The value in demanding an explanation for contract awards

The value in demanding an explanation for contract awards

Throughout our lives we are often faced with choosing between what seem at first glance to be two equally acceptable options. But in government contracting, while it sometimes seems to come down to a flip of a quarter, decisions must be made by best value determinations that are thoroughly documented by the agency. In this case, the Defense Information Systems Agency fell short of that requirement.

Protesting contractor: NOVA Corp., Albuquerque, N.M.

Contracting agency: DISA

Protest issue: Determining best value

Decision: Sustained by the Government Accountability Office June 4, 2013.

Post-mortem: In April of 2012, DISA issued a request for proposals to companies for operations and information technology support services for a computing center in Juffair, Bahrain. As with the majority of procurements today, the RFP informed offerors that the task order would be issued to the best value offer based on evaluation factors that included technical approach, past performance and price. And like the majority of procurements, non-cost factors were significantly more important than cost factors.

DISA received quotes from five companies, including NOVAs and Digital Management, Inc. in Bethesda. NOVA received a higher rating in the technical factor and in past performance, but its price was about $850,000 higher than DMI’s price. The evaluation team recommended to the source selection authority (SSA) that DMI receive the award because “DMI presented a proposal that was technically acceptable” and in past performance NOVA was only “slightly better” and “not significant enough to warrant paying the higher evaluated price.” The SSA agreed with the evaluation team and made the award to NOVA.

NOVA alleged in its protest that DISA had failed to do a proper best-value trade-off and the GAO agreed ­ noting that DISA did not adequately document its best value decision but instead presented a “generic statement concerning the offeror¹s ability to meet minimum performance requirements.”

The truth is that few contractors present a significant risk of non-performance. The number of terminations for default is minimal. But if an agency cannot detail the basis for its best value decision during debrief, then the contractor should consider a protest. The odds just might be in its favor.