GAO: Past Performance Should Relate to Solicited Services

Past performance is an important evaluation factor in many solicitations. Essentially, it allows an agency to guess as to the likelihood of an offeror’s successful performance under a solicitation by looking to its history of performance on similar projects in the past.

GAO recently confirmed it is “axiomatic” that past performance examples should align with the solicitation’s requirements. If an offeror submits unrelated examples, it risks a downgraded past performance score.

The operative facts of Technica LLC, B-417177 et al. (Mar. 21, 2019) are relatively straightforward: Technica was one of three offerors on a solicitation issued by the Transportation Security Administration for airport screening services at Punta Gorda Airport, in Punta Gorda, Florida. The solicitation was issued on a best value basis and included an assessment of an offeror’s past performance.

The past performance evaluation factor informed offerors that their submitted past performance examples would be assessed for relevance—that is, whether the example reflected a comparable level of size, scope, and complexity to the services sought under the solicitation.

Technica submitted three past performance examples, but TSA considered only one to be relevant to the airport passenger and baggage screening services sought. The remaining two examples submitted by Technica were for warehousing and distribution services, and operations, management, and logistics services; neither of these two examples involved screening airline passengers or baggage. Based on this one example, TSA assigned Technica a satisfactory confidence past performance rating—a step below the awardee’s significant confidence rating.

Technica challenged the past performance evaluation, arguing that TSA erred by not considering all three of its submitted past performance examples. According to Technica, TSA’s failure to consider its two submitted past performance examples reflected an unstated evaluation criterion: namely, that the examples submitted had to involve airport screening support services. Because the solicitation did not directly require past performance to involve these services, Technica apparently believed TSA should not have held its examples to this standard.

GAO denied Technica’s protest. Doing so, it noted that “the past performance factor explicitly contemplated consideration of the scope of the past performance examples.” Even if the solicitation did not specifically require offerors to submit airport screening performance examples, GAO concluded that the solicitation’s evaluation criteria should have made this point obvious:

We consider it axiomatic that an agency may reasonably find a past performance example not relevant where the scope of the contract did not involve performance any of the airport security screening services being solicited.

In short: because Technica’s two past performance examples did not align to the solicitation’s requirements, TSA was justified in not considering them in its evaluation.

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What’s the takeaway from Technica? Simple, really: an offeror should submit past performance examples that clearly align with the solicitation’s stated requirements, and the proposal should explain how its performance under those projects reflects its likelihood of successful performance on the work at hand.

If you have any questions about past performance evaluations, please give me a call.