Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Proposal Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: While GAO has recognized that such judgments are often subjective by nature, the exercise of these judgments in the evaluation of proposals must be documented in sufficient detail to show that they are not arbitrary.
SHG National, LLC, (SHG) protests the award of a contract under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of the Army, for lodging, meals, and transportation services.
The RFP provided for the award of a fixed-price requirements contract. A detailed performance work statement (PWS) was provided, describing the contract requirements. Offerors were informed that the agency estimated that an average of 53, and a maximum of 165, applicants would require daily meals, lodging and transportation services. In this regard, the PWS advised offerors that the actual number of applicants might exceed the agency’s estimates and that the contractor was responsible for ensuring that a sufficient number of rooms were available to fulfill the daily requirements of the contract. The RFP provided that award would be made on a best value basis considering the following factors: mission capability, past performance, and price. Offerors were advised that the agency would conduct an on-site evaluation, and that past performance would be separately evaluated and assessed a performance risk rating.
The awardee received a higher rating under the mission capability factor and reflected the SSEB’s assessment that the awardee’s proposal presented nine strengths, three of which were significant, and one weakness under that factor. Specifically, the SSEB identified three significant strengths with regard to the organization and appearance of the awardee’s hotel kitchen, and the hotel’s security coverage, as well as five strengths with regard to the hotel’s lobby and décor; room furnishings, amenities, and public address system; check-in location; 100 security cameras; and close proximity to the processing station.
SHG complains that its proposal should have been rated excellent under the mission capability factor and contends that the agency used unstated evaluation criteria. The protester argues that its proposal met, or exceeded, the RFP’s minimum requirements for the number of hotel rooms, kitchens, security, lobby, and check-in areas. SHG also maintains that the agency evaluated proposals unequally by overvaluing features of the awardee’s proposed hotel but undervaluing similar features of SHG’s proposed hotel. GAO states that in reviewing protests against allegedly improper evaluations, GAO examines the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and in accord with the evaluation factors set forth in the RFP, and whether the agency treated offerors equally in evaluating their respective proposals. While GAO has recognized that such judgments are often subjective by nature, the exercise of these judgments in the evaluation of proposals must be documented in sufficient detail to show that they are not arbitrary. Where a protester challenges the agency’s evaluation and source selection, GAO will review the evaluation and award decision to determine if they were reasonable, consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation scheme, as well as procurement statutes and regulations, and adequately documented.
GAO finds, based on a review of the record, that the agency’s well-documented evaluation of SHG’s proposal was reasonable and consistent with the RFP’s stated evaluation criteria. In this respect, the RFP identified several elements under the mission capability factor, including hotel sanitation; cleanliness; condition; quality control; maintenance, number of rooms; security features; check-in areas; dining capacity; and distance from the processing station and transportation centers. The record shows that the agency found, and extensively documented, numerous qualitative differences in this regard between the protester’s and the awardee’s proposed hotels. The record does not support the protester’s assertion that the agency evaluated proposal disparately or used undisclosed evaluation criteria.
Insofar as SHG suggests that the agency should not have considered the appearance of the awardee’s proposed hotel kitchen, or SHG’s atrium style hotel lobby, the RFP clearly advised offerors that the agency would evaluate all aspects of their proposed hotels. Moreover, GAO believes that the agency’s consideration of the appearance of the hotel kitchen’s or the lobby’s design are logically encompassed by, or related to, the consideration of the hotels’ condition, sanitation, cleanliness, maintenance, quality control, check-in area, and safety features. The record does not support SHG’s assertion that its kitchen should have been evaluated as a significant strength because it allegedly met the RFP’s only “measurable” health requirements. In contrast, the awardee’s kitchen was found to be “well organized” and “spotless,” indicating “a well managed immaculate operation.”
The protester also objects to the agency’s selection decision, arguing that price was the most important evaluation factor under the RFP, and points out that SHG proposed a lower price than the awardee. The RFP explicitly stated that the two non-price factors (mission capability and past performance), when combined, were significantly more important than price. Although SHG believes that it should have been awarded the contract based on its lower-priced offer, the record shows that the agency performed a reasonable price/technical trade-off. The protest is denied.