Agency Failed to Adequately Document It’s Evaluation Decision; Protest is Sustained.

The GAO sustained a protest and ruled in favor of the protester when the agency failed to adequately document it’s evaluation decision.

In this procurement, the agency assigned point scores for the four evaluation criteria: “Cost or Price,” “Past Performance,” “Key Personnel,” and “Equipment.”  The protester exceeded the required minimum of experience, but the successful awardee received a higher overall score under this evaluation scheme.   In reviewing the evaluation documents, the GAO found that the contemporaneous record provided no information to explain the varying point scores given to the protester and the awardee.  Although the source selection decision briefly mentioned positive aspects of the awardee’s quotation, it provided no comparison to the protester’s quotation, and it failed to show why the SSA decided that the technical merit of the awardee’s quotation justified the higher price being paid to the awardee.

The GAO reviews documentation supporting a source selection decision to determine whether the agency’s decision was adequately supported and rationally related to the evaluation factors.  To do this, the evaluation must be documented in sufficient detail to show that it was not arbitrary.  A selection decision may not be made on point scores alone where the SSA has inadequate documentation to make a reasoned decision.  When an agency places an order under a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), the GAO recognizes that limited documentation of the source selection decision is permissible.  Nevertheless, the agency must provide a sufficient record to show that the source selection was reasonable.

In this protest, the GAO found the contemporaneous record was inadequate for the GAO to assess whether the agency had a reasonable basis to select the awardee at the higher price.  Because the record provided no contemporaneous trade off comparing the awardee’s quotation to the protester’s — other than the bare point scores assigned to the various evaluation factors — the GAO sustained the protest and ruled in the protester’s favor.   Although the agency provided a more detailed explanation of the scoring and the trade off in its subsequent protest submissions, the GAO generally gives little weight to such reevaluations and judgments that are “prepared in the heat of the adversarial process.”

The GAO recommended that the agency conduct a new evaluation of the quotations consistent with the terms of the solicitation. The GAO further recommended that the agency reimburse the protester for its protest costs, including reasonable attorney fees.

C&B Construction, B-401988.2, January 6, 2010.