Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Qwest Government Services, Inc.
Agency: Department of the Interior
Disposition: Protest Denied.
- Agency’s assessment of risk in the protester’s price proposal was reasonable where the protester based its price on assumptions that were not stated in the solicitation.
- Protest challenging the evaluation of the protester’s technical proposal is denied where the evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation.
- Protest that the awardee failed to include required information in a specific part of its proposal is denied, where the record shows that the solicitation was patently ambiguous as to where the information could be provided and the awardee included the information in a different part of its proposal.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Qwest Government Services, Inc. protested the issuance to Verizon Business Systems of a task order for telecommunications services. The RFP was issued to holders of the GSA’s Networx ID/IQ contract, and informed vendors that they would be evaluated on the basis of price and the following non-price factors, in descending order of importance: (1) transition approach and schedule; (2) quality of technical approach; (3) management and operations; and (4) experience and past performance. The technical factors were more important than price for purposes of award. Although Verizon did not offer the lowest price, the CO selected Verizon for award without performing a price-technical tradeoff in light of Verizon’s “exceptional understanding of the requirements” and the risks posed by the other offerors’ quotations. Qwest protested the initial award, in response to which the agency took corrective action by making a new source selection decision. This protest followed a second award to Verizon.
The GAO first denied Qwest’s objection to its rating of Marginal under the price evaluation factor. The GAO pointed out that the agency identified risks because Qwest’s proposed price for the Incident Response Service (INRS) was significantly lower than the IGCE, and identified a weakness because Qwest’s proposed price for the managed network services (MNS) was lower than the IGCE. The GAO found the agency’s conclusion that Qwest proposed a price risk to be reasonable, noting that Qwest’s quotation was based on fewer circuits than might be required by the agency but expressly warned the agency that it would seek additional payment if additional circuits were required.
The GAO then rejected Qwest’s arguments regarding its technical evaluation. The GAO found reasonable the risk assigned to Qwest’s quotation for having the Computer incident Response Capability (CIRC) not be located at the agency’s Advanced Security Operations Center (ASOC), on the grounds that the security manager Qwest proposed would not be able to provide the required oversight of the CIRC function at the ASOC. The GAO also found no reason to question the risk assigned for failing to describe the feedback or communications with the agency in Qwest’s communication plan. The agency’s assignment of both a strength and a countervailing weakness for Qwest’s use of a single equipment vendor was also reasonable.
Qwest then argued that Verizon had omitted a mandatory table from its pricing proposal, which Qwest asserted rendered Verizon’s quotation unacceptable. The GAO concluded that the RFP was patently ambiguous about where this information could be included, and that Verizon was reasonable in providing information from Table L-3, SEDs Suites Mapping, in Verizon’s bid model. To the extent that Qwest believed that vendors should have been required to provide the information in Table L-3 within the 25 page limit of the price narrative, the GAO held that the challenge was to the terms of the solicitation and was therefore untimely. The GAO also held untimely Qwest’s claims that the agency improperly credited Verizon with strengths that arose from Verizon’s performance of the incumbent task order, and that Verizon had access to information through its incumbent performance that was not available to Qwest, noting that these arguments were raised in Qwest’s response to the agency’s supplemental report but were based on documents made available before the supplemental report.
Vendors bear the burden of submitting adequately written quotations that address all the requirements in the solicitation. If there is any ambiguity in the solicitation regarding the proper formatting of quotations, a vendor must protest the terms of the solicitation prior to the deadline to submit quotes. Failure to do so will prevent a disappointed vendor from protesting an agency’s acceptance of the awardee’s quotation in a format that the disappointed vendor believed was not in accordance with the solicitation.