How Do You Know When Government Agencies Conduct Meaningful Evaluation of Proposals?

In the GAO bid protest of Prism Maritime, LLC , B-409267.2; B-409267.3, the protestor challenged the Department of the Navy’s lack of meaningful evaluation of proposals under the technical meaningful evaluation of proposals protestcapability and experience factor, and also challenged the Navy’s evaluation of cost proposals. The protestor also claimed that the agency improperly engaged in discussions solely with the awardee. GAO agreed with the protestor on several grounds.  

The thrust of the GAO bid protest was the SSA’s independent reevaluation of showed no meaningful evaluation of proposals.  The protestor argued that, in reevaluating proposals, the SSA improperly applied unstated evaluation criteria, failed to consider the impact of the deficiencies identified by the SSEB in concluding that the awardee’s proposal was acceptable, and otherwise reached evaluation conclusions that were unreasonable or irrational in concluding that the two proposals were technically equal.

GAO sustained the bid protest because the record showed  that agency’s source selection authority essentially disagreed with all of the negative findings of the agency’s evaluators concerning awardee’s proposal, but the record did not support a conclusion that the disagreement, which does not withstand logical scrutiny,  and was constituted lack of meaningful evaluation of proposals.

GAO also sustained the bid protest which challenged agency’s price realism evaluation because the evaluation failed adequately to consider the realism of the offerors’ proposed costs, and record further showed that the government improperly used the offerors’ proposed–as opposed to evaluated–costs in making its source selection decision.

How Do Agency’s Conduct Meaningful Evaluation of Proposals? In a negotiated procurement, the agency first evaluates each proposal against the solicitation’s criteria. Afterwards, when conducting its best value and trade-off evaluations, then the government will compare proposals against each other. There must be evidence, and a record of, meaningful evaluation of proposals.  The strengths and weaknesses of each proposal should be evaluated. The agency should then document its decision.

Agency’s Record Important: This case shows the importance of the Agency record during a bid protest. Here, GAO noted that there was nothing in the record to show that the agency actually gave meaningful consideration to the offerors’ proposed direct labor rates. To reach its conclusion on meaningful evaluation of the technical proposal, GAO looked the fact that the contract was largely a labor-intensive contract. Therefore, the agency was required to give meaningful consideration to whether the offerors’ proposed direct labor rates were realistic to attract and retain the personnel that will be required to perform the contract.

On the issue of meaningful evaluation of proposals, the Navy failed to meet the reasonableness standard in bid protest cases because it simply checked to see if the awardee had proposed the minimum Service Contract Act wage rate. GAO ruled that the Navy failed to meet its burden of giving meaningful evaluation or consideration as to whether the rates proposed are realistic.

Included in the bid protest analysis, GAO reasoned that with respect to the evaluation of the awardee’s  proposal, no meaningful evaluation of its proposed wages could reasonably have been performed because there was no specification as to which of its proposed employees were junior, mid-level and senior. The lesson learned here is that when submitting labor rates, you also want to provide a breakdown of your proposed staffing mix. Never let the agency figure it out.

Obviously, if the government guesses wrong, your award can be stripped. In virtually all GAO protests, the agency comes under scrutiny when it fails to give any meaningful consideration to your proposal. However, getting to that point a GAO bid protest can be problematic when you do not have a bid protest lawyer that is admitted to the protective order.

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This creates a great advantage for the government attorneys. After your debriefing, and you believe that the agency failed to conduct a meaningful proposal evaluation, call the GAO protest lawyers at Watson & Associates, LLC for immediate help. Call 1-866-601-5518.

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