GAO Protest Denial Not an “Optimal” Solution

Optimal Solutions & Technologies (“OST”) protested the issuance of a task order to Metters Incorporated by the Department of Homeland Security on the grounds that DHS improperly evaluated the offerors’ proposals. The evaluation criteria for this best value procurement included technical capability, small business participation, and past performance. OST’s quoted price was $4,692 lower than Metter’s quoted price, but OST ranked lower on technical capability. After evaluating all of the factors, DHS determined that Metters’ higher score on non-price factors outweighed OST’s lower price.

 

OST argued that the Contracting Officer improperly evaluated OST’s proposal on the Small Business Participation factor and two subfactors:  Maximization of Small Business Opportunities and Participation in DHS Mentor-Protégé Program through among other considerations, consideration of the percentage of work that would be subcontracted to small businesses.  OST indicated it was a small business and would perform 65% of the work itself;  it did not indicate it would provide any work to small business subcontractors. Consequently, the Contracting Officer was only able to rank OST’s small business participation factor as “neutral.”

 

OST contended DHS should have considered the extent to which OST would provide the “maximum practical opportunity for small business participation.”  The GAO noted, however, that this was not one of the identified subfactors under the small business participation factor. The GAO commented that OST’s interpretation of the solicitation essentially added an additional subfactor to the evaluation criteria while ignoring the stated subfactors, and that DHS’s evaluation of the proposal at the prime factor level was reasonably based on the aggregate of the associated subfactor ratings. The GAO also held that OST’s protest amounted to a disagreement with the agency, rather than proving the agency failed to properly evaluate the stated criteria. The GAO took issue with OST’s overly broad interpretation of the solicitation, and it denied the protest on these grounds.

 

OST raised two other objections to DHS’s evaluation of its proposal:  DHS’s assessment of its corporate experience and key personnel and DHS’s evaluation of Metters’ technical capability  as diverging from the stated evaluation criteria. In response, DHS indicated that OST had failed to expressly state its compliance with required criteria: whether it had performed past projects concurrently. The GAO deferred to DHS’s conclusion that although Metters’ proposal did not exactly match the solicitation requirements, the overall services it would provide would exceed the government’s staffing estimates. The GAO held that the agency had appropriately considered all of the required evaluation criteria, and the agency’s denial of the protest boiled down to a difference of opinion from OST. Because it found the agency’s evaluation to be reasonable, the GAO deferred to the agency and denied the protest.  Optimal Solutions & Technologies, B-407467, January 4, 2013.

 

Practice TipAgencies must assess proposals in accordance with enumerated subfactor (and no others) and scoring a proposal on a particular factor.

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