Your company has submitted a proposal for a Lowest-Priced, Technically Acceptable acquisition. To your surprise, you find out another company has submitted a technically acceptable offer with the same price. Equally surprising, the solicitation does not contain any provisions instructing the agency on how to pick from otherwise equal bids. So what is the contracting officer to do – issue an order for a standoff, a la the O.K. Corral? (For the record, we do not advise this as a viable method of conflict resolution.)
Fortunately, GAO encourages a less drastic solution–use of the contracting officer’s reasonable discretion.
A protester recently lost an effort to get an agency to consider a late proposal arguing that it was emailed to the agency on the due date.
Even though the quote would have been less expensive than the awardee’s and this was a lowest-price technically-acceptable procurement, GAO denied the protest finding that the email was a few hours late and did not include the attached quotation.
In evaluating proposals, an agency will sometimes use “adjectival ratings” (e.g., Excellent, Good, Acceptable) to describe its assessment of a proposal or portions of a proposal. But, importantly, an agency cannot evade its responsibility to reasonably evaluate proposals–based on the articulated evaluation criteria–by deferring solely to the assigned adjectival ratings.
In other words, if the agency doesn’t perform a true qualitative assessment, but instead relies on mere labels to make its ultimate award decision, GAO will likely slap the agency’s hand.
GAO generally defers to an agency’s judgment when it comes to the evaluation of proposals. This deference flags, however, when an agency evaluates competing proposals inconsistently; or, in other words, treats offerors disparately.
Let’s take a look at how GAO, in a recently sustained protest, found that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable.
GAO’s bid process can be difficult to understand. There are rules about who can file a bid protest and what issues can be protested. And the deadlines for filing are strict and unforgiving.
In the February 2019 issue of Contract Management Magazine (the monthly publication of the National Contract Management Association), we provide a plain English overview of GAO’s bid protest process. We think that, whether you’ve been a federal government contractor for many years or just a few, you’ll find it informative. The magazine has kindly allowed us to post the article. Click here to view and happy reading!