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Improper Best-Value Award Enjoined

An award of a contract for airport security screening services was enjoined by the Court of Federal Claims because the government's failure to make a proper best-value determination resulted in a fundamentally flawed source selection process. The protester contended the government failed to conduct the best-value analysis required by the request for proposals and actually awarded the contract on a lowest-price, technically acceptable basis. The RFP stated five factors, when combined, were to be evaluated as more important than price but, "as the technical merits of competing offers approach equal, price will become more important in any trade-off decision." The protester's proposal was rated one level higher than the awardee's proposal for the three most important technical evaluation factors and two levels higher for the next most important factor. In addition, the protester's proposal had 33 strengths and no weaknesses, while the awardee's proposal had 1 strength and 1 weakness. The source selection evaluation board nevertheless concluded the protester's proposal was only "moderately better" and was not worth the 16-percent price premium. The source selection authority adopted the SSEB's report and concluded the awardee's proposal represented the best value to the government.

Importance of Price Elevated

The court determined the SSEB's findings were arbitrary and capricious because they downplayed the difference in adjectival ratings and ignored the "chasm" between the number of strengths. In focusing on ratings assigned by lower-level evaluators and selectively presenting strengths and weaknesses, the SSEB elevated the relative importance of price and essentially conducted the procurement on a lowest-price technically acceptable basis. In addition, the SSA failed to exercise her independent judgment and to document the rationale for any business judgments and tradeoffs to justify her decision, as required under FAR 15.308. These procurement errors were significant and prejudiced the protester, which had a substantial chance of award. Given that the protester would cease to exist without an injunction and the government failed to articulate any specific harm that would flow from an injunction, the balance of hardships favored an injunction. Moreover, the critical nature of the services made the public interest in a fair best-value procurement particularly compelling. ( FirstLine Transportation Security, Inc. v. U.S., et al., FedCl, 55 CCF 79,666)




(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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