Matter of ISHPI Information Technologies, Inc.
Decided: July 29, 2022
Agency: Department of Energy
Disposition: Protest Sustained
This matter highlights the importance of offerors fully understanding all requirements of a solicitation and ensuring that quotations submitted fully meet all of the requirements in a Request or Quotation RFQ (RFQ). Specifically, if an RFQ requires offerors to staff personnel that meet minimum education and experience requirements, offerors should take care to confirm that quotations include some sort of affirmative showing that they intend to meet the RFQ’s minimum requirements. Here, the awardee’s quotation was ultimately determined to fail to meet material solicitation requirements and the offeror was ineligible for award based on that quotation, because the quotation identified labor categories for positions that did not meet any of the required minimum qualifications mandated by the RFQ.
Of note here, the only way for the protestor in this matter to uncover the agency’s unreasonable award decision to a firm that did not meet material solicitation requirements was to dig through schedule pricing and obtain information from the protest, which was not available from debrief. Protesting an award should be a data driven, fact specific, strategically assessed, and appropriately funded decision for any business. However, Government Contractors often can only determine deficiencies in an award, including whether an agency evaluated proposals equally, by filing a bid protest. With GAO bid protests, such information is typically uncovered from the Agency Report, available 30-days after the protest is filed. General Counsel, P.C. helps our clients reach critical decisions before protesting an unsuccessful award or intervening as a successful awardee, litigating bid protests through to decision, and adapting post-decision internal methods for a more successful acquisitions win plan.
Summary of Facts
ISHPI Information Technologies, Inc. protests the establishment of a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) and the issuance of two task orders to AmVet Technologies, LLC, under request for quotations (RFQ) No. 89303021RIM000005, issued by the Department of Energy for cybersecurity assessment and authorization support services.
Under the RFQ, firms were required to include fully burdened labor-hour rates for three specified labor categories to be used under the master BPA for pricing individual task orders. The RFQ identified three labor categories that were required to be used during performance: (1) program manager; (2) assessment and authorization (A&A) team leader, senior; and (3) A&A specialist mid. The RFQ stipulated that all contractor personnel were required to meet, at a minimum, the educational and experience requirements specified for the three identified positions. To demonstrate compliance with these requirements, the RFQ required firms to “map” the labor categories from their FSS schedules to the position descriptions and minimum qualifications identified for each specified labor category. While firms were permitted to include additional information in their quotations to show that their quoted labor categories met the requirements, nothing in the RFQ permitted them to quote personnel that did not meet at least the minimum qualifications identified in the solicitation for each labor category.
The agency received a number of quotations, including those submitted by ISHPI and AmVet. The agency ultimately made award to AmVet, concluding that its quotation represented the best value to the government. After being advised of the agency’s source selection, ISHPI filed this protest.
Basis of Protest
ISHPI argues that the agency should have disqualified the AmVet quotation from award consideration because the firm did not propose to perform using personnel meeting the minimum educational and experience requirements of the labor categories called for under the RFQ.
GAO made clear that when reviewing protests of an agency’s evaluation and source selection decision, it will not reevaluate proposals or quotations. Instead, GAO reviews the record to determine whether the evaluation and source selection decision are reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, and applicable procurement laws and regulations. While GAO will not substitute its judgment for that of the agency, it will sustain a protest where the agency’s conclusions are inconsistent with the solicitation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations, or not reasonably based.
GAO also noted that where a solicitation requires vendors to perform using personnel that meet certain minimum qualification requirements, and requires vendors to map their labor categories to those minimum requirements, the record must include some sort of affirmative showing that the vendor intends to meet the RFQ’s minimum requirements. Additionally, a quotation or proposal that fails to meet one or more of a solicitation’s material requirements may not properly form the basis for the award of a contract or the issuance of a task or delivery order.
Here, the record shows that AmVet’s quotation proposed to perform the two solicited task orders using various labor categories from its FSS schedule. GAO determined that while some of AmVet’s labor categories were mapped to the three required labor categories, some were not mapped to the three labor categories at all, and the labor category descriptions for these unmapped positions did not meet the minimum qualifications for the three labor categories required by the RFQ. Additionally, GAO found that the qualifications “mapped” for AmVet’s A&A Team Leader senior position do not meet the minimum qualifications for that position specified in the RFQ. Specifically, in AmVet’s quotation, the position description for AmVet’s A&A team leader senior position specifies that the individual in question will only be required to have 8 years of experience, rather than the 10 years of experience required under the RFQ for that position. Similarly, AmVet’s quotation identified more than half of the total labor hours to be performed annually using personnel that do not meet the RFQ’s minimum educational and experience requirements.
Thus, GAO found that AmVet’s quotation included a number of labor categories that were not mapped to any of the RFQ’s three required minimum labor categories and the qualifications identified for some positions did not meet any of the required minimum qualifications mandated by the RFQ. GAO concluded that when a vendor introduces new, unmapped labor categories with educational and experience requirements far below those required by the solicitation, “there is simply no basis for the agency to presume that the personnel quoted to perform a requirement will actually meet the RFQ’s more stringent educational and experience requirements.” Thus, GAO sustained the protest, finding the agency improperly made award to AmVet, since its quotation failed to meet material solicitation requirements.
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