Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: Triumvirate Environmental, Inc.
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protest Sustained.
Protest is sustained where agency unreasonably evaluated the protester’s pricing as unbalanced and conducted a technical-price tradeoff without meaningfully considering the lower prices set forth in the protester’s quotation.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
Triumvirate Environmental, Inc. protested the establishment of a BPA with Clean Harbors Environmental Services for hazardous waste removal in veterans integrated service network area 1 (VISN 1). The RFQ provided for award on a best value basis considering price and two non-price factors, with the non-price factors being significantly more important than price. Prices would be analyzed for reasonableness; all offers with separately price line items would be analyzed for unbalanced pricing as well. Although Clean Harbors did not offer the lowest rates, the SSEB determined that their prices were most realistic based on historical pricing and current industry trends. Triumvirate’s pricing was found to be reasonable but unrealistic and unbalanced. After a trade-off decision, Clean Harbors received award based on its very strong technical and past performance ratings.
The GAO held that the agency failed to reasonably identify any risk to the government inherent in Triumvirate’s quotation of multiple $5 line items. It found that the agency’s post hoc analysis was premised on the presumption that Triumvirate would perform inefficiently, thereby resulting in higher pricing. This presumption was based on past performance concerns which were not contained in the contemporaneous record and which were inconsistent with its rating of “low” risk under the past performance factor. The GAO then agreed that the agency had failed to sufficiently document its tradeoff decision in determining that Clean Harbors’ technical superiority was worth the price premium. Instead, the record focused almost exclusively on the question of price reasonableness as determined by comparison to the firms’ GSA schedule pricing. Finally, the GAO found no basis to find the agency’s technical evaluation of Triumvirate to be unreasonable, finding the only weaknesses assessed to be consistent with the underlying evaluation record and Triumvirate’s proposal.
Disappointed vendors should always request a debriefing so as to better understand the agency’s source selection decision and to gain insight into how to improve their quotations in future procurements. Where award is to be made on a best value basis, the agency is required to conduct a tradeoff analysis before awarding the contract to a vendor with a higher priced quotation. Failure to properly conduct this analysis, or to adequately document the source selection decision, may provide sustainable grounds for a protest.