VA’s Evaluation Methodology Strayed From Solicitation’s Requirements, GAO Rules

The Government Accountability Office sustained a protest of the establishment of a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) the Department of Veterans Affairs issued because the evaluation methodology was not consistent with the terms of the solicitation (The Clay Group LLC, GAO, B-406647, 7/30/12, decision released 8/8/12).

In a decision released Aug. 8, GAO also sustained the protest because the record did not show that VA reasonably evaluated quotations, and because the awardee’s product sample did not satisfy salient characteristics.

The request for quotations contemplated the establishment of a single BPA against the successful vendor’s Federal Supply Schedule contract for a one-year base period and four one-year options.

The solicitation identified 12 items, including toilet tissue and paper towels, and furnished salient characteristics for each item.

After evaluating proposals, the contracting officer decided that technical differences between awardee AF&S Products and Services LLC and protester The Clay Group LLC were minimal, and did not justify The Clay Group’s higher price.  The Clay Group then pursued this protest.

Weighing Scheme Inconsistent With Solicitation.  GAO sustained the protest, stating that it was clear from the record that the weighting scheme used by evaluators in scoring the quotations was inconsistent with the solicitation, which said that the evaluation factors were listed in descending order of importance.

GAO next agreed with The Clay Group that the record did not demonstrate a reasonable basis for the low scores assigned to its quotation under the past performance evaluation factors.  VA’s use of point scores to evaluate past performance appeared to lack an intelligible or reasonable basis, GAO added.

Finally, GAO said the awardee’s products did not meet the solicitation’s salient statistics, which refers to the essential characteristics of a product that must be met for another product to be considered equal to a specified brand name product.

The record did not indicate that evaluators considered AF&S’s compliance with the salient characteristic in their review of AF&S’s sample.

Therefore, GAO recommended that VA reevaluate quotations under all of the evaluation factors, document the basis for the ratings assigned, and make a new source selection.

Victor Klingelhofer and others from Cohen Mohr LLP, Washington, D.C., represented The Clay Group LLC.  Mark Machiedo and others from the Department of Veterans Affairs, represented the agency.  Jennifer D. Westfall-MacGrail and Edward Goldstein, Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.

Article reproduced with permission from Federal Contracts Report, 98 FCR 241, (Aug. 21, 2012).  Copyright 2012 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <https://www.bna.com>

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