Monday, August 5, 2019

GAO Rules Air Force's Past Performance Evaluation to be "Irrational"

The Government's evaluation of bidders' past performances sometimes seems murky. In submitting their proposals, bidders are given the opportunity to put their best foot forward -  to identify "relevant" past performance and objective assessments of how well they performed the work. But what if the Government ignores the past performance submissions and uses something else to evaluate past performance? That's what happened to JMark Services in a bid to provide intelligence instructor services for the Air Force.

The solicitation on which JMark was bidding required bidders to submit past performance information regarding recent and relevant contracts for the same or similar items.The solicitation also provided that the Air Force's evaluation of past performance could include a number of sources of information. JMark's proposal was one of sixteen quotations received by the Air Force - all sixteen were determined to be technically acceptable.

In evaluating vendors' past performance, the record reflected that the contracting officer disregarded all bidder submissions and relied exclusively upon information obtained CPARS (Contractor Performance Assessment Rating System). The Air Force explained that CPARS automatically generates an assessment chart listing the percentage of exceptional, very good, satisfactory, marginal, and unsatisfactory ratings that a contract has received while performing prior Government contracts.

After reviewing the assessment chart data from CPARS, the contracting officer concluded that the past performance of JMark and the winning bidder were roughly equal because "on the whole, these numbers are very similar".

JMark challenged the reasonableness of the Air Force's past performance evaluation and, more specifically, the Air Force's conclusion that the past performance of JMark and the winning bidder was roughly equal. JMark alleged that the Air Force failed to consider the relevancy of the vendors' past performance information. Had the Air Force done so, JMark contended that the record would show that it possessed extensive experience performing the exact services sought here and that it had received glowing reviews for its efforts including performance on the incumbent contract. By contrast, JMark pointed out that the winning bidder did not possess similarly relevant experience.

The GAO found that the Air Force did not review past performance information included in vendors' quotations nor did the Air Force review any specific CPARS reports. It relied solely on the CPARS assessment chart. Furthermore, the Air Force did not consider the relevancy of past performance.

The GAO noted that the CPARS assessment chart was incomplete and misleading because the chart includes instances in which a contractor's performance of a particular evaluation area was not rated for an effort.. Moreover the CPARS chart did not include ratings associated with two evaluation areas. More precisely, there are seven evaluation areas that can be rated by agency officials but only five evaluation ares were included in the assessment chart. The methodology employed by the Air Force failed to take into account the entirety of vendors' ratings on prior efforts. In one case, the CPARS report for the winning bidder cautioned that it should not be used for source selection purposes. All things considered, the GAO found that the Air Force's reliance on the CPARS chart to be irrational.

GAO sustained JMark's protest because the Air Force had no rational basis to concluded that these vendors were equal under the past performance evaluation factor . Instead, the record showed that the Air Force based its past performance evaluation upon information that was insufficient to allow the Air Force to assess a vendor's ability to successfully perform the service required.

The GAO recommended that the Air Force re-do its past performance rating and reimburse JMark its costs associated with filing and pursuing its protest, including attorney's fees.

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