Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protest Sustained
Decided: September 14, 2021
General Counsel, P.C. Protest Insight
This protest is notable because it showcases that, although the GAO is highly deferential to Agency evaluations, the GAO does find unreasonable evaluations. Here, GAO found the VA’s evaluations unreasonable, in part because competitors were not treated fairly and equally, which resulted in inconsistent evaluations. Additionally, GAO found the evaluations were not sufficiently documented to allow for an understanding of the bases for their findings. If you were involved in a bid and feel the agency similarly failed to evaluate competitors equally or document its findings, you may have similar grounds for a protest.
Summary of Facts
Marquis Solutions, LLC (“Marquis”) protests the award of a contract to FG Management Group, LLC (“FG”) under RFQ No. 36C24220Q0977, issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA” or “agency”) for medical courier services in the New York metropolitan area.
The RFQ contemplated the award on a best-value tradeoff basis, of a fixed-price indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for a base year and four 1-year options. Firms were advised that the agency would evaluate quotations considering the price and two non-price factors: (1) technical capability, and (2) management, certification, and training. The technical capability factor included two subfactors, performance capability and technical experience.
The VA received a total of five quotations and forwarded redacted versions of the quotations to an evaluation team that reviewed them for consideration under the performance capability subfactor. After reviewing the redacted quotations, the VA assigned an overall rating of outstanding to FG’s quotation, a rating of acceptable to the quotation submitted by Company A, and a rating of unacceptable to Marquis’ quotation. Ultimately, the VA made an award to FG even though the quoted price was higher than the price offered by Company A.
Basis of Protest
Marquis argues that the VA misevaluated quotations and made an unreasonable source selection decision. Specifically, Marquis argues that the VA failed meaningfully to evaluate its quotation and also
evaluated its quotation disparately in comparison to the evaluation of the FG quotation. Marquis asserts that its proposal offered a detailed description of how it intended to meet the agency’s requirements, and also offered many of the same features identified by the agency as favorable features in the FG quotation.
GAO noted that when reviewing protests of an agency’s evaluation and source selection decision, it “will not reevaluate proposals or quotations;” but, instead, “review the record to determine whether the evaluation and source selection decision are reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, and applicable procurement laws and regulations.” GAO also stated that “an agency’s evaluation of proposals or quotations, and the source selection decision, should be documented in sufficient detail” to allow GAO to review the merits of a protest.
GAO explained that, here, the RFQ “did not include particularly detailed instructions or information relating to how firms were to prepare the technical capability portion of their quotations.” Additionally, when noting their concerns with Marquis’ quotation, the evaluators made vague and conclusory findings and “failed to explain in any meaningful way the underlying rationale for their findings.” GAO specifically noted that “the evaluators did not explain, or even provide examples of, what particular details were lacking from the Marquis quotation.”
GAO also found that the evaluators failed to criticize the FG quotation for deficiencies similar to those noted in Marquis’ quotation, and the VA assigned significant strengths and strengths to the FG Management quotation for features that were also offered by Marquis in its quotation, without an explanation for these disparate conclusions.
GAO concluded that “the record here does not support a conclusion that the agency performed a meaningful evaluation of the Marquis quotation. Further, the agency has not explained the apparent inconsistencies in its evaluation of the two quotations.” GAO stated that when an agency “elects to perform an evaluation that assesses the comparative merits of competing quotations, it still is required to treat the competitors fairly and equally, and to sufficiently document its evaluation conclusions.”
GAO held that the VA’s evaluation quotations were unreasonable and the conclusions relating to the Marquis quotation reflect a fundamental failure to meaningfully evaluate it. GAO sustained the protest on this basis and recommended that the agency reevaluate quotations and make a new source selection decision that is consistent with GAO’s decision.
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