Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Proposal Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: GAO will question the agency’s technical evaluation only where the record shows that the evaluation does not have a reasonable basis or is inconsistent with the RFP. Since an agency’s evaluation is dependent on the information furnished in a proposal, it is the offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal for the agency to evaluate.
Liberty Terminals LLC protests the award of a contract under a request for proposals (RFP), issued by the Department of the Army, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), for stevedoring and related terminal services.
The RFP sought proposals for stevedoring and related terminal services at various ports, under an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ), fixed-price contract. Award was provided for on a best-value basis considering technical factors and price. The technical factors were equipment, management plan, qualifications of personnel, and past performance. Each factor included subfactors and each subfactor identified a standard of what constitutes an acceptable response. The RFP stated that “award shall be made on the basis of the lowest evaluated price of proposals meeting or exceeding the acceptability standards for non-cost factors.” The RFP further stated that “in order to be considered technically acceptable an offeror’s technical proposal must pass all standards” and that “[f]ailure on any one factor shall deem the entire proposal as technically unacceptable.”
Liberty’s technical proposal was rated unacceptable because it received unacceptable ratings for five subfactors.Liberty challenges the evaluation of its proposal under each of the subfactors where its proposal received an unacceptable rating, claiming that there was no reasonable basis for these ratings and that the proposals were unequally evaluated. GAO states that the evaluation of proposals is a matter within the discretion of the procuring agency, since the agency is responsible for defining its needs and deciding on the best methods of accommodating them. GAO will question the agency’s technical evaluation only where the record shows that the evaluation does not have a reasonable basis or is inconsistent with the RFP. Since an agency’s evaluation is dependent on the information furnished in a proposal, it is the offeror’s responsibility to submit an adequately written proposal for the agency to evaluate. An offeror that fails to do so runs the risk that its proposal will be evaluated unfavorably.
Under the first subfactor of the equipment factor, types, mix and quantities of equipment, Liberty’s proposal was rated unacceptable. The standard for this subfactor stated that the offeror must possess all equipment required to perform the performance work statement (PWS), and “[a]t a minimum, . . . must have access to [the specifically identified pieces of equipment listed in the RFP for each port].” The agency evaluators found that Liberty’s proposal “did not adequately demonstrate that they had made arrangements for the proper types and amounts of equipment at each site for the duration of the performance period as required by the solicitation.” Liberty’s proposal included a specific list of equipment to be provided under the contract and identified the various equipment that it already had. The proposal also stated that it could move equipment between locations, and that it would lease or purchase equipment that it did not already have to provide the expected level of service to the government. The proposal included various letters of commitment from equipment and other companies to supply various items of equipment. However, Liberty’s proposal did not provide for certain equipment required by this subfactor: eight passenger vans and one “MAFI peter with stand.” Instead, the SDDC evaluator testified, and the record confirms, that the list of equipment in Liberty’s proposal provided for only four passenger vans and did not specifically identify a MAFI peter. In view of the RFP requirement for offerors to provide both service trucks and passenger vans, GAO finds that the agency reasonably read Liberty’s proposal as not offering the requisite number of passenger vans, particularly given that the specific equipment list included in Liberty’s proposal designated only four “passenger vans.”
Liberty’s proposal was also found unacceptable under the safety subfactor of the management plan factor. The standard for this subfactor stated, “[d]oes the Offeror’s plan include an effective safety program that demonstrates knowledge of all required safety procedures and standards?” The evaluators found that: (1) Liberty’s proposal failed to satisfy the standard, since its proposal only “briefly mentions that they have an in-house safety program and a Safety Answer Book but fails to provide specifics on how they intend to assure a safe operating environment while dealing with potentially dangerous . . . cargo”; (2) Liberty provides a picture handbook of their employee forklift safety training handbook but fails to provide any further explanations or plan; and (3) although “[r]eferences to safe operations are scattered throughout Liberty’s . . . proposal. . . no specific safety plan for U.S. Government operations is included.” Here again, GAO finds no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s evaluation of the protester’s proposal as unacceptable under this subfactor. As explained by the SDDC evaluator, Liberty’s proposal only generally discussed safety by referencing the provisions in the RFP related to the requirements and referencing its in-house safety program and Safety Answer Book, but did not describe a safety program in any detail. In sum, the record reasonably supports the agency’s conclusion that Liberty’s proposal was unacceptable. The protest is denied.