Link: GAO Opinion
Agencies: Department of Agriculture
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Best value, cost-technical trade-off
General Counsel, P.C. Highlight: No matter how competent a contractor may be, the technical evaluation must be based on information included within the four corners of the proposal or quote.
Through a request for quotations (RFQ) the Department of Agriculture sought quotations from bidders for tree thinning services in Clearwater National Forest. The source selection was to be based on technical and price factors, and award was to be made to the technically acceptable quotation that presented the best value to the government considering both technical merit and price. The solicitation included three technical factors with specific instructions that quotations would not be considered without the requisite information for evaluation.
John Blood’s quotation was the lowest in price of the twelve quotes received by Agriculture, but was evaluated as marginal technically with high performance risk due to a material lack of information in the quote. The Agency determined that Lara Brothers’s quote, which it found to be of greater technical merit and lower performance risk, was worth paying a higher price and thus constituted the best value for the government. Thereafter, John Blood protested.
GAO, in reviewing a protest against the propriety of an evaluation, does not independently evaluate proposals and substitute their judgment for that of the agency. Rather, GAO reviews to ensure that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the criteria in the solicitation and applicable statutes and regulations. The burden is on the bidder to demonstrate affirmatively the merits of its quotation, and all aspects of the technical evaluation must be based on information included in the quotation. Because the RFQ here expressly required detailed technical submissions from each vendor, and because there was a significant amount of information missing from the quotation submitted by John Blood, the GAO determined that the Agency’s award determination was reasonable and thus the protest was denied.