GAO Sustains Protest after Awardee Credited with Strengths Not Present in its Proposal

Strong working relationships between contractors and contracting officers are a significant asset. For example, the Customs and Border Patrol recently relied heavily on its experience working with the incumbent contractor to “infer” proposed technical approaches and award corresponding strengths. Unfortunately, when this award was subsequently protested, GAO did not agree with the Border Patrol’s inferential technique. As GAO explained, a reviewing agency may not credit a bid with technical strengths that are not present within the proposal.

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GAO Won’t Let Agencies Sweep Solicitation Non-Compliance Under the Rug

An agency can’t award an offeror a contract if its proposal doesn’t conform with a material solicitation requirement. So if, for example, the solicitation requires certain types of documentation showing an offeror’s right to use property, but the awardee offers something different, GAO will likely sustain a protest.

Put differently, GAO won’t let an agency relax key solicitation requirements even though the agency might, during evaluation, accept the non-complying proposal.

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Error in Table of Contents Dooms Proposal

By now, our frequent readers are familiar with GAO’s mantra that it is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal that complies with the solicitation’s requirements and risks being found unacceptable if it fails to do so.

That rule serves its purpose: it helps maintain an organized bidding process, under which the agency can evaluate proposals on an even footing. But it can also lead to harsh results, like it did in a recent protest challenging a proposal’s unacceptability due to its non-compliant table of contents.

Let’s take a look.

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GAO: Agency’s Reevaluation Didn’t Address “Widespread Discrepancies” in Awardee’s Proposal

When an agency reevaluates proposals in response to a protest, the reevaluation must be thorough and reasonable.

In a recent GAO bid protest decision, GAO sustained a protest because the agency’s reevaluation of proposals, undertaken after a protest was sustained, did not reasonably address “widespread discrepancies” in the awardee’s proposal.

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SSA vs. SSEB: Protest Sustained Where Ratings Changes Weren’t Reasonable

In a best value acquisition, the final decision is typically made by a Source Selection Authority. But what happens when the SSA disagrees with the ratings assigned by the evaluators, such as a Source Selection Evaluation Board?

The SSA has a good deal of discretion, but that discretion isn’t unlimited. In a recent decision, GAO sustained a protest where the SSA’s disagreements with the SSEB didn’t appear to be reasonable. 

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Agency’s Reliance on Unstated Evaluation Criteria Leads to Sustained Protest

A solicitation’s evaluation criteria are tremendously important. Not only must offerors understand and comply with those criteria in order to have a chance at being awarded the contract, but the agency must abide by them too. Where an agency does not, it risks that a protest challenging the application of an unstated evaluation criteria will be sustained.

So it was in Phoenix Air Group, Inc., B-412796.2 et al. (Sept. 26, 2016), a recent GAO decision sustaining a protest where the protester’s proposal was unreasonably evaluated under evaluation criteria not specified in the solicitation.

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Insufficient Experience Information Sinks Offeror’s Proposal

An offeror’s failure to provide the type of past performance information mandated by a solicitation led to the offeror’s elimination from consideration for a  major GSA contract.

A recent GAO bid protest decision highlights the importance of fully reading and adhering to a solicitation’s requirements–including those involving the type of past performance or experience information required.

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