Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Technical Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: In reviewing protests challenging an agency’s evaluation of quotes, GAO will not conduct a new evaluation or substitute its judgment for that of the agency; rather GAO will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, and with procurement statutes and regulations.
Synovate, Inc. protests the award of a contract under a request for quotations (RFQ), issued by the Department of the Army, Army Medical Command, Center for Health Care Contracting, for Army patient level satisfaction surveys.
The Army issued the RFQ via the GSA e-Buy website, seeking a contractor to provide personnel, services, materials, equipment, supplies, and facilities necessary to perform Army patient level satisfaction surveys. The RFQ provided that award would be made to the vendor whose quote was found to represent the best value to the government, based on the evaluation of the following three factors: technical; past and present performance; and price. The technical factor had four equally weighted subfactors: quality control plan; technical performance plan; management capabilities; and information assurance approval, implementation, and sustainment.
The RFQ provided that the agency would evaluate the technical factor and subfactors using an adjectival rating system of excellent, good, satisfactory, marginal, and unsatisfactory. Synovate’s quote received a rating of unsatisfactory for the quality control plan subfactor, with the technical evaluation panel (TEP) assigning four major omissions and two weaknesses or deficiencies, and the TEP noting that the quote contained inadequate details to assure the evaluators that Synovate understood the requirements. Synovate’s quote also received a rating of unsatisfactory for the technical performance plan subfactor, with the TEP assigning one weakness, six deficiencies, and noting that the quote contained inadequate details to assure the evaluators that Synovate understood the requirements. Synovate’s quote also received a rating of unsatisfactory for the management capabilities subfactor, with the TEP finding three major omissions and noting that the quote contained inadequate details to assure the evaluators that Synovate understood the requirements. In making the award decision, the contracting officer determined that because the quotes of Synovate and another vendor had received technical ratings of unsatisfactory, the firms were ineligible for award.
Synovate challenges the deficiencies and omissions that the agency assigned to its quote under the quality control plan, technical performance plan, and management capabilities subfactors. GAO states that in reviewing protests challenging an agency’s evaluation of quotes, it will not conduct a new evaluation or substitute our judgment for that of the agency; rather GAO will examine the record to determine whether the agency’s judgment was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, and with procurement statutes and regulations.
Under the technical performance plan subfactor, Synovate challenges the agency’s assignment of a major deficiency based on its conclusion that Synovate’s quote “indicates that the requirement cannot be performed and that the ‘goal is impossible to achieve.'” The RFQ stated that contractors “shall ensure that there are 150 survey responses for approximately 25% [of the service providers] and 100 survey responses for approximately 75% of 5600 [service] providers within a 12-month period.” In addressing this requirement, Synovate’s quote stated that “the target of 150 or even 100 [completed surveys] will not be achieved for all 5,600 providers. There are factors that make this goal impossible to achieve.” On the following page of Synovate’s quote, it reiterated that it was “impossible to ‘ensure’ the number of completes for 5,600 providers,” and “it will not be possible to achieve [the goal] for all providers.” In evaluating this aspect of Synovate’s quote, the agency concluded that the protester’s statements were a major deficiency. Although the protester attempts to explain its statements as a discussion of risk, the fact remains that Synovate’s quote stated clearly that it would not meet the solicitation’s requirements with regard to a portion of the service providers. Based on this record, GAO finds the agency’s assessment of a major deficiency, and a rating of unsatisfactory to Synovate’s quote for the technical performance plan subfactor, to be reasonable.
The protester also challenges the agency’s assessment of an unsatisfactory rating to Synovate’s quote under the management capabilities subfactor for, among other reasons, the firm’s failure to articulate a management plan. For the management capabilities subfactor, the RFQ instructed vendors to “[d]escribe a detailed plan that demonstrates your understanding of the organization, logistics and management required by this solicitation.” Based on GAO’s review of the record, it finds the agency’s determination that the protester failed to comply with the solicitation’s requirement to describe a detailed management plan to be reasonable. The pieces of information provided in the protester’s proposal do not meet the solicitation’s requirement for vendors to provide a detailed management plan. The protester’s promise to fulfill the requirement later as a contract deliverable is similarly insufficient. Therefore, the agency’s determination that this represented a major quote omission, which contributed to an unsatisfactory rating under the management plan subfactor, is reasonable. The protest is denied.