Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Proposal Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: An offeror has the responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information that clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency.
ProActive, LLC, a small business, protests the award of a contract, by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) under a request for proposals (RFP) for custodial, waste removal, and pest control services at NRC buildings.
The NRC issued the RFP as a set-aside for service-disabled veteran owned small business concerns (SDVOSBC). The RFP instructed each offeror to submit a technical proposal demonstrating an understanding of the requirement, showing relevant past performance and corporate experience, and presenting the qualifications of its key personnel. The RFP required that the offeror and each proposed subcontractor provide past performance questionnaires from at least three references on a specific past performance questionnaire form. With respect to corporate experience, the RFP requested identification of similar work performed by the firm, along with both the estimated annual value of the contract, the identification of which services the offeror had obtained from subcontractors, and the estimated value of the subcontracted services. With respect to key personnel, the RFP specified that the offeror identify as key personnel a contract manager and an alternate. Award was to be made to the firm offering the best value.
ProActive’s proposal contained past performance surveys for both ProActive and Olympus, a subcontractor. One of the references for Olympus criticized the firm’s quality control efforts and recurring problems with its recycle program, and so the NRC advised ProActive of that issue during discussions. In its response, ProActive substituted a different past performance questionnaire for Olympus, which had been prepared for a different federal agency, on that agency’s form, and therefore it addressed different issues than those in the questionnaire specified in the RFP. The evaluators concluded that ProActive should be downgraded half a point.
With respect to the corporate experience information in ProActive’s proposal, the firm identified contracts under which it and its team member Olympus had demonstrated similar work, but it did not identify the value of the work that had been performed by subcontractors for each reference. ProActive’s proposal was downgraded one point for a lack of information.
For its key personnel, in its initial proposal, ProActive listed its president and vice president, and as on-site personnel, a contract manager, and a supervisor. In its final proposal, under the heading of “KEY PERSONNEL (Factor 4),” ProActive submitted a new resume for a person described as the back-up to its contract manager. However, that resume did not state the individual’s formal education and training. The evaluators determined that the lack of this information for someone identified as key personnel justified downgrading ProActive’s final proposal half a point under the key personnel factor.
ProActive asserts that its proposal should not have been downgraded, should have received a perfect score, and therefore should have merited a tradeoff in favor of paying its higher price. GAO states that in reviewing an agency’s evaluation, it will not reevaluate technical proposals. GAO will examine the agency’s evaluation to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria and procurement statutes and regulations. An offeror’s mere disagreement with the evaluation is not sufficient to render the evaluation unreasonable.
With respect to the past performance evaluation, GAO’s review of the record confirms that the NRC had a reasonable basis for its concern over the adverse performance. One reference reported unfavorable ratings for Olympus’s quality control and recycle program. When the agency raised this issue during discussions, ProActive’s response did not address the adverse past performance. Accordingly, GAO finds that the NRC’s evaluation of a weakness under the past performance factor, which was then reflected in the lower point score, was reasonable.
For the corporate experience factor, GAO finds that the NRC reasonably assigned a weakness to ProActive’s proposal because the corporate experience information in its proposal did not identify the value of the subcontracted work. The RFP specifically required offerors to identify, in their technical proposals, the estimated value of the subcontracted services for each corporate reference provided by the prime contractor and its subcontractors. Since ProActive provided corporate references for its team member Olympus, to demonstrate experience of the prime contractor, those references should have presented the information required by the RFP. An offeror has the responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information that clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency.
With respect to the evaluation of key personnel, regardless of whether the RFP required the submission of a back-up contract manager, ProActive submitted a resume for a back-up contract manager, and it specifically identified the submission as part of its key personnel response. The RFP required a resume for all proposed key personnel, identifying all formal education and training. Given that ProActive submitted this resume as part of its key personnel response, GAO finds that the NRC reasonably considered the absence of that information for the back-up contract manager as a proposal weakness. Taken together, the record here demonstrates that the NRC reasonably downgraded ProActive’s proposal for weaknesses under three of the four evaluation criteria. The protest is denied.