Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: General Services Administration
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Simplified Acquisition Procedures
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: Simplified acquisition procedures are designed, among other things, to reduce administrative expenses, promote efficiency and economy in contracting, and avoid unnecessary burdens for agencies and contractors. When using these procedures, an agency must conduct the procurement consistent with a concern for fair and equitable competition and must evaluate quotations in accordance with the terms of the solicitation.
Newsun, Inc., doing business as Internal Computer Services (ICS), a small business, protests the issuance of a purchase order by the General Services Administration (GSA), under a request for quotations (RFQ), for replacement of the voice telephone system.
The GSA posted the RFQ on FedBizOpps.gov, seeking quotations from service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) firms, for placement of a single commercial item purchase order. The RFQ Statement of Work (SOW) specified the quantities and types of telephone equipment needed for each location. As relevant to the protest issues, for the Wilmington, Delaware VA Medical Center, the SOW used a table, which specified several types of telephones, and corresponding quantities for each. For “Digital Multi-Line Telephones” the table specified a total quantity of 1067, while a separate line requested “VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] Telephones” and a total quantity of 358. In response to vendor questions, the GSA posted on FedBizOpps.gov a set of vendors’ questions and the agency’s answers. Among them was a question about the acceptability of offering VOIP phones (sometimes referred to simply as “IP” phones) in place of the multi-line digital phones.
The GSA evaluation report explains that ICS’s quotation proposed a solution that used VOIP technology, contrary to the SOW specification of TDM technology, for the required 1067 digital multi-line telephones. The evaluation also stated that one of ICS’s two past performance reference projects was not similar in size and scope to this requirement. The evaluation rated ICS’s proposal as “Does Not Meet [requirements]” for both its telecommunications solution and its past performance, and rated the proposal “Does Not Meet” overall.
ICS protests that the GSA unreasonably evaluated the firm’s quotation as unacceptable for both its technical solution and the firm’s past performance. GAO states that the procurement was conducted under the simplified procedures for evaluation of commercial items. Simplified acquisition procedures are designed, among other things, to reduce administrative expenses, promote efficiency and economy in contracting, and avoid unnecessary burdens for agencies and contractors. When using these procedures, an agency must conduct the procurement consistent with a concern for fair and equitable competition and must evaluate quotations in accordance with the terms of the solicitation. In reviewing protests of an allegedly improper simplified acquisition evaluation and award selection, GAO examines the record to determine whether the agency met this standard and exercised its discretion reasonably.
ICS argues that its proposed technical solution will provide a superior result within the constraints of the VA’s existing telecommunications infrastructure. ICS argues that although purchasers such as the GSA often believe that existing wiring is only suitable for TDM telephones, through the use of the “adapter” technology proposed by ICS, VOIP telephones can operate over an existing voice network. Thus, ICS argues that the GSA’s underlying concerns regarding the limits of the site’s current data network may not be valid. The GSA responds that the agency made clear through its response to Question 4 that an acceptable technical solution was required to propose “Multi-line digital phones using TDM technology,” and that the current data network “cannot support a full VOIP implementation.” Since ICS’s quotation clearly proposed VOIP telephones for the 1067 multi-line digital phones, regardless of how it did so, the quotation did not comply with this clearly-expressed requirement, and was therefore properly evaluated as technically unacceptable. The GSA’s evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the express terms of the RFQ. The protest is denied.