Link: GAO Opinion
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
Disposition: Protest denied.
Keywords: Technical Evaluation
General Counsel P.C. Highlight: it is not GAO’s role to independently evaluate proposals and substitute its judgment for that of the contracting activity.
Western State Design (WSD) protests the award of a contract under a request for proposals (RFP), issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to furnish and install commercial laundry equipment at the VA Medical Center in Buffalo, New York.
The agency issued the solicitation contemplating the award of a fixed-price contract to deliver and install laundry equipment described as a “medium production folder cross folder with large piece stacker machine” within 14 days of contract award. Among other requirements, the offered equipment had to be compatible with the existing laundry equipment, had to be suitable for installation in the available space, and had to include lock-out and tag-out devices. Award was to be made to the offeror whose proposal was determined to be most advantageous to the government, considering four evaluation factors: (1) technical capability; (2) price; (3) quality/past performance; and (4) work plan.
The agency rated WSD’s proposal as marginal overall, with marginal ratings for the technical capability and work plan factors, as well as a very low performance risk rating for the past performance factor. The marginal ratings resulted from WSD’s failure to adequately address several solicitation requirements. As it relates to the protest, the agency found that WSD failed to establish how its equipment would be compatible with the existing Braun laundry equipment.
WSD’s challenge of the agency’s technical evaluation is without merit. GAO states that in reviewing a protest against the propriety of an evaluation, it is not GAO’s role to independently evaluate proposals and substitute its judgment for that of the contracting activity. Rather, it will review an evaluation to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the evaluation criteria in the solicitation and applicable procurement statutes and regulations; a protester’s mere disagreement with the evaluation does not show it lacked a reasonable basis.
Here, the underlying record supports the agency’s evaluation. In this regard, under the technical capability factor, the solicitation stated that each proposal would be evaluated as to whether the offered equipment was compatible with the existing Braun laundry equipment. Notwithstanding repeated requests during discussions asking the protester to explain “how [its] equipment is compatible with and will interface with the existing Braun equipment,” WSD failed to demonstrate that this was in fact the case, as determined by the agency’s evaluators. In its comments responding to the agency report on this issue, WSD does not meaningfully rebut the agency’s assessments regarding its failure to satisfy this requirement; rather, the protester simply repeats the general assurance it provided to the agency during discussions that its equipment “would be fully compliant.” GAO states that an offeror is responsible for demonstrating affirmatively the merits of its proposal and risks rejection if it fails to do so. No matter how competent an offeror may be, the technical evaluation must be based on information included in the firm’s quotation. Having failed to demonstrate that its equipment met the agency’s requirements, the agency properly downgraded WSD’s proposal on this basis. The protest is denied.