Removing a Price Realism Evaluation is a Material Change, Says GAO

Price realism—the evaluation of whether a proposed price is too low—is a method the government may use to evaluate fixed price offers to ensure that offerors are proposing pricing that reflects an understanding of the work required by the solicitation.

Prices that are unrealistically low can result in proposal elimination. This means price realism is an important consideration when preparing a bid. But what if an agency decides after proposal submission that a price realism evaluation will not be performed? In a recent decision, GAO confirmed that offerors must be given the opportunity to revise their proposals.

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Federal Supply Schedule Acquisitions Require Price Comparisons to Determine Lowest Overall Cost, Says GAO

In a recent protest, GAO examined the rules for price evaluation and source selection methodology required under the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) Program. At a minimum, an agency must perform price comparisons to evaluate what vendor will be lowest cost along with any additional features and benefits to the government. Because the FSS solicitation at issue failed to include proper price evaluation terms, GAO sustained a challenge to those terms.

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GAO Upholds Agency’s Cancellation of LPTA Procurement with only One Acceptable Offer

Pop quiz: Your company is the only technically acceptable offeror in an lowest-priced, technically acceptable procurement. You win, right? Not when the agency cancels the solicitation, hoping that a cheaper offeror who was not technically acceptable will submit a bid if given another chance. GAO recently considered this very scenario.

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GAO: Agencies Must Explain Cost Realism Evaluation Determinations

GAO recently held in ATA Aerospace, LLC, B-417427 (July 2, 2019) that agencies are required to explain how offerors’ proposed labor hours and prices are, or are not, in line with historical data from predecessor contracts when conducting cost realism evaluations.

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GAO: Agency Conducted Price Realism Analysis and Misled Protester

Unless a solicitation for a fixed-price contract provides that the agency can conduct a price realism analysis, it can’t. Even so, agencies sometimes perform this analysis without alerting prospective offerors of the possibility.

If they do, however, the ground is fertile for a protest.

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GAO: Competition Alone Doesn’t Mean Prices are Reasonable

When the federal government awards a contract, the government must ensure that the price it pays is “fair and reasonable.”  In other words, the government cannot pay a price that is too high.

If a contract is awarded on the basis of competitive proposals, an agency may be able to establish price reasonableness by comparing the prices proposed by competing offerors.  But as demonstrated in a recent GAO bid protest decision, competition alone doesn’t mean that the prices received are reasonable–the government still must compare offerors’ prices to determine reasonableness.

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Bottom-Line Price, Not Line-Item Price, Is Key for Price Reasonableness

When I went out for pizza with my family the other night, the only number that mattered to me when I got the check was the bottom-line price. It didn’t matter to me what the price for each pizza or each lemonade was, as long as the total price was within my budget.

For an agency evaluating a proposal for reasonableness in a fixed-price setting, the same holds true: it is the bottom-line price that matters, not the individual items that add up to the bottom-line price. The GAO recently had the opportunity to review this concept in a bid protest decision.

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