significant weaknesses, but the content of discussions is largely a matter of the contracting officer’s judgment. GAO finds that the record clearly demonstrates that IntegriGuard was informed that its staffing was inadequate and therefore, the agency conducted meaningful discussions. The protest is denied.