A-58285, DECEMBER 29, 1934, 14 COMP. GEN. 491

A-58285: Dec 29, 1934

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FOR A SHOWING OF FACTS AS TO WHY THERE WAS STATED IN SPECIFICATIONS DATED JULY 3. FOR THE DELIVERY OF A 5-TON TRUCK AND WHICH CONTRACT WAS AWARDED TO THE DARLING AUTOMOBILE CO. THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE TRUCK HAVE NOT LESS THAN 358 CUBIC INCHES PISTON DISPLACEMENT. THE LOW BID WAS REJECTED BECAUSE THE ENGINE HAD 331.4 CUBIC INCHES PISTON DISPLACEMENT. IT BEING STATED THAT THE BID WAS OTHERWISE CORRECT. THE SUPERINTENDENT OF LIGHTHOUSES HAS NOW REPORTED THAT THE TRUCK WAS TO BE USED FOR THE GENERAL PURPOSE OF HEAVY HAULING. PARTLY OVER COUNTRY ROADS THAT ARE CLAY OR GRAVEL AND WHICH FOR THE MOST PART DIP DOWN AT THE TERMINUS TO THE LIGHTHOUSE STATIONS ALONG THE MAIN COAST. THAT THE COUNTRY THROUGH WHICH THE TRUCK WOULD OPERATE IS A THINLY POPULATED COASTAL REGION.

A-58285, DECEMBER 29, 1934, 14 COMP. GEN. 491

CONTRACTS - SPECIFICATIONS - PURCHASE OF MOTOR TRUCKS AS THE POWER OF A MOTOR TRUCK DEPENDS ON MANY OTHER FACTORS IN ADDITION TO PISTON DISPLACEMENTS, PROPER ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN TO PREVENT THE ISSUANCE OF SPECIFICATIONS IN WHICH DETERMINATION AS TO ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF A BID FOR MOTOR TRUCKS MAY REST UPON PISTON DISPLACEMENTS ALONE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE, DECEMBER 29, 1934:

CONSIDERATION HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOUR REPORT OF DECEMBER 7, 1934, WITH INCLOSURE OF A MEMORANDUM OF NOVEMBER 24, 1934, FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT OF LIGHTHOUSES AT PORTLAND, MAINE, IN RESPONSE TO MY REQUEST OF NOVEMBER 10, 1934, FOR A SHOWING OF FACTS AS TO WHY THERE WAS STATED IN SPECIFICATIONS DATED JULY 3, 1934, ISSUED BY THE SUPERINTENDENT OF LIGHTHOUSES, PORTLAND, MAINE, FOR BIDS TO BE OPENED JULY 16, 1934, AND WHICH FORMED THE BASIS OF CONTRACT CLA-438, DATED AUGUST 4, 1934, FOR THE DELIVERY OF A 5-TON TRUCK AND WHICH CONTRACT WAS AWARDED TO THE DARLING AUTOMOBILE CO., INC., BIDDING ON A REO TRUCK, IN THE AMOUNT OF $3,180 WITH REJECTION OF THE LOW BID SUBMITTED BY THE GENERAL MOTORS TRUCK CO. IN THE AMOUNT OF $2,496.79, THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE TRUCK HAVE NOT LESS THAN 358 CUBIC INCHES PISTON DISPLACEMENT. THE LOW BID WAS REJECTED BECAUSE THE ENGINE HAD 331.4 CUBIC INCHES PISTON DISPLACEMENT, IT BEING STATED THAT THE BID WAS OTHERWISE CORRECT.

THE SUPERINTENDENT OF LIGHTHOUSES HAS NOW REPORTED THAT THE TRUCK WAS TO BE USED FOR THE GENERAL PURPOSE OF HEAVY HAULING, PARTLY OVER COUNTRY ROADS THAT ARE CLAY OR GRAVEL AND WHICH FOR THE MOST PART DIP DOWN AT THE TERMINUS TO THE LIGHTHOUSE STATIONS ALONG THE MAIN COAST; THAT THE COUNTRY THROUGH WHICH THE TRUCK WOULD OPERATE IS A THINLY POPULATED COASTAL REGION, EXCEPT IN THE SUMMER, WITH VERY POOR TELEPHONE SERVICE; THAT THE TRUCK WOULD HAVE TO BE SUFFICIENTLY POWERED TO GET OUT OF A HOLE OR DITCH WITHOUT ASSISTANCE AND TO TAKE CARE OF ITSELF IF MIRED OR SNOWBOUND IN THE ISOLATED REGION WHERE IT IS TO OPERATE. ALSO, THAT IT IS NOT ADMINISTRATIVELY BELIEVED A 5-TON TRUCK WITH LESS THAN 358-CUBIC INCH PISTON DISPLACEMENT WOULD AFFORD SUFFICIENT POWER FOR THESE PURPOSES. THE SUPERINTENDENT HAS STATED THAT HIS OFFICE TAKES EXCEPTION TO THE IMPLICATION THAT PISTON DISPLACEMENT IS NOT A DETERMINING FACTOR IN COMPARING ENGINES ON THE BASIS OF AVAILABLE POWER.

AN EXAMINATION OF THE ADVERTISED SPECIFICATIONS IN THIS CASE WILL DISCLOSE THAT THEY DID NOT STATE THE SERVICE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE TRUCK WAS TO OPERATE, AND THIS OFFICE HAS REPEATEDLY HELD THAT PROSPECTIVE BIDDERS ARE ENTITLED TO KNOW THE JOB TO BE PERFORMED--- THE NEED OF THE UNITED STATES--- SO THAT THEY MAY MAKE PROFFERS ACCORDINGLY. (SEE 13 COMP. GEN. 284.) THESE SPECIFICATIONS DID NOT NOTIFY BIDDERS OF THE SPECIAL SERVICE CONDITIONS, AND THE BIDDERS DID NOT HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY OF TENDERING TRUCKS WHICH, IN THEIR JUDGMENT, WOULD MEET THESE SPECIAL CONDITIONS, AND THIS PROBABLY ACCOUNTS FOR THE FACT ALLUDED TO BY THE SUPERINTENDENT THAT WHILE THE GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION MANUFACTURED A 5- TON TRUCK WITH 400-CUBIC INCH PISTON DISPLACEMENT, IT OFFERED A TRUCK WITH 6 CYLINDERS AND 331.4-CUBIC INCH PISTON DISPLACEMENT.

IT IS POSSIBLY TOO MUCH TO EXPECT THAT LOCAL PURCHASING AGENTS REMOTE FROM THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT WILL BE AT ALL TIMES INFORMED AS TO THE PROPER PROCEDURE TO BE FOLLOWED IN ADVERTISING THE NEEDS OF THE UNITED STATES, AND IF COMPLIANCE IS TO BE HAD WITH THE LAW IT WOULD APPEAR NECESSARY THAT THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS AT THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT EXERCISE FAIRLY CLOSE SUPERVISION OVER THE SPECIFICATIONS ISSUED BY LOCAL FIELD OFFICERS IN MAKING PURCHASES OF TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT. IT IS A FACT WHICH MAY BE VERIFIED BY ANY EQUIPPED AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEER OR STANDARD WORK ON AUTOMOBILE ENGINEERING THAT THE POWER OF A TRUCK CANNOT BE MEASURED WITH ANY DEGREE OF ACCURACY ON THE BASIS OF PISTON DISPLACEMENT ALONE. THE POWER OF A TRUCK DEPENDS ON MANY OTHER FACTORS IN ADDITION TO PISTON DISPLACEMENT, AND IF SUCH FACTORS ARE ABSENT OR IMPERFECTLY APPLIED, THE TRUCK WITH A LARGER PISTON DISPLACEMENT MAY TRANSMIT LESS POWER TO THE DRIVING MECHANISM THAN A TRUCK WITH LESSER PISTON DISPLACEMENT PROPERLY EQUIPPED FOR THE TRANSMISSION OF POWER TO THE DRIVING MECHANISM.

THIS OFFICE WILL RAISE NO FURTHER QUESTION WITH RESPECT TO THIS PARTICULAR CONTRACT, BUT IT IS REQUESTED THAT THE PROPER ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION BE TAKEN TO PREVENT THE ISSUANCE OF SIMILAR SPECIFICATIONS IN THE FUTURE; THAT IS, IN WHICH DETERMINATION AS TO ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF A BID MAY REST UPON PISTON DISPLACEMENT ALONE.