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CFC Enjoins Information Technology Services Contracts

The Court of Federal Claims enjoined and set aside contracts for information technology program management support services because the evaluation improperly applied two factors, and the best value trade-off determination was inadequately documented, assessed technical merit inconsistently, and placed undue emphasis on price. The post-award bid protesters argued the government did not follow the evaluation scheme when evaluating proposals under the small business participation factor and improperly failed to assign one proposal a strength under the technical/management factor. They also contended the government's trade-off decisions were inconsistent with the solicitation's evaluation scheme. According to the protesters, the solicitation stated nonprice factors were significantly more important than price, but contracts were awarded to the offerors with the lowest prices, the source selection authority's notes revealed an emphasis on technical acceptability over best value, and the government did not identify any weaknesses in the final proposals of the competitive range offerors.
Irrational Evaluation

The court first found the government did not apply two evaluation factors equally. An evaluation board had assigned three awardees a strength under the technical/management factor for program manager on-site decision-making authority, but it did not assign one protester a strength in this area despite no meaningful difference between the phraseology in the awardees' proposals and the protester's proposal. All four offerors described similar decision-making authority in the proper section of the proposal, and the government should have assessed strengths of a similar magnitude for each of them. The government also applied the small business participation factor improperly when it assigned two awardees ratings that exceeded the maximum ratings available under the source selection plan. The evaluation was irrational, and a reevaluation would lower the ratings of two awardees and possibly change the SSA's trade-offs.
Flawed Value Analysis

Further, the best value trade-off determination was arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful. The selection decision was inadequately documented and replete with conclusory statements. Its performance risk "comparisons" lacked any comparative language and merely indicated offerors received the same adjectival ratings, and it noted proposals as receiving identical ratings, declaring the proposals "essentially equal," without further explanation. Moreover, the selection document evidenced a clear "intent to inflate the technical portions of the low-price offerors' proposals and downplay the technical superiority of the higher-priced offerors' proposals. "The SSA treated proposals unequally when comparing subfactors and undercut the superior technical evaluations of the higher-priced proposals. Finally, the SSA "emphasized the nature, quality, and extent of a proposal's strengths when it benefitted a lower-priced proposal but often ignored the nature, quality, and extent of a proposal's strengths and relied instead on the adjectival/color ratings when a higher-priced proposal was found to be superior." These actions showed the SSA used a technically acceptable, low price analysis and accorded price, the fourth most important factor, more weight than permitted by the solicitation. The court granted permanent injunctive relief and ordered the government to reevaluate competitive range proposals and make a new selection decision. (Femme Comp Inc., et al. v. U.S., et al., FedCl, 52 CCF 79,009)

(The news featured above is a selection from the news covered in the Government Contracts Report Letter, which is published weekly and distributed to subscribers of the Government Contracts Reporter. )


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