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Comptroller General of the United States United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548 Decision Matter of: File: Date: PMC Solutions, Inc. B-310732 January 22, 2008 Britain Harvey for the protester. David P. Blackwood, Esq., U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, for the agency. Frank Maguire, Esq., and John M. Melody, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision. DIGEST 1. Protest that agency improperly evaluated protester’s technic
    Comptroller Generalof the United States United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548 Decision Matter of: PMC Solutions, Inc. File: B-310732 Date: January 22, 2008Britain Harvey for the protester.David P. Blackwood, Esq., U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, for the agency.Frank Maguire, Esq., and John M. Melody, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision. DIGEST 1. Protest that agency improperly evaluated protester’s technical proposal withregard to employment status of proposed expert and protester’s status assubcontractor under prior contracts is denied where record shows evaluation wasreasonable and in accord with stated evaluation criteria.2. Protest that agency, in “best value” procurement, improperly made award toofferor proposing significantly higher price than protester’s is denied where recordshows agency considered protester’s and awardee’s proposals’ strengths andweaknesses in determining that technical superiority of awardee’s proposaloutweighed protester’s lower price. DECISION PMC Solutions, Inc. protests the award of a contract to Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.(BAH) under request for proposals (RFP) CR-07-0002, issued by the U.S. Commissionon Civil Rights (USCCR), for Lean Six Sigma (LSS) support.We deny the protest.The RFP was issued under the streamlined procedures of Federal AcquisitionRegulation (FAR) subpart 12.6 on July 17, 2007. It called for services related to theLSS methodology for process mapping and improvement. Initial work was to beginno later than September 2007, with a period of performance of not to exceed 45 days.RFP at 5. The RFP provided that proposals would be evaluated on a “best value”basis under three factors: contractor qualifications, past performance, and price. Id.at 6.  Ten proposals were received in response to the RFP. The proposals were reviewedby a technical evaluation panel, which rated BAH’s and PMC’s proposalsoutstanding. BAH’s price was $129,500 and PMC’s was $29,709. Agency Report at 1;Protest at 3. 1 The agency made award to BAH based on its finding that evaluatedweaknesses in PMC’s proposal and strengths in BAH’s proposal made BAH’s proposal the best value, despite its substantially higher price. PMC contends that itstechnical proposal was improperly evaluated in two respects and that the agencyconducted an improper price/technical tradeoff.SSL EXPERTPMC contends that its proposal was unreasonably downgraded on the basis that oneof its proposed LSS experts was a contract employee rather than a PMC employee.Protest at 1. PMC asserts that the downgrading was unreasonable because there wasno requirement in the RFP that proposed personnel be in-house employees. Id. at 2.In reviewing an agency’s technical evaluation, we will not reevaluate proposals, butwill examine the record to ensure that it was reasonable and in accordance with thestated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement statutes and regulations.Harris Corp., B-299864 et al., Sept. 14, 2007, 2007 CPD ¶ 180.The evaluation here was unobjectionable. USCCR explains that the availability of PMC’s expert was a concern in view of USCCR’s requirement that the project beunderway promptly after award. Agency Report, Statement of Contracting Officer(SCO), at 1-2. PMC’s proposal included a resume indicating that the expert inquestion was not a PMC employee and was currently involved in a project foranother company. Agency Report, Tab B, PMC Proposal, attach 1, at 4. USCCRdetermined that the expert’s employment status raised doubts regarding hisavailability for a “quick turnaround project” that “needed to be performed on a verytight timeframe.” SCO at 1-2. Although the RFP did not expressly require that proposed experts be employed directly by the contractor, and the evaluation factorsdid not specifically address employment status, in evaluating a proposal an agency properly may take into account specific, albeit not expressly identified, matters thatare logically encompassed by or related to the stated evaluation criteria. PreferredSys. Solutions, B-291750, Feb. 24, 2003, 2003 CPD ¶ 56 at 2. Here, under thecontractor qualifications evaluation factor, resumes were required for all proposed personnel. RFP at 6. It is implicit, we think, that where an agency is evaluating proposed employees, the evaluation logically encompasses the employees’availability to perform under the contract. The fact that PMC’s proposed expert wasnot a PMC employee and was involved with another company’s project reasonably 1 The record includes conflicting award amounts, including $120,000, $129,000, and$120,500. For simplicity, we use $129,500, the figure set forth in the agency report. Agency Report at 1. The amount of the award does not affect our decision. Page 2 B-310732  was viewed by the agency as casting doubt on the expert’s availability when neededand, as a result, on PMC’s ability to perform quick turnaround work beginning promptly after award.PAST PERFORMANCEConsistent with the RFP, PMC submitted three past performance summaries,including projects for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the U.S. CoastGuard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Protest at 2. PMC contends that theagency improperly rated its proposal “higher risk” on the basis that it was the primecontractor on only one of the three submitted projects. Id. PMC notes that the RFPdid not require or prefer a prime contractor status, and asserts that USCCR shouldhave taken into account that it was the “lead and sole provider” of relevant serviceson the two projects on which it was a subcontractor (NRO and Coast Guard). Id.at 2.This aspect of the evaluation was reasonable. USCCR explains that it was concernedwith offerors’ experience with “quick performance” projects and as the “lead” onrelevant projects, which closely reflected the contractor’s roles and responsibilitiesunder the instant contract. SCO at 2. USCCR determined that, although the CoastGuard project on which PMC worked was a “quick turnaround,” PMC was a memberof a team of five firms and it was unclear what support PMC received from the otherfirms. Id. Additionally, USCCR determined that, although the NRO project was not ateam effort, it was a 2-year project, which the evaluators did not consider to be probative of future performance on a contract that required “very short turnaround.”Id. Although the RFP did not express a specific preference or requirement for past performance as a prime or “lead” contractor, USCCR properly could take intoaccount in its past performance evaluation relevant information reasonably predictive of the quality of contract performance. Preferred Sys. Solutions, Inc.,supra, at 2. Since the awardee here would be a prime contractor, the agencyreasonably could consider offerors’ performance of prior contracts as a primecontractor. Likewise, since the agency’s requirement entailed quick turnaroundwork, it reasonably could consider offerors’ performance of prior contracts underwhich quick turnaround work was required. Both considerations clearly would be predictive of future performance and, therefore, reasonably were encompassed bythe past performance evaluation. See Nicholson/Soletanche Joint Venture,B-297011.3, B-297011.4, Apr. 20, 2006, 2006 CPD ¶ 71 at 8. 2  (continued...) 2 PMC seems to argue that USCCR should have entered into “clarifications” with itfollowing receipt of proposals. Protest at 3; Protester’s Comments, Nov. 30, 2007. An agency, however, has broad discretion to decide whether to engage in Page 3 B-310732  PRICE/TECHICAL TRADEOFFPMC asserts that, given that its and BAH’s proposals received the same outstandingrating, award to BAH at a four times higher price could not be the “best value” to thegovernment, consistent with the solicitation.Where, as here, a solicitation provides for a price/technical tradeoff  , the agencyretains discretion to make award to an offeror with a higher technical rating, despitea higher price, so long as the tradeoff decision is properly justified and otherwiseconsistent with the stated evaluation and source selection scheme. Midwest Metals,Inc., B-299805, July 17, 2007, 2007 CPD ¶131; University of Kansas Med. Ctr.,B-278400, Jan. 26, 1998, 98-1 CPD ¶ 120 at 6.Ratings, be they numerical, color, or adjectival, are merely guides   for intelligentdecision making in the procurement process. Citywide Managing Servs. of PortWashington, Inc., B-281287.12, B-281287.13, Nov. 15, 2000, 2001 CPD ¶ 6 at 11. Here,as discussed, while USCCR assigned the proposals adjectival ratings, it did not limitits evaluation or its tradeoff decision to these ratings. Rather, the agency fullyconsidered the actual qualitative differences in the technical proposals. See, e.g.,Bernard Cap Co., Inc., B-297168, Nov. 8, 2005, 2005 CPD ¶ 204 at 6. The price/technical tradeoff reflected these qualitative differences. As discussed, USCCRdetermined that timely performance was “critical” and that it had “little time fordelays.” SCO at 3. USCCR’s evaluated concerns regarding PMC’s technicalcapabilities (i.e., the availability of its proposed expert) and past performance(i.e., PMC’s relative lack of “lead” responsibility on prior projects) reasonablyreflected the need for timely performance, without delays; these concerns could leadto PMC’s being unable to perform in a timely manner. Further, the agency was fullyaware of PMC’s substantially lower price, but considered it relevant that PMC proposed substantially fewer hours than BAH; the agency thus viewed BAH as “morelikely to provide a better quality deliverable.” Id. We conclude that the agency’stradeoff determination was reasonable.The protest is denied.Gary L. KepplingerGeneral Counsel(...continued)clarifications with an offeror. INDUS Tech., Inc., B-297800.13, June 25, 2007,2007 CPD ¶ 116. There was no requirement for clarifications here. Page 4 B-310732
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