Agency: Department of the Navy
Disposition: Protest Denied
Decided: April 16, 2020
Keywords: Reevaluation; Reevaluation Standards
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: The overriding concern when considering the reasonableness of a reevaluation is whether the final ratings reasonably reflect the relative merits of proposals.
Summary of Facts
Qi Tech, LLC protests the issuance of a task order to Tatitlek Technologies, Inc., under RFP No. N0017817R3058, issued by the Department of the Navy for administrative and clerical support services. The RFP was issued on August 10, 2017, pursuant to FAR subpart 16.5, and required the contractor to provide qualified personnel to successfully perform all specified administrative and clerical support tasks. The solicitation contemplated an award based on a best-value tradeoff basis considering: recruitment and retention of personnel; scenario; management capability; workforce; past performance; and cost. The contracting officer originally selected Qi Tech’s higher technically rated, higher-priced proposal for award, but after multiple protests and GAO hearings, the Navy took corrective action by reevaluating the offerors’ technical proposals and making a new award decision. After requesting new FPRs, the Navy made a new source selection decision, selecting Tatitlek’s proposal for award. Qi Tech protested, challenging the agency’s reevaluation of the FPRs and the resulting decision.
On November 27, GAO issued a decision, sustaining Qi Tech’s challenge to the agency’s evaluation of Tatitlek’s proposal, finding the Navy had failed to reasonably consider Tatitlek’s Service Contract Act retention rate and that the agency failed to adequately document its evaluation conclusions. GAO recommended that the Navy reevaluate Tatitlek’s proposal under the recruitment/retention factor and make a new selection decision based on its reevaluation.
The Navy reevaluated Tatitlek’s second FPRs under the recruitment/retention factor and documented its evaluation findings, but did not make any changes to the evaluated costs or the adjectival ratings assigned to the proposals. Tatitlek’s proposal was again selected for award and Qi Tech filed this protest.
Basis of Protest
Qi Tech argued that the Navy improperly evaluated Tatitlek’s proposal under the recruitment/retention factor and was unreasonable in concluding that the strengths now identified in Tatitlek’s proposal could sufficiently ameliorate the previously-assessed significant weakness. The agency argued that it reasonably assigned its rating to Tatitlek’s proposal based on the strengths identified in its reevaluation.
GAO explained that “the fact that a reevaluation varies, or does not vary, from an original evaluation does not constitute evidence that the reevaluation was unreasonable.” GAO noted that the nature of an agency’s evaluation “is reflected in the evaluation record itself, not in the adjectival ratings or adjectival characterizations of proposal features as strengths or weaknesses.” The concern when considering reevaluations is whether the final ratings “reasonably reflect the relative merits of proposals,” not whether they are consistent with previous ratings.
GAO also explained that when reviewing protests challenging an agency’s evaluation of proposals, it does not reevaluate proposals, but instead “examines the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and in accordance with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws and regulations.”
GAO concluded that it found “no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s conclusions.” While the Navy’s initial evaluations didn’t show consideration for certain proposal aspects, its reevaluation documented its considerations of those aspects and the evaluator’s conclusions as to why other features in Tatitlek’s proposal ameliorated those concerns. GAO specifically determined that the Navy adequately documented its assessment that the high turnover rate on the incumbent contract is addressed by Tatitlek’s robust revised recruitment/retention proposal, and Qi Tech’s claims that the agency ignored the previously-assessed significant weakness is not supported by the record. Instead, GAO found that Qi Tech’s challenges to the Navy’s evaluation only reflect its disagreement with the agency’s judgment.
However, GAO found “no basis to substitute our judgment for the agency’s adequately documented source selection decision.” Since Qi Tech was not able to establish that the Navy’s evaluation was inconsistent with the solicitation criteria or applicable procurement statutes and regulations or that it was unreasonable, GAO concluded that the Navy’s decision was based on a qualitative comparison of the proposals consistent with the stated evaluation scheme.
The GAO denied the protest on this basis.