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Pre and Post Award Bid Protest

MetroStar Systems Protests Award Issued by DOJ

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MetroStar Systems, Inc. protested an award of five indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for information technology support services. It asserted the DOJ conducted an unreasonable and unequal evaluation of offerors’ technical proposals, and a flawed best-value tradeoff determination.

Background

            DOJ issued the Request for Proposals (RFP) for support of its Information Technology Support Services-5 (ITSS-5) program. The agency anticipated awarding 15 contracts: six on an unrestricted basis and nine to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The protest by MetroStar was for a contract on an unrestricted basis.

            The solicitation indicated the DOJ would evaluate proposals in two phases. The technical and price proposals were evaluated in phase one. This phase would consider five technical subfactors: “corporate experience, past performance, architectural attributes experience, management, and mandatory technical certifications.” The mandatory technical certification factor was evaluated based on whether the offeror had the required certification, International Standards Organization (ISO) 9001, and achieved or has a well-supported plan for achieving Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 2 or 3. Corporate experience was deemed “significantly more important” than the other subfactors. Past performance and architectural attributes were equal in importance, but both were “significantly more important” than the management subfactor.

            The highest rated offerors after phase one would be selected to submit a proposal for phase two. In phase two, proposals were to be evaluated for their technical proficiency and for their responses to two sample task order scenarios. Contracts would be awarded to offerors whose proposals determined the most advantageous. The RFP indicated the agency’s best-value tradeoff determination would consider each offeror’s overall technical rating for phase one and its overall technical rating for phase two, with phase two rating “considerably more important” than phase one.

Analysis

            MetroStar challenged the DOJ’s evaluation and best-value tradeoff determination. It asserted the DOJ unreasonably and unequally evaluated the awardees’ proposals. It argued two of the awardees did not comply with a mandatory certification requirement. It stated unwarranted strengths were assigned to the awardees’ proposals and failed to credit MetroStar’s proposal equally for features considered as strengths in the awardees’ proposals. It argued its proposal was assigned “several unwarranted weaknesses” by failing to credit numerous strengths properly. It asserted the best-value tradeoff failed to compare proposals substantively and was flawed due to the agency’s evaluation errors.

ISO 9001

            MetroStar argued the proposals submitted by two awardees, SRA and BAH failed to comply with the solicitation’s ISO 9001 certification requirement. It stated SRA and BAH did not provide this certification. It instead relied on certifications of affiliated entities. DOJ responded by stating the solicitation did not prohibit reliance of the iso 9001 certifications of affiliated entities and reasonable to use. GAO found the solicitation did not permit offerors to meet the ISO 9001 certification requirement that did not apply to the offeror. The RFP required the offeror to be the entity that “has the required certification for ISO 9001.” The agency stated the offeror, not the subcontractor, must be ISO certified. BAH and SRA did not provide evidence they had ISO 9001 certifications at the time of the proposal submission. GAO noted both offerors provided certifications of their affiliated entities without explaining how they applied to their own quality management systems. DOA argued the offerors were “perfectly good ISO 9001 certifications, within the corporate family.” GAO found the evaluation record provided no support for DOA’s conclusion.

Affiliate Past Performance and Corporate Experience

            MetroStar argued DOJ improperly credited CACI with the corporate experience and past performance of its affiliates. Three past performance references submitted by CACI and two of its corporate experience references involved contracts performed by affiliates. Further, MetroStar stated CACI’s proposal did not demonstrate any meaningful involvement by the affiliates. GAO noted an agency may attribute the experience or past performance of an affiliated company to an offeror where the firm’s proposal shows the resources of the affiliate will affect the offeror’s performance. DOA argued it reasonably credited CACI with the past performance and experience of its affiliates. It stated CACI’s proposal indicated its affiliates would have “meaningful involvement” in the contract effort proposed by CACI. GAO’s review of the record led to its conclusion CACI’s proposal “does evidence the meaningful involvement of CACI-ISS, Inc., but does not evidence the meaningful involvement of the other two affiliates.” It found the agency reasonably credited the past performance and corporate experience.

            GAO found CACI’s proposal did not demonstrate the other two affiliates, CACI NSS Inc. and CACI Technology Insights, Inc., would be involved in the contract. It also noted the evaluation record had no indication DOJ considered this issue and failed to provide basis for crediting the CACI proposal with the experience and past performance of the two affiliates. GAO found DOJ’s assignment of experience and past performance unreasonable.

Unequal Phase Two Evaluation

            MetroStar argued it received disparate treatment from the agency’s phase two evaluation. The DOJ conceded it unequally assigned two “major strengths” to awardees’ proposals, while only assigning MetroStar’s proposal one strength, despite all four offerors proposed the same thing. It credited MetroStar’s proposal with only one strength for “all proposed personnel having existing security clearances and available upon award.” DOJ acknowledged MetroStar should have received two “major strengths” instead of one. GAO agreed with this action.

Prejudice

            DOJ argued its errors did not prejudice MetroStar because they would not have increased its overall technical rating. It also stated if some of the awardees had not received an award, the agency would have made fewer awards. GAO found no support for the agency’s position. It noted there was no indication what the agency would have done if there had been less offerors with overall ratings of “very good.” Correcting the errors might have resulted in a “substantially different best-value tradeoff” because the awardees might have received “significantly lower technical ratings or been eliminated from consideration altogether.” GAO concluded MetroStar established the “requisite competitive prejudice to prevail in its bid protest.”

Conclusion

GAO recommended the DOJ reevaluate proposals in a manner consistent with the terms of the solicitation. It also recommended MetroStar be reimbursed its reasonable costs of filing and pursuing its protest

About the AuthorRaymundo Ribota

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