An agency was allowed to assign a Native Hawaiian-owned prime contractor a weakness for its experience because the NHO prime lacked relevant experience–even though the prime’s proposal indicated that it would rely in part on the resources of an experienced NHO sister company.
A recent GAO bid decision demonstrates that while a procuring agency is entitled to consider the experience and past performance of a prime contractor’s affiliates under certain circumstances, the agency is not precluded from considering the prime’s own experience (or lack thereof).
Past performance evaluations normally consider two aspects of an offeror’s prior work: whether that performance was recent and relevant. But in making its best value determination, must an agency also consider the duration of an offeror’s past performance?
A recent GAO bid protest decision answered this question, at least under the rules established in the solicitation at hand. In Technica LLC, B-413546.4 et al. (July 10, 2017), GAO denied a protest challenging the sufficiency of an awardee’s past performance even though the awardee’s past performance was much shorter than the protester’s.
In its evaluation of past performance, an agency was permitted to disregard a past performance reference prepared by an offeror’s sister company–which also happened to be in line for a subcontracting role.
In a recent bid protest decision, the GAO upheld the agency’s determination that the sister company’s reference was “inherently biased” and need not be considered in the agency’s past performance evaluation.
In evaluating a WOSB joint venture’s past performance, the procuring agency considered each joint venture member’s contemplated percentage of effort for the solicitation’s scope of work, and assigned the joint venture past performance ratings based on which member was responsible for particular past performance.
The GAO held that the agency had the discretion to evaluate joint venture past performance in this manner–although it is unclear whether a relatively new SBA regulation (which apparently didn’t apply to the solicitation) would have affected the outcome.
Resolving a protest challenging a past performance evaluation, GAO is deferential to the agency’s determinations. It is primarily concerned with whether the evaluation was conducted fairly and in accordance with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria; if so, GAO will not second-guess the agency’s assessment of the relevance or merit of an offeror’s performance history.
For protesters, therefore, challenging an agency’s past performance evaluation can be difficult. But a recent decision makes clear this task is not impossible—GAO will sustain a protest challenging a past performance evaluation if the agency treats offerors differently or unfairly, such as by more broadly reviewing the awardee’s CPARs than the CPARs of the protester.
For Federal Supply Schedule procurements, agencies are not required to evaluate past performance references of subcontractors, unless the solicitation provides otherwise.
As one offeror recently discovered in Atlantic Systems Group, Inc., B-413901 (Jan. 9, 2017), unlike negotiated procurements, where agencies “should” evaluate the past performance of subcontractors that will perform major or critical aspects of the contract, offerors bidding under FSS solicitations should not assume that a subcontractor’s past performance will be considered.
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act gives certain small subcontractors a new tool to request past performance ratings from the government.
If the pilot program works as intended, it may ultimately improve those subcontractors’ competitiveness for prime contract bids, for which a documented history of past performance is often critical.