Tuesday, October 8, 2013

There's a Difference Between "Lowest-Priced Technically Acceptable" and "Best Value"

When bidding on solicitation that is to be awarded based on "best value", be aware that there will be a number of subjective elements that go into the award decision. And, those subjective elements will be very difficult to challenge should an award be protested. A recent GAO (Comptroller General) illustrates this point.

It was plain based on the award criteria, that the award would be made on a best value basis. As a result, the solicitation afforded the Government the discretion to make trade offs between price and non-price factors when making its award decision.

The protestor (AWD in this case) argued that its proposal represented both the overall best value because its price was lower, and that it also submitted the lowest-priced, technically acceptable offer. The protestor argued that the Agency was not justified in paying a five percent premium, which it asserted was simply a price for convenience so the agency could keep on with the incumbent contractor.

The agency countered that it was justified in awarding to a company with a technically superior proposal. The Comptroller General agreed with the agency. "When a protester challenges an agency's award decision, we will review that decision solely to determine if it was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation's evaluation scheme, procurement statutes, and regulations. Proposals with the same adjectival ratings are not necessarily of equal quality, and agencies may properly consider specific advantages that make one proposal of higher quality than another. In conducting such an analysis, agencies may reasonably consider the underlying bases for ratings and assess advantages and disadvantages associated with the content of competing proposals.

In this case, the agency reasonably considered the underlying merits of each proposal and identified qualitative differences between the two, even though both proposals received the same overall adjectival ratings for technical capability and past performance. In weighing the differences, the contracting officer reasonably determined that the successful bidders proposal offered technical strengths not found in the protestor's proposal and the protestor's proposal contained evaluated weaknesses not present in the successful bidders proposal.

You can read the entire case here.

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