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Contractor Protests Coast Guard's Evaluation Criteria Revision

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Computer World Services Corporation (CWS) protested actions by the Department of Homeland Security, United States Coat Guard. The agency issued a request for quotations for centralized service desk information technology support services. CWS asserted proposed corrective actions taken in response to an earlier protest was improper. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained CWS’S protest in part.

Background

CWS filed an earlier protest with GAO challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s issuance of a task order to Intellect Solutions, LLC. It argued the agency misevaluated quotations submitted in response to the RFQ and made an unreasonable source selection decision. GAO sustained the protest. It concluded the agency’s evaluation of price was unreasonably high and was based on unrealistically low labor rates. It also found the agency did not account for differences between level of effort and labor mix offered by Intellect and the effort and labor mix used to calculate an independent government estimate (IGE). GAO found the IGE “materially flawed.” It concluded the IGE was based on an inappropriate level of effort and labor mix given the agency’s requirements in the RFQ and used “inappropriate averaged hourly rates from a contract vehicle that was not being used to acquire the services.”

GAO recommended the agency create methodologies to evaluate the realism of the firms’ proposed unburdened labor rates and reasonableness of their total prices. It recommended it revise how it evaluates quotations and make a new source selection decision. The U.S. Coast Guard. CWS filed a protest again after receiving the agency’s corrective action letter.

Analysis

CWS asserted the U.S. Coast Guard revised the solicitation’s evaluation criteria without allowing firms the opportunity to revise their quotations. It argued the agency did not adhere to their recommendation it create a means for evaluating the reasonableness of the quotations that accurately reflect the agency’s requirements and provide a basis for the evaluation of quotations. GAO sustained CWS’ first issue, while dismissing the second.

Elimination of Realism Evaluation Factor

CWS asserted the agency’s actions were improper. It argued the U.S. Coast Guard is required to provide firms the opportunity to revise their quotations when material changes to solicitations evaluation factors are made. The agency countered it was not necessary because it would not impact the agency’s ability to evaluate quotations on a common basis. GAO sustained this portion of CWS’ argument. It stated, “where an agency makes a material change to the terms of a solicitation, it is required to issue an amendment to the solicitation and afford competing firms an opportunity to revise their proposals or quotations in order to provide all firms an opportunity to compete on a common basis.”

A change to a solicitation’s evaluation criteria is an example of a material change that would require firms to alter their proposals. GAO stated CWS’s protest indicated that if it were given the opportunity to revise its quotation, it would change its pricing and staffing strategy based on the agency’s current position. GAO noted the agency’s position that allowing vendors to submit revised quotations is not necessary for it to reevaluate quotations is not the only relevant consideration. The issue is whether vendors are able to compete intelligently and on a comparative equal basis.

Development of a Revised IGE

In response to GAO’s initial recommendations, the agency declared it did not intend to use an IGE in its evaluation pf price reasonableness. It stated it would evaluate the sufficiency of the firms’ proposed level of effort and staffing approach under the technical capability evaluation factor, and expertise of its evaluators when assessing the quotations for adequacy. CWS asserted the agency should develop a new IGE that takes into consideration the agency’s level of effort, labor mix and cost to perform the requirement.

GAO found this aspect of CWS’ protest premature. It noted any reevaluation cannot be reviewed until the agency performs the reevaluation and CWS’ concern is “how successful the agency will be in its reevaluation.” GAO dismissed this argument of CWS’ protest as premature.

Conclusion

GAO sustained CWS’ protest. It recommended the U.S. Coast Guard reevaluate revised quotations and make a new source selection decision. If the agency terminates the task order issued to Intellect and issue it to a different firm if it concludes a firm other than Intellect is in line for the award.

About the AuthorRaymundo Ribota

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