Starry Starry Night - Successful Protest of Evaluation
August 31, 2015
By: Lindsay Simmons
Starry Associates, Inc. (Starry) successfully protested a task order issued to Intellizant, LLC, arguing that the agency unreasonably evaluated Intellizant’s quote under the RFQ’s technical acceptability factor because Intellizant lacks qualified personnel necessary to perform the PWS tasks and because Intellizant failed to demonstrate how it would provide the staff necessary to perform the task order. Starry Associates, Inc. B-410968, August 25, 2015.
According to Starry, the agency failed to follow the solicitation’s evaluation criteria and unreasonably evaluated Intellizant as being technically acceptable when Intellizant’s did not demonstrate its ability to meet the minimum requirements: Intellizant lacks the personnel necessary to perform the task order, as evidenced by the fact that only five of the individuals proposed by Intellizant are current employees; and Intellizant did not demonstrate an ability to provide the personnel necessary to meet the solicitation’s requirements – its bid did not include letters of commitment from the personnel it proposed.
GAO found that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable and inconsistent with the terms of the RFQ for two reasons: (i) the SSA failed to evaluate whether the personnel proposed by Intellizant were capable of performing the tasks; and (ii) the agency failed to evaluate whether Intellizant’s quote demonstrated the ability to provide the personnel it proposed. Under this solicitation, technical acceptability was one of three non-price evaluation factors and bidders were to be rated acceptable or unacceptable based on their ability to meet the solicitation requirements. In this regard, the evaluation criteria stated that a vendor was "responsible for making sufficient representations to demonstrate that it can meet the requirements". Quotations that merely proposed to perform in accordance with the solicitation were to be deemed ineligible for award. Indeed vendors were told to submit attachments such as transcripts or letters of commitment.
GAO decided the Agency Record was insufficient on certain factual issue and held a hearing. At the hearing the SSA testified that although a vendor’s ability to perform the task order was based entirely on the qualifications of its proposed staff, she did not evaluate whether the personnel proposed by Intellizant had the qualifications required to perform the tasks. Accordingly, because the record did not demonstrate that the SSA properly considered Intellizant’s ability to provide personnel qualified to perform the tasks, GAO found that the evaluation was not conducted in accordance with the RFQ’s evaluation criteria and sustained the protest.
The RFQ’s instructions also required quotations to reflect a clear understanding of the work being undertaken and required vendors to provide a technical appendix with information such as transcripts and letters of commitment. Yet the SSA testified that even though the solicitation required vendors to provide on-site personnel with very specific qualifications, she believed that a vendor could meet these minimum requirements by submitting sample resumes, or alternatively without identifying any personnel at all.
GAO found this too to be unreasonable. The SSA’s evaluation of Intellizant’s resources focused on the resumes of 17 individuals proposed in Intellizant’s quotation, 12 of whom were not current employees. Despite this fact, the SSA testified that she was not concerned . In short, there was nothing in the record documenting why the SSA believed Intellizant had the ability to provide the personnel it proposed, or how it planned to deliver staff with the experience necessary to meet the resource requirements section of the PWS. And there were other defects in the evaluation.
The bottom line is that while GAO recognized that this procurement was conducted under FAR subpart 8.4, and contemplated award to the lowest-priced technically acceptable quotation, the solicitation specifically required the agency to evaluate quotations based upon the vendor’s ability to meet the requirements of the PWS and thus, because the SSA failed to evaluate whether the personnel proposed by Intellizant were capable of performing the PWS tasks, and because she failed to evaluate whether Intellizant could provide the personnel necessary to meet the solicitation’s requirements, the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable.
Lindsay Simmons is responsible for the contents of this Article.
© Jackson Kelly PLLC 2015