I admit I try to word the title to spark some interest. It is Government Contracting and I admit it can be boring at times. I borrowed this title from part of the Net News article it comes from. I do love a good protest decision story. As government contract dollars shrink, companies are turning to a better understanding of their rights as contractors, the ability to protest, and tools to help them cut costs. I have always tried to relay a little of each of these areas through this blog. Today’s post is about a protest upheld by the Comptroller General.
When the government issues an RFP, the work to decipher what is meant by it, the scope of work to be performed, and the potential cost to complete that work becomes increasingly difficult with a far-reaching solicitation. This was the case when Nexant, Inc. decided to bid on “assistance in establishing a private financing advisory network.” According to the CG decision, the Government struck out on the protester’s proposal evaluation.
Strike one – the Government, during discussions, asked the protester to “clarify [it’s] overall understanding [of a task].” Heretofore, the Government had decided the contractor didn’t understand the geographic scope of the project. By asking only for clarification, rather than indicating the contractor didn’t understand the scope, the Government did not adequately convey the nature of it’s concerns and a critical weakness remained on the evaluation.
Strike two – the Government’s point-scoring methodology and evaluation was found to be unreasonable. Imagine if you will there are 5 evaluators and they each have a checklist of 20 items. If you simply average those evaluation criteria, you will come up with a much different number than if you were to come to a consensus on the results instead. One evaluator could be overly harsh on a few items and another on a few other items – the overall score then suffers based on pockets of potential misunderstanding of the evaluators, not necessarily based on the consensus The CG found that this methodology “cannot be said to be reliable or reflective of the comparative merits of the proposals.”
Strike three – the Government’s source selection document did not reasonable explain the basis for the selection of the higher-cost proposal. When a premium is to be paid, there should normally be a justification document to give insight into the decision-making. In this case, the source selection was based principally on the ranking of the proposals based on the flawed scoring system from strike two.
In the end, the CG recommended that the acquisition be re-opened, meaningful discussions take place, revised proposals be obtained, and a new source selection decision be made on the new information.