Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: meaningful discussions; debriefing; unfair competitive advantage
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denied the protest of Next Tier Concepts, Inc., based on the Department of Agriculture’s issuance of a delivery order to Emagine IT, Inc., under a request for quotations (RFQ), for support services for the National Resources Conservation Service-Office of the Chief Information Officer (NRCS-OCIO).
The RFQ was for commercial IT services and contemplated the issuance of a fixed price delivery order based on past performance, price, and management approach. The agency originally selected Next Tier for award, but two offerors protested the award. The agency cancelled the award and took corrective action, including amending the solicitation to include documents to provide vendors with more information on the requirements. Next Tier submitted a revised quotation, but was rated lower than Emagine.
Next Tier argued that the agency failed to hold meaningful discussions based on a debriefing it received after the initial award, but before the agency took corrective action. GAO concluded that this argument was without merit where the debriefing did not constitute discussions.
Next Tier also argued that Emagine gained an unfair advantage when it hired a former government employee that was involved in IT governance for the NRCS IT Services Division. However, GAO found that there was no evidence that the employee’s knowledge gave Emagine any unfair competitive advantage. The employee did not assist in the proposal preparation and was not otherwise involved in the procurement.