Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protests denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: The offeror has the burden of unequivocally demonstrating its compliance with the terms of the RFQ.
Kingdomware Technologies protests the decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) not to award the firm a purchase order under a request for quotations (RFQ), to provide emergency notification services for the VA’s Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS).
The RFQ sought quotations from vendors holding contracts under the General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule for information technology software services. The RFQ was posted on FedBid.com, an on-line reverse auction procurement system. Vendors were advised that quotations would be evaluated for technical acceptability and price. A fixed-price purchase order would be issued to the lowest-priced vendor whose quotation conforms to the terms of the RFQ. Prospective vendors were advised that questions concerning this procurement should be submitted at the earliest possible time to allow the agency to respond. Vendors were also advised that questions not received within a reasonable time prior to close of the solicitation might not be considered.
As part of its quotation, Kingdomware included an attachment in which the protester stated, among other things, that it had sent questions concerning this procurement through FedBid and had also left a voicemail message for the contracting officer. Since its questions were not answered, the protester stated that it made certain “assumptions in connection with our GSA Schedule bid.” The relevant assumptions were that, “Because Blackberrys support SMS delivery just as other smartphone devices that this is allowable; and we are also assuming that SMS delivery to the provider is allowable because this capability is much faster than using SMTP text messages.” After reviewing Kingdomware’s quotation, the VA concluded, based on the protester’s “assumptions,” that the firm offered “SMS delivery” of text messages rather than the required SMTP text messages, and the quote was therefore viewed as unacceptable.
Kingdomware takes issue with the agency’s evaluation of its quotation, arguing that its quotation was in fact based on providing SMTP messaging. Specifically, the protester asserts that, consistent with the bidding requirements for FedBid, the firm expressly acknowledged “compliance with all of the terms of the buy,” which implicitly included providing SMTP messaging.
Here, the quoted portion of the attachment included in Kingdomware’s quotation identified a text messaging capability other than that specified in the RFQ which the protester assumed was “allowable” for this procurement. At a minimum, the Kingdomware quotation is unclear as to whether, as the protester claims, it could be read to indicate that the firm would provide the SMTP message capability, SMS messaging, or both. Since Kingdomware had the burden of unequivocally demonstrating its compliance with the terms of the RFQ, yet failed to do so, GAO has no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s evaluation. A quotation which fails to conform to a material solicitation term and condition should be considered unacceptable and may not form the basis for an award. The protest is denied.