Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Meaningful discussions
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: In discussions, the Government does not have to give you specific details about your proposal deficiencies so long as they lead you to areas of your proposal that need attention or amplification.
TMM Investments, the incumbent contractor for the lease of a building shell to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), challenged the VA’s award of the lease to Alpine 259 Partners, Ltd. The solicitation sought offers for the lease of a building shell to house a community-based outpatient clinic, and include numerous requirements and specifications related to the design and size of the leasable area. The offerors were informed that the award would be made on a “best value” basis considering three factors, where the technical quality and offeror’s qualifications/past performance factors, when combined, were more important than price.
TMM’s proposal offered the same space that the VA currently occupies, with an offer to build-out the current space to meet the agency’s needs, but also noting that its current space did not meet all of the solicitation’s requirements. After the VA included TMM, Alpine and another offeror in the competitive range, it informed each that it would seek clarification of each proposal on several areas. Following the submission of final proposal revisions, the VA determined that TMM’s revised proposal did not offer the best value to the government because it failed to meet the contract requirements for certain specifics. And, even though its proposal was priced higher than TMM’s, Alpine was awarded the contract because it offered the best proposed layout for the space.
TMM protested on the basis that the VA did not conduct meaningful discussions, and in particular, that the VA’s request for certain clarifications was inadequate to put TMM on notice that the agency had found certain deficiencies.
The GAO disagreed, finding that the VA had in fact conducted meaningful discussions and that an agency is not required to “spoon-feed” an offeror during discussions, but need only lead the offeror into the areas of its proposal that need amplification. Furthermore, the GAO stated that TMM failed to show that it was prejudiced – that it could have or would have met the specifications if it had been completely informed of the problem. Thus, the GAO determined that the VA had reasonably based its source selection decision on the relevant considerations and that TMM’s protest was denied.