The National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a solicitation for information technology services. Quotations were to be submitted in six volumes and the solicitation established page limit and format limitations for each volume. For example, Volume I had a limit of 35 pages, single-spaced, with stated font size and type. Bidders were instructed that NSF would evaluate only up to the page maximums as noted for each volume submission, and that any pages beyond the stated limits would not be considered.
After the initial offers and subsequent discussions with each offeror, NSF requested revisions from the competing vendors. In the request for revisions, NSF included the following instructions:
NSF is inviting your organization to submit a quote revision that is consistent with all instructions and requirements as noted in the [solicitation]. All quote revision material must be consistent with [the solicitation] instructions and requirements to be eligible for award consideration.
One of the bidders (Dell) asked for an additional page allocation in order to thoroughly address the concerns raised by NSF over the initial offer. The contracting officer denied the request.
One of the revised proposals (Tetra Tech) exceeded the page restriction. It's Volume I exceed the 35 page limit by 12 pages. So, NSF lopped off the final 12 pages of the proposal. As a result, the offeror's technical approach was considered unsatisfactory because NSF was not able to evaluate the bidder's response to the solicitation requirements.
Tetra Tech then filed a bid protest challenging NSF's decision to exclude from consideration the proposal pages that exceeded the page limitation. Tetra Tech alleged that NSF engaged in misleading discussions because it represented in its instructions to vendors that revisions to quotation submissions would not count against the page limit. NSF countered that the page limit instructions sent to all vendors were unambiguous. There was nothing in the instructions that conveyed a waiver of the page limits for the revised quotations.
The Comptroller General (GAO) agreed with NSF and denied the appeal. GAO concluded that there was no ambiguity in the instructions and that NSF properly excluded the portions of Tetra Tech's quotation that exceeded the page limitations stated in the solicitation.
You can read the full text of GAO decision here.
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