GAO: Solicitation Terms Trump Standard Industry Practice

An offeror’s proposal must conform to all technical requirements of an agency’s solicitation–even if the offeror believes those requirements to differ from standard industry practice.

In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO held that an agency appropriately rated an offeror’s proposal as technically unacceptable because the offeror failed to conform to certain material solicitation requirements; the offeror’s insistence that those requirements varied from standard industry practice was irrelevant.

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Awardee’s Bait And Switch Leads To Sustained Protest

Ordinarily, whether an offeror’s proposed personnel actually perform under a contract is a non-protestable matter of contract administration. But GAO will consider the issue when an offeror proposes personnel that it did not have a reasonable basis to expect to provide during contract performance in order to obtain a more favorable evaluation. Such a “bait and switch” amounts to a material misrepresentation that undermines the integrity of the procurement and evaluation.

That’s exactly what happened in a recent protest, where the GAO disqualified the awardee from competition after determining that its proposal misrepresented the incumbent employees’ availability to continue working under the contract.

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Two Isn’t Greater Than Five, GAO Reminds Agency

GAO sustained a protest recently where an agency had given higher past performance scores to a proposal with two relevant examples of past performance than a proposal with five relevant examples.

In Patricio Enterprises, Inc., B-412740 et al. (Comp. Gen. May 26, 2016), GAO said that an agency cannot mechanically apply an evaluation formula that produces an unreasonable result, such as allowing a proposal with fewer examples of relevant past performance to somehow earn a higher score than a proposal with more examples.

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Offeror Attempts To “Evade” RFQ Page Limit; GAO Sustains Protest

An offeror’s apparent attempt to engage in a little proposal gamesmanship has resulted in a sustained GAO bid protest.

In a recent case, an offeror attempted to evade a solicitation requirement that proposals be no more than 10 single-spaced pages, by cramming its proposal into less than single-spacing.  The GAO wasn’t having it, sustaining a competitor’s protest and holding that the “spacing gamesmanship” had given the offeror an unfair advantage.

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GAO Won’t Evaluate Subcontractor’s Small Business Status

GAO ordinarily will not hear any argument that is based on a company’s small business status, even if the alleged large company is only a proposed subcontractor.

In a recent decision, GAO declined to hear a protester’s argument that the awardee’s supposedly-small subcontractors were affiliated with other entities, holding that such a determination is reserved solely for the SBA.

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GAO: Awardee’s Low Price Isn’t Too Low, Absent a Price Realism Evaluation

In a fixed-price procurement, an agency cannot reject an offeror for proposing a “too low” price unless the solicitation specifically contemplates a price realism evaluation.

This point is one of several interesting issues recently addressed by GAO in URS Federal Services, Inc., B-412580 et al. (Mar. 31, 2016). Another interesting issue—pertaining to an offeror’s protest of the awardee’s subcontractors’ size—will be addressed in a forthcoming post. But this post serves as a reminder of an important limitation to a protester’s ability to challenge an awardee’s price.

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GAO: Protester Must Show Awardee’s “Specific Exception” to Subcontracting Limitation

A protester challenging an awardee’s compliance with the FAR’s limitation on subcontracting faces an uphill battle.

As explained in a recent GAO bid protest decision, an offeror’s compliance with the limitation on subcontracting is presumed; a protester, therefore, must present specific evidence demonstrating that the awardee will not comply with the limitation. In many cases–especially when the solicitation does not require offerors to provide a breakdown of costs of the work performed by the prime and its subcontractors–such evidence may be next to impossible to obtain.

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