Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Navy
Disposition: Request denied.
General Counsel P.C. Highlight:
GAO denied the request of Rite-Solutions, Inc. that it be reimbursed costs incurred in filing and pursuing a protest challenging the Department of the Navy’s award of a contract pursuant to a request for proposals (RFP) for network infrastructure and information technology services.
The solicitation provided for the issuance of a cost-plus fixed-fee task order to the offeror whose proposal represented the best value to the agency after considering technical capability, past performance, and cost. Rite received an outstanding rating for technical capability and a rating of very relevant with substantial confidence for past performance, but was ultimately denied award for its higher price. Rite filed a protest arguing that the agency unreasonably evaluated the awardee’s proposal and unreasonably determined that the awardee’s proposal represented the best value to the agency. The GAO attorney advised the agency that the protest would likely be sustained on the basis that the agency held unequal discussions where the agency notified the awardee of a weakness in its proposal after the conclusion of discussions and allowed it the opportunity to revise its proposal without providing the same opportunity to Rite.
The unequal discussions argument was raised in a supplemental protest, but the agency did not take corrective action until after it submitted an agency report in response to the supplemental protest. Rite submitted a request that GAO recommend reimbursement of protest costs, including attorney’s fees, for all protest issues. While the agency did not dispute that Rite was entitled to recover the costs of filing and pursuing its protest that the agency engaged in unequal discussions, it argued that the other issues raised by Rite did not meet the clearly meritorious standard necessary for a cost reimbursement recommendation. Rite’s protest against the evaluation and source selection decision were not clearly intertwined with its protest that discussions were not equal. GAO agreed with the agency that Rite’s reimbursement of protest costs should be limited to those costs incurred in connection with its unequal discussions basis of protest.