Computer Information Specialist, Inc. (CIS) filed a protest of the award of a contract to Open Technology Group, Inc. (OTG). CIS responded to a request for proposals (RFP) No. NLM-030101/SAN by the Department of Health and Human Services for telecommunications support services at the agency’s Bethesda, Maryland facility. The solicitation specified a requirements contract with fixed hourly rates for a base year with four 1-year options. The agency intended to award the contract based on “best value” with several non-price criteria as the most heavily weighted factors. Proposals were to include fully-loaded, fixed hourly rates for labor categories. The agency received numerous proposals and established a competitive range of four firms after initial evaluation. The range included CIS as well as OTG the eventual awardee. Following the contract award to OTG; CIS underwent an agency debrief and subsequently filed a protest asserting that both its proposal and the proposal of OTG were misevaluated.
Agencies are required to evaluate proposals based solely on the evaluation factors identified in the solicitation. Furthermore, according to Federal Acquisition Regulations, they must adequately document the reasons for their evaluation conclusions (FAR§ 15.308). GAO recommended to the agency was to, at a minimum reevaluate both proposals to ascertain if they were evaluated based on the evaluation factors and to determine if adequate rationale were articulated.
Anthony H. Gamboa, General Counsel wrote the recommendation. The protest was sustained. Reasoning (Rationale) GAO concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services misevaluated the proposals of both CIS and OTG, contract awardee. In addition, they found that the agency’s misevaluation was prejudicial to CIS, “since there is a reasonable possibility that, but for the agency’s errors, CIS might have been selected for award notwithstanding its higher price.”
No dissenting opinion was published with GAO’s decision.
GAO analyzed the proposals from both CIS and OTG against the RFP’s stated evaluation criteria. The Department of Health and Human Services’ source selection team consisted of five evaluators. In the case of the proposal by CIS, the initial evaluation criticized the proposal for not offering personnel that met all of the solicitation minimum personnel experience requirements. CIS revised their proposal to cure this deficiency. In further evaluation, four of the five evaluators scored this area higher than the initial proposal. However, the fifth evaluator scored the proposal dramatically differently. In the first evaluation, only cursory notes were provided to support conclusions. In the second evaluation, most evaluators still provided limited support. However, the fifth evaluator provided comments.
Many of the comments were either inaccurate or held not relation to evaluation criteria. With regard to the OTG proposal, GAO determined that the solicitation failed to meet two of the evaluation criteria and should not have been accepted in the competitive range. It was also recommended that the agency terminate the contract awarded to OTG for the convenience of the government and make award to the firm found to be in line for award. Furthermore CIS was to be reimbursed all costs associated with the protest to include legal fees.