GAO: “5-7 Days” Is Not “7 Days”

“What a Difference a Day Makes,” goes the classic song.

For one contractor, a day–or rather, two days–made a  big difference in its proposal evaluation.  Although the solicitation called for offerors to save laboratory specimens for 7 days, the offeror’s proposal stated that it saves specimens “5-7 days.”  Not surprisingly, the GAO found that the procuring agency properly assigned the offeror a weakness.

The GAO’s decision in Laboratory Corporation of America, B-407108 (Nov. 5, 2012), involved a Department of Veterans Affairs solicitation for laboratory testing services.  The solicitation provided, in relevant part, that the contractor store specimens “a minimum of seven days after the test is reported in the event that subsequent action is necessary (i.e. problem solving, add-on test and/or repeat testing).”

Laboratory Corporation of America submitted a proposal, in which it stated that it “retains most specimens for five to seven (5-7) days.”  In its evaluation of LabCorp’s proposal, the VA assigned LabCorp a number of weaknesses.  Among those weaknesses, the VA found that “LabCorp saves specimens for 5-7 days which is the least for all offerors.”

After the VA made award to one of LabCorp’s competitors, LabCorp filed a GAO bid protest.  LabCorp challenged a number of the weaknesses the VA had assigned to its proposal, including the “5-7 days” weakness.  LabCorp argued that the VA should have factored in LabCorp’s “extremely short” turnaround time for many of the tests, which it claimed would offset the amount of time that the specimen needs to be stored.

The GAO took a dim view of LabCorp’s argument.  After comparing the solicitation’s requirement to LabCorp’s proposal, the GAO wrote, “there is no question but that the protester failed to demonstrate compliance with the RFQ requirement pertaining to specimen storage.”  The GAO denied LabCorp’s bid protest.

I’m just guessing, but LabCorp’s problem with regards to specimen storage may have been an issue of proposal writing.  Had the proposal writers carefully compared the solicitation’s requirements to their proposal, they might have realized that “5-7” days wouldn’t cut it, and pledged to provide a full 7 days of specimen storage.

If this was the case, LabCorp’s situation should serve as a good reminder to thoroughly cross-check the proposal against the solicitation’s material requirements before submitting the proposal.  As LabCorp discovered, even seemingly minor deviations from material solicitation requirements can sink a proposal.

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