Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Rust Consulting, Inc.
Agency: Department of Justice
Disposition: Protest Denied.
Protest against price realism evaluation of awardees’ proposals is denied where the agency determined that the awardees’ lower proposed labor hours reflected their technical approaches and were not so low as to present a performance risk, and where the protester has not shown the existence of prejudicial error in the evaluation.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Rust Consulting, Inc. protested the award to Gilardi & Co., LLC, BMC Group Class Action Services, and Garden City Group, Inc. of contracts for federal forfeiture claims administration. Award was to be made on a best value basis considering two equally-weighted evaluation factors: technical merit (with subfactors for corporate experience and capability, technical approach, management approach, and past performance) and price. Offerors were required to complete tables based on a sample task order involving 20,000 claimants, 3 mailings before final payment, a telebank, and deployment of a website. Of fourteen initial offers received, eight were removed from consideration either because their offers were noncompetitive because as to price, technically unacceptable, or otherwise not among the most highly rated. Before making its best value determination, the agency determined that both Rust and another offeror were noncompetitive as to price, and accordingly considered only the remaining four offerors in its best value analysis.
The GAO concluded that Rust had not shown that the agency’s approach to the price realism evaluation was inconsistent with its obligations under the solicitation. It pointed out that the agency reasonably considered the technical approaches of the offerors, and determined that those offerors proposing lower overall hours were offering more automated approaches requiring less clerical support hours. The GAO rejected Rust’s assertions that the agency failed to consider that two awardees based their price proposals on assumptions that were inconsistent with the RFP, noting that Rust’s position failed to account for BMC’s explanation in its price proposal. The GAO also pointed out that, even if Rust’s objections as to technical evaluations were correct, Rust was not competitively prejudiced by this misevaluation, as another offeror would be in line for award.
Competitive prejudice is a prerequisite to a successful protest. While a protestor may be able to make valid arguments regarding improper technical evaluations or other grounds of protest, if the protestor cannot show that, but for the errors in the procurement, it would have been in line for award, the GAO will not sustain the protest. If the protestor is not next in line for award, it must make sufficient challenges to the evaluation of those offers ahead of its own that it could be in line for award should the GAO sustain its protest.