Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Failure to Comply with Solicitation Requirements Leads to Lost Opportunity

The VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) issued a solicitation to purchase healthcare furniture and associated services for medical centers, community-based outpatient clinics, vet centers, and other qualifying clinics and offices throughout the United States. Selection was to be made on a best-value basis considering technical capability, past performance, small business participation and price. Under the technical capability factor, vendors were instructed to submit, among other things, a certifying statement indicating that they can meet all service requirements as defined in the statement of work.

govSolutions was one of 30 bidders for the work. The VA assigned govSolutions' quotation an "unacceptable" rating because it did not include the self-certifying statement in the technical capability volume. govSolutions filed a protest with GAO (Government Accountability Office) maintaining that the VA erred in finding its quotation unacceptable for that reason. govSolutions maintained that its cover letter, in particular, provides a certifying statement that it can meet the service requirements identified in the statement of work. That cover letter statements that the company would provide complete coordination and took no exception to the solicitation and amendments should have been sufficient to meet the certification requirement.

GAO disagreed for a number of reasons. GAO analyzed the wording of the cover letter and determined that it did not reasonably equate to the certifying language required by the solicitation. GAO also expressed skepticism that govSolutions intended the cover letter to serve as a certification:
To the extent that govSolutions argues that the cover letter in its entirety serves as its certifying statement, we note that the inclusion of a discussion of the protester's past performance and pricing in the cover letter suggest that - regardless of its placement after the cover sheet for the technical capability volume - the letter was in fact not meant to serve as the required certifying statement , or indeed to be specific to the technical capability volume.
GAO found VA's rejection of govSolutions quotation reasonable. govSolutions failure to include a simple certification was probably on oversight. Live and learn, they say, but hopefully you can learn from others' mistakes; be sure you meet solicitation requirements.

You can read the entire GAO bid protest decision here.

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