Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Tipton Textile Rental, Inc.
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protest Sustained.
- Protest that agency misevaluated awardee’s quotation is sustained where solicitation required a barrier wall to achieve physical separation of soiled linens from cleaned linens, and awardee’s quotation failed to comply with this requirement.
- Under small business set-aside, contracting officer must have representation from the awardee of its status as a small business, and therefore, award of contract to a vendor whose quotation represented that the firm “is not” a small business concern is improper notwithstanding contracting officer’s belief that vendor was confused by layout of small business representation and contracting officer’s retrieval of a central contractor registry listing for a firm having a slightly different name, in which that firm was described as a small business.
- Protest that agency misevaluated protester’s quotation as unacceptable is sustained where agency initiated discussions by its inquiries to protester by telephone and during subsequent site visit by evaluators, but the agency based its evaluation only on the firm’s original quotation, without considering the protester’s responses to the agency’s inquiries.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Tipton Textile Rental, Inc. protested the award to Linen King L.L.C. of a contract for linens supply and commercial laundry service at two VA medical centers in St. Louis, Missouri. The RFQ was initially issued on an unrestricted basis, but was amended to be a small business set-aside that was to be awarded on a best value basis. Three of the five vendors were informed they were unsuccessful, and the agency proceeded with site visits at Tipton’s and Linen King’s facilities. Tipton was informed that its quotation was unsuccessful, and the agency then conducted a cost-technical tradeoff between Linen King and one of the three previously-rejected vendors.
The GAO first agreed with Tipton that the agency failed to reasonably evaluate Linen King’s quotation when it determined that the quotation complied with the solicitation’s barrier wall requirement. It found that the agency treated offerors unequally by determining that Tipton’s quotation was unsuccessful for lacking detail while Linen King’s was acceptable even though it did not commit to meeting the barrier wall requirement. The GAO also found that the agency had no reasonable basis to conclude that Linen King was a small business, finding the agency’s claim of vendor error, supported by a CCR registration for “Linen King Group LLC” as a small business, to be unreasonable in light of Linen King’s unambiguous statement that it was not a small business. Finally, although this procurement was conducted under simplified acquisition procedures, the GAO determined that the agency had initiated discussions with Tipton, and, because the agency refused to consider the information provided by Tipton in response, that these discussions had not been reasonable.
Although an agency is not required to engage in discussions with procurements conducted under simplified acquisition procedures, when an agency avails itself of negotiated procurement acquisition procedures, it should treat offerors fairly and reasonably in the conduct of those procedures. Thus, if the agency engages in discussions during a simplified acquisition, those discussions must be reasonable. Offerors should make sure that they provide all supplementary information requested, and, if unsuccessful, request a debriefing to ensure that information was properly considered by the agency.