Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Federal Emergency Management Agency
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Terms of the solicitation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: if there is a discrepancy between the offered product and the stated requirement, and the offered product will meet the agency’s needs, the deviation may be waived if there is no prejudice to the other offerors
Following a request for proposals (RFP), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued an order to PR Newswire Association, LLC for a contact management and distribution system to support the public outreach efforts of FEMA’s Office of External Affairs. Following this award, and a related debriefing, one of the unsuccessful bidders, Vocus, Inc., filed a protest. This protest challenged several aspects of PR Newswire’s proposal as not satisfying the terms of the solicitation, in addition to alleging that the evaluators’ score sheets were dated prior a clarification period in which FEMA met with the offerors.
In particular, Vocus claimed that PR Newswire’s proposal did not offer several of the features as identified in the RFP’s statement of work (SOW), including: the ability to view contact information on a PDA; the ability to provide tracking of e-mail messages; and the ability to integrate distribution of press releases via PRWeb. FEMA responded specifically to each charge. As related to the use of information on a PDA, FEMA stated that neither proposal specifically addressed the use of a PDA to display contact information, but because PR Newswire’s proposal offered the ability to share content in several electronic media, it inferred that the content would be available via PDA. Next, with regard to the ability to provide e-mail tracking, GAO found that PR Newswire’s proposal specifically did include this feature.
Vocus also raised the issue of PR Newswire’s system not offering the ability to integrate distribution of press releases via PRWeb. FEMA acknowledged that this was not contained in PR Newswire’s proposal, but stated that PR Newswire’s system offered an equivalent capability. Based on the responses from FEMA, and its review of the record, GAO determined that FEMA’s evaluation was reasonable and complied with the terms of the solicitation.
Finally, Vocus asserted that the evaluators’ scoring sheets were dated prior to a clarification period that they provided to the offerors. However, GAO concluded that the record reflected otherwise. In particular, it determined that the updated reports (from after the clarification period) drafted by the technical evaluation panel (TEP) were in fact the documents that were relied upon by the contracting officer in making the selection decision, not the individual scoring sheets (that were completed before the clarification period). Thus, GAO denied Vocus’s protest on all grounds.