The government has done so much to try to make government contracting fair and impartial, and while bureaucratic, the system mostly works as intended. Still, every once in a while, the system created to provide opportunity to the most deserving actually punishes good behavior.
Protesting contractor: Advanced Computer Concepts, McLean
Contracting agency: General Services Administration
Protest issue: Sometimes good guys finish last
Decision: Denied by the Government Accountability Office May, 30, 2013
Post-mortem: The GSA issued a request for quotations for video teleconferencing equipment, potential offerors that award would be made to the company whose quote represented the best value to the government considering three factors: technical acceptability which would be evaluated on a pass/fail basis, past performance and price. Past performance was considered significantly more important than price.
ACC, along with three other vendors, submitted quotes. The award came down to two of the quotes, ACC’s and Futron Inc. of Woodbridge. ACC offered a price that was two percent lower than Futron, but Futron’s past performance was evaluated higher, which won the company the contract.
The protest centered on ACC’s disagreement with the past performance evaluation it received from GSA. Specifically, when the GSA looked at two government databases — the Past Performance Information Retrieval System and the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System — it found that ACC had five recent product orders that it received excellent or satisfactory ratings on. However, there were four orders with the Air Force that were listed as terminated for cause.
In those cases, ACC claimed that it refused to offer the items to the government at a higher price the supplier demanded, so the supplier refused to supply the items. This conduct ultimately resulted in the supplier paying $48 million to GSA as a settlement. ACC argued that it should not be punished for refusing to participate in “colluding to fix prices,” and the GAO in its opinion acknowledged that “the Air Force appears to hold the protester blameless for these past performance issues.” Still, the GAO found that it was reasonable for the GSA to have evaluated the past performance the way it did.
A system created to reward good behavior and encourage contractors to do the right thing seems to have punished this contractor. Perhaps there was something that ACC could have done to explain the reason for the terminations, but even when all the information was known, the GAO still found it reasonable to take the data at face value.