Two Isn’t Greater Than Five, GAO Reminds Agency

GAO sustained a protest recently where an agency had given higher past performance scores to a proposal with two relevant examples of past performance than a proposal with five relevant examples.

In Patricio Enterprises, Inc., B-412740 et al. (Comp. Gen. May 26, 2016), GAO said that an agency cannot mechanically apply an evaluation formula that produces an unreasonable result, such as allowing a proposal with fewer examples of relevant past performance to somehow earn a higher score than a proposal with more examples.

The Patricio Enterprises case had to do with an SDVOSB set-aside procurement for the U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Systems Command for program and financial management support services for the Marines’ Program Manager, Infantry Weapons Systems program. The solicitation called for a best value evaluation encompassing three factors: management and staffing capability, past performance, and price.

With respect to the past performance factor, the solicitation instructed offerors to provide summaries of up to five contracts that were recent and similar in size and scope to the project. The evaluation scheme would involve assigning each example a relevancy and quality of performance rating, which would lead to an overall past performance confidence rating.

Among the offerors were Patricio Enterprises, Inc. of Stafford, Va., and Get It Done Solutions, LLC, of Fredricksburg, Va.  Get It Done submitted a proposal with three past performance examples.  Two of them received ratings of very relevant/exceptional while the third was determined to not be relevant. Patricio meanwhile, proposed five examples of past performance. The agency rated two of the proposals very relevant/exceptional (the same as Get It Done), one very relevant/very good, and two relevant/exceptional.

Based on this, one might assume that Patricio earned the higher past performance rating. Not so. The agency determined that a proposal would earn a substantial confidence rating only when all relevant past performance was rated very relevant, with exceptional performance. Get It Done, with two relevant contracts, met this standard and received a substantial confidence rating. But in Patricio’s case, even though Patricio also had three very relevant/exceptional projects, Patricio’s other three projects scored lower (though no worse than relevant/very good). Because the three additional examples did not receive perfect scores, the agency gave Patricio’s proposal a lower “substantial confidence” rating.

The agency awarded the contract to Get It Done, based in part on Get It Done’s higher past performance score.  Patricio then filed a GAO bid protest.

GAO s wrote that the agency had used an unreasonable methodology in evaluating past performance. It explained:”[i]n our view, the agency’s mechanical evaluation of past performance was unreasonable where the result was that the additional relevant past performance references with exceptional and very good quality resulted in a downgraded past performance rating.” GAO sustained the protest and recommended that the agency re-evaluate offerors’ past performance.

Agencies have fairly broad discretion in their evaluations, but an evaluation scheme must be reasonable and logical. In sustaining Patricio’s protest, GAO basically told the agency to use some common sense. In other words, two is not greater than five.