Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest Denied
Decided: July 15, 2019
Keywords: Small Business Set-Asides, GAO Standard of Review
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
When a protester challenges an agency’s evaluation of proposals, the GAO’s role is not to reevaluate proposals, but, rather, to examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations.
Summary of Facts
VBC Commercial Services, LLC, a small business, submitted a proposal to the Department of the Army, but lost to Aquarius Contractors, Inc.
The Army issued an RFP on February 1, 2019, as a small business set-aside, requesting fixed price proposals to provide commercial ground maintenance services at Fort Hood, Texas. The proposals would be evaluated under three factors: technical, past performance, and price. There were three subfactors under the technical factor: staffing approach, performance management, and proposed equipment and supplies listing. The performance management subfactor required each offeror to “provide a written narrative detailing its . . . ability to effectively communicate and manage the Grounds Maintenance Service,” including an organizational chart showing the offeror’s organization structure “and how it facilitates communication and management of the contract effort.” Under the RFP, if any subfactor was unacceptable, the technical capability factor would be unacceptable and the proposal would not be considered for award.
Four offerors submitted proposals, including VBC and Aquarius. VBC’s proposal was rated “unacceptable” under each technical subfactor, including the organizational structure element for the performance management subfactor. Specifically, VBC’s proposal was rated unacceptable for the performance management subfactor because it “did not provide or demonstrate lines of communication and lines of authority for key personnel” in accordance with the Performance Work Standard. The Army awarded the contract to Aquarius and VBC filed this protest.
Basis of Protest
VBC protests the evaluation of its proposal under the technical evaluation’s four elements. Specifically, VBC disputes the Army’s determination that its proposal was unacceptable for not providing or demonstrating “lines of communication and lines of authority for key personnel.” VBC argues that its proposal adequately responded to the requirements by submitting an organizational chart that depicted a “hierarchy and clear lines of authority,” job descriptions, and the qualifications of relevant positions.
VBC further argues that the Army imposed unstated evaluation criteria because the RFP did not inform offerors that they were “required to explain why individuals proposed would enable an offeror to meet the contract requirements.”
The Army argued that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the RFP, which directed each offeror to provide not just an organizational chart, but also to address the offeror’s organizational structure and how it would “facilitate communication and management of the contract effort.” The Army argued the RFP made clear that the proposal would be evaluated on whether the response showed that clear lines of authority existed and “demonstrated effective communication to ensure timely execution of contract requirements.” Since VBC’s proposal simply provided an organizational chart and failed to explain what, if anything, the lines in the organizational chart indicated, the Army argued the proposal failed to explain how authority would flow from the positions listed in the organizational chart and did not discuss how the positions in the chart would communicate.
The GAO explained that “[w]here a protester challenges an agency’s evaluation of proposals, this Office’s role is not to reevaluate proposals; rather, we examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations.”
The GAO determined that the record supports the Army’s evaluation of VBC’s proposal as unacceptable. Specifically, the GAO found that VBC’s proposal “did not meaningfully respond to the RFP requirement that each proposal should explain the offeror’s management structure in terms of ensuring communication, and successful management of performance.” Instead, the GAO found that VBC’s proposal was reasonably evaluated as failing to demonstrate that clear lines of authority existed or that VBC’s staff would provide effective communication to ensure timely performance of the PWS requirements.
Although VBC also challenged the evaluation of its proposal under other subfactors, the GAO explained that it “need not consider VBC’s remaining challenges to the evaluation,” since it already determined the proposal was reasonably evaluated as unacceptable under the performance management factor and, thus, unacceptable overall and ineligible for award.” The GAO explained that “even where a protester can demonstrate that its proposal was misevaluated in particular respects, our Office will not sustain a protest unless the protester demonstrates a reasonable possibility that it was prejudiced by the agency’s actions; that is, unless the protester demonstrates that, but for the agency’s actions, it would have had a substantial chance of receiving the award.” Since VBC’s proposal was already ineligible for award since it was reasonably evaluated as unacceptable under one factor, even if the Army did unreasonably evaluate VBC on other factors, VBC wouldn’t have been prejudiced, since it couldn’t win the award anyway. The GAO denied the protest on this basis.