Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Defense Intelligence Agency
Disposition: Protest sustained.
Keywords: GSA Schedule Contract Award
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: When an agency conducts a formal competition under the FSS program for award of a task order contract, it will review the agency’s actions to ensure that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation.
Mission Essential Personnel, LLC (MEP) protests the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) issuance of an order to Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) under a request for quotations (RFQ), for translation and other linguistic services for the National Media Exploitation Center.
The RFQ contemplated issuance of an order for a fixed-price level-of-effort labor contract with a one-year base period and four one-year options to the FSS contract holder whose quotation represented the best value to the government. Best value was to be determined based on a consideration of price and several non-price factors, with the non-price factors being given greater importance. The non-price evaluation factors specified in the RFQ were: (1) management plan; (2) quality control plan; (3) transition plan; (4) resumes; (5) past performance risk; (6) small business subcontracting plan; and (7) facility clearance (which was to be rated on a pass/fail basis). The solicitation provided that under the management plan factor, the agency would consider the vendor’s reporting mechanisms; the relevant experience of its proposed management team “in relation to the scope and context of the Statement of Work [(SOW)]”; the proposed continuing education, professional development, and retraining opportunities for employees; and the vendor’s experience in hiring and retaining qualified personnel. Regarding the resumes factor, the RFQ required vendors to submit resumes for certain key personnel.
MEP takes issue with multiple aspects of the agency’s evaluation, arguing, among other things, that the agency failed to evaluate vendors’ quotations under the resumes factor as contemplated by the RFQ. GAO states that when an agency conducts a formal competition under the FSS program for award of a task order contract, it will review the agency’s actions to ensure that the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation.
The solicitation required vendors to submit resumes for several key personnel and provided for evaluation of each resume against the SOW requirements. In addition, the RFQ provided that each resume would receive its own rating, that resumes failing to meet minimum requirements would be rated as unacceptable, and that the agency would determine an overall rating under the resume factor by averaging the rating of each panel member for each resume. The agency concedes that it did not evaluate the resumes in the manner described by the RFQ. Instead, the agency explains that due to an “administrative oversight,” the evaluators were given an incorrect evaluation standard for the resumes factor. That is, rather than being advised of the above standard, the evaluators were instructed simply to verify that the vendors had furnished resumes for the key personnel positions. Applying this instruction, the evaluators essentially reviewed the resumes factor on a pass/fail basis. The fact that the evaluators did not further evaluate vendors’ quotations with respect to the resumes factor is further confirmed by the fact each evaluator worksheet for this factor is completely blank, with no documentation of any evaluation or assignment of relative strengths or weaknesses.
Notwithstanding this clear deviation from the evaluation criteria established by the RFQ, the agency attempts to excuse its admitted error by suggesting that it effectively considered the qualifications of the vendors’ key personnel under the management plan factor, which provided for consideration of the relevant experience of the proposed management team in relation to the SOW. The agency’s analysis conflates two evaluation factors that the RFQ established as separate and distinct from one another, and, in so doing, undermines the significance of the resumes factor. By considering the resumes factor as subsumed under the management plan factor, rather than assigning it the separate adjectival rating and weight provided for in the RFQ, the agency conducted its evaluation in a manner that was contrary to the evaluation scheme expressly established by the RFQ.
Moreover, the single management plan factor standard upon which the agency relies was qualitatively different from the evaluation contemplated under the resumes factor. Specifically, the relevant management plan standard provided for a general assessment of the relevant experience of the vendors’ key personnel “in relation to the scope and context” of the SOW, whereas under the resumes factor, evaluators were specifically to rate resumes “against the requirements in the SOW.” In this regard, the SOW established specific minimum qualification requirements, as well as highly desired skills and proficiencies, which do not necessarily translate to an evaluation based solely on experience. Given the agency’s failure to evaluate vendors’ quotations according to the ground rules established by the RFQ, MEP’s protest of the agency’s evaluation under the resumes factor is sustained.