Thursday, March 29, 2018

Navy Relaxed Requirements to Detriment of Other Bidders

The Navy issued a solicitation under GSA's (General Services Administration) FSS (Federal Supply Schedule) for pressure washers. The RFQ (Request for Quotation) called for a Landa brand pressure washer with a specific manufacturer part number, or equivalent.

Specifically, the pressure washer must have a 20 horsepower engine capable of producing five gallons per minute stream at 5,000 psi, a 460 volt 3 phase engine, a trigger gun with stainless steel wand, a downstream chemical injector, a 50 foot hose, two 6-gallon fuel tanks, four 6-inch pneumatic tires and a high impact steel roll cage.

The Navy received quotations from nine vendors and awarded the contract to lowest offeror, Boarder Construction Specialists (BCS) for just under $20,000 for an alternative pressure washer. Savannah Cleaning Systems (SCS) submitted the second lowest bid at $20,500 - just five hundred dollars more - for the name brand washer.

Savannah appealed the award to BCS arguing that the pressure washers quoted by BCS were not equal or comparable to the name brand washers. The pressure washers offered by BCS had less horsepower (15 instead of 20), produced only a 4 gallon per minute stream, did not have a roll cage and only had two wheels instead of four.

After the quotations were received, the Navy determined that a less powerful pressure washer with few features would work just fine - it met the needs of the Navy. At that point, the Navy should have amended the solicitation to reflect that it did not require the horsepower or features of the solicited pressure washer. Failure to amend the solicitation prevented vendors from competing equally.

Savannah established a reasonable possibility that it suffered prejudice as a result of the Navy's failure to amend the solicitation. It could have offered an alternate product to meet the Navy's actual needs. Savannah stated that it sells a 15 horsepower pressure washer and that it can offer that model at a lower price than the solicited pressure washer.

The Navy's relaxation of a material requirement, and its failure to amend the solicitation, effectively precluded the protester from having an opportunity to compete. Since the Navy had already accepted delivery of the other pressure washers, the GAO could not direct the Navy to terminate the order and re-solicit for the actual requirements. In the circumstances, GAO directed the Navy to reimburse Savannah its quotation preparation costs and its costs of filing and pursuing the protest.

You can read the full GAO decision here.

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