Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How to Get Around a Solicitation's Page Limitation

The Department of Energy (DOE) issued a solicitation for cyber security support services, information technology support services and policy and governance services. . The solicitation limited the technical proposal to 10 pages, single-spaced, using 12 point (or larger) Times New Roman, Courier, Geneva, Arial, or Universal font type. The solicitation stated that proposals in excess of the ten pages would not be evaluated.

One of the bidders got clever with the "single spacing" requirement and reduced the spacing between lines in such a manner that it was able to squeeze in 66 lines per page rather than the normal 44 lines per page. This effectively yielded three additional pages to the 10 page limitation. Here's a comparison of the the squeezed spacing versus normal spacing.

Ultimately, DOE awarded the three fixed-price task orders to the squishy paragraph contractor where upon the standard paragraph contractor appealed because the successful contractor had violated the solicitation's formatting requirements.

"... quotations for all three task orders violated the RFQ's explicit provisions regarding page limitations by compressing the line spacing of its ... quotation text to be less than the "single-spacing" that the RFQ required. The protester maintains that the agency's acceptance of [the squishy paragraph bidder] proposal afforded ... an unfair competitive advantage.
The GAO (Government Accountability Office) agreed and sustained the protest.

DOE argued that applying the common meaning of "single-spaced" simply requires that there be no blank lines between lines of text. Therefore, vendors were free to choose whatever word-processing application suited them. GAO didn't buy that argument, especially when they discovered that the squishy paragraph bidder had used standard formatting in two other volumes of its proposal that were not subject to page limitations. To conclude that squishy spacing was acceptable would not be consistent with the purpose of the quotation preparation instructions - to ensure that quotations are submitted in a similar format and are limited as to the amount of information and data they contain on an equal basis.

Hmmm, wonder what the GAO would say about narrowing the margins on pages?

You can read the full text of GAO's decision here.

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