Thursday, March 7, 2019

Solicitation Required Independent Verification - Not Self-Certification

Graham Technologies was one of 552 companies submitting proposals to DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) for IT (Information Technology) supplies and services. There were a number of qualifying factors including verification that the company had an adequate accounting system.  DHHS fund Graham's proposal unacceptable under the verification of an adequate accounting system requirement and therefore ineligible for further consideration.

Graham appealed the disqualification on the basis that DHHS's actions were unreasonable because Graham felt that it had complied with the requirement. Well, it either did or did not, right. That should be easy enough to figure out - unless the solicitation was ambiguous. But the solicitation was not ambiguous, according to the GAO who heard the appeal. The solicitation contained the following provision:
... the Offeror must provide in its proposal a contact name and contact information . . . of its representative at its cognizant DCAA [Defense Contract Auditing Agency], DCMA [Defense Contract Management Agency], federal civilian audit agency, or third-party accounting firm and submit, if available, a copy of the Pre-Award Survey of Prospective Contracting Accounting System (SF 1408), provisional billing rates, and/or forward pricing rate agreements. 
Graham did provide an audit report number, the date of the report, and contact information for the cognizant DCAA office and representative. However Graham  did not include any verification from DCAA itself. DHHS concluded that the information Graham provided did not satisfy the requirements of the solicitation to provide verification from DCAA. Graham argued that the term "if available" indicated that additional information was not necessary to satisfy the solicitation's requirements.

The GAO (Government Accountability Office) didn't buy Graham's argument. GAO stated it found DHHS's interpretation of the solicitation, when read as a whole, is reasonable, whereas (Graham's) interpretation is not". The solicitation clearly instructed offerors to provide evidence or verification from DCAA (or another independent source).

The GAO denied the protest. The full text of the GAO decision can be found here.

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