Link: GAO Decision
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protest Sustained.
Protest is sustained where the record shows the evaluation of protester’s proposal was unreasonable and, in making the award decision, the agency conducted a tradeoff only between the three proposals with the highest point scores but did not consider the lower prices offered by other apparently technically acceptable lower- rated offerors, including protester.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
J.R. Conkey & Associates, Inc. dba Solar Power Integrators (SPINT) protested the award to R.E.M. Construction Co. of a contract for construction of a 3.3 megawatt photovoltaic system at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Award was to be made on the basis of price and technical considerations deemed most advantageous to the government; the three technical factors, when combined, were significantly more important than price. SPINT protested the initial award to R.E.M., in response to which the agency took corrective action and reevaluated proposals. The CO only considered the proposals with the three highest technical point scores (despite the fact that several proposals offered lower prices) in making his decision.
The GAO first found unreasonable the agency’s failure to consider information provided by the SPINT regarding the contracting method for its past projects, pointing out that the information was readily apparent in clearly identified exhibits. It did not find unreasonable the agency’s conclusion that the provision of checklists adequately described SPINT’s quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) plan; however, the TEB had incorrectly concluded that SPINT did not address the roles and responsibilities of its key personnel. While the GAO found merit to both SPINT and the agency’s arguments regarding the reasonableness of the evaluation under the schedule factor, it ultimately sustained that aspect of the protest given the deficiency of the evaluation record, and possible confusion by the agency between the schedule and the technical/management factor.
Finally, the GAO agreed with SPINT that the CO failed to conduct an adequate price/technical tradeoff analysis because the analysis only considered the three proposals with the highest point scores, and failed to consider whether their alleged technical superiority was worth paying a higher price than that offered by SPINT. The GAO pointed out that an award to a higher priced proposal must be supported by a rational explanation of why the higher-rated proposal is in fact superior, and why the technical superiority warrants paying a higher price premium.
Disappointed offerors should always request a debriefing so as to better understand how its proposal was evaluated and to ensure that the proposal was evaluated in accordance with the stated criteria. When the RFP provides that award is to be made on a best-value basis, disappointed offerors should make sure that the agency did not eliminate lower-priced proposals without any meaningful consideration as to whether the technical superiority of the remaining proposals justify the price premium. While the agency is not required to document every single aspect of their evaluations, there must still be adequate documentation to support their decisions.