Link: GAO Decision
Agency: Department of Justice
Disposition: Protest Denied.
- Protest that discussions were unequal, misleading, and not meaningful is denied because the agency was not required to discuss areas of protester’s proposal that were not considered a significant weakness or deficiency and the discussions did not prevent protester from having a reasonable opportunity for award.
- Protest challenging evaluation of offerors’ technical proposals is denied where the record shows that agency’s evaluation was reasonable and supported by record, or that protester suffered no prejudice because protester’s proposal received highest available technical ratings.
- Protest that agency determination that competing offeror’s lower-rated, lower-priced proposal represented a better value to government than protester’s proposal is denied where agency determination was reasonable and adequately documented.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators, Inc. protested the award to AllWorld Language Consultants, Inc. of a contract for linguist services at DEA field offices in the southeast region of the United States and the Caribbean. After initial evaluations, the source evaluation board (SEB) established a competitive range of four offerors, including Metropolitan but not AllWorld. AllWorld protested on the grounds that it was unreasonably excluded out of concern that its pricing was unreasonably low. The agency took corrective action, adding AllWorld to the competitive range, engaging in discussions, and accepting final proposal revisions (FPRs) from the competitive offerors. The SEB recommended MVM for award, noting six areas where the SEB viewed MVM’s proposal as superior to Metropolitan’s proposal. The source selection authority (SSA) determined not to follow the SEB’s recommendation, finding it not in the government’s best interests to pay a $72 million premium for MVM’s proposal and instead making award to AllWorld.
The GAO first addressed Metropolitan’s assertion that the agency’s discussions with it were unequal as compared to those with other offerors. It disagreed with the agency and awardee that Metropolitan was not an interested party to raise this issue, noting that if Metropolitan (who was not next in line for award) were to prevail on this ground, the GAO could recommend reopening discussions, allowing Metropolitan to revise its pricing. The GAO did not find the discussions to be unequal, pointing out that MVM received more extensive discussion questions because the agency had assessed weaknesses to MVM’s technical proposal, whereas Metropolitan was assessed no technical weaknesses. The GAO then rejected each of Metropolitan’s arguments that discussions were misleading. Because the GAO found no reason to question the agency’s overall evaluation, Metropolitan was not an interested party to raise other arguments, as it was not next in line for award
In awards made on a best-value basis, offerors must remember that an agency may select a lower-rated, lower-priced proposal if it is in the best interests of the government. As long as the agency makes a rational decision consistent with the evaluation criteria, disappointed offerors will be unsuccessful should they elect to protest the selection. Disappointed offerors must remember that the SSA has broad discretion to disagree with lower-level evaluations, so long as the SSA’s conclusion is adequately supported by the record. One lesson is that there are times when a pre-award protest is valuable. In this case had AllWorld not filed a protest it would not have eventually been award a contract valued at more than $309 million.