Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: The Emergence Group
Agency: Department of State
Disposition: Protest Sustained.
1. Agency’s evaluation of past performance was unreasonable and inconsistent with the solicitation, where the record shows that the agency did not meaningfully assess the relevance of the offerors’ prior contracts.
2. Protest sustained where agency evaluated the protester’s proposal under several factors unreasonably and in a manner unequal to how the awardees’ proposals were evaluated.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
The Emergence Group Advisors, LLC (TEG) protested the award to BlueLaw International, LLC; Bering Straits and Orion Management Joint Venture (BSOM); Team Crucible; FedSys, Inc.; and Global Criminal Justice Solutions, LLC (GCJS), of contracts for criminal justice program support (CJPS). The RFP sought to secure CJPS services to implement civilian police and criminal justice assistance programs overseas, in two groups of awards: one unrestricted and the other set aside for small businesses. After award was made to BlueLaw, BSOM, Crucible, and Navigator Development Group, TEG, GCJS, and FedSys protested, in response to which the agency took corrective action. The agency conducted discussions and accepted revised final proposals from those offerors in the competitive range.
The GAO agreed with TEG that the agency’s past performance evaluation of the awardees was not reasonable, noting that it included no contemporaneous documentation evidencing that the agency meaningfully considered whether the awardees’ references represented “relevant corporate experience providing” the services specified in the RFP. The GAO also sustained TEG’s protest with regards to the unreasonable evaluation of TEG’s technical and management factors. It found the agency’s assessment of a weakness to TEG for failure to include a contingency plan, when the RFP did not require a contingency plan, to be unequal treatment of TEG compared to the treatment of the awardees. It also found the downgrade of TEG’s proposal with regards to the management factor to be unreasonable, finding the record unclear as to the significance and/or meaning of the weakness assessed for failure to “appreciate the importance of quality improvements related to end-state objectives in INL missions.”
Agencies are required to treat all offerors equally and to evaluate their proposals evenhandedly against the solicitation’s requirements and evaluation criteria. Disappointed offerors should always request a debriefing to understand what weaknesses were assessed upon their proposal. Should a disappointed offeror believe that any weaknesses assigned weren’t in line with the evaluation criteria provided for in the RFP, that offeror may have adequate grounds for a protest if they would otherwise have been in line for award.