CIGNA Government Services, LLC
B-297915, May 4, 2006
CIGNA Government Services, LLC protests the award of a contract by the Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to Noridian Administrative Services, LLC under request for proposals (RFP) No. CMS2005-0012 to provide Medicare claims processing and services related to claims from suppliers and beneficiaries of durable medical equipment. CIGNA protests, among other things, that CMS failed to perform an adequate cost realism analysis with regard to Noridian's proposed cost/price.
We deny the protest.
B-297215; B-297215.2; B-297215.3; B-297215.4, Systems Plus, Inc., December 16, 2005
DOCUMENT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
The decision issued on the date below was subject to a GAO Protective Order. This redacted version has been approved for public release.
Systems Plus, Inc. protests the award of a blanket purchase agreement to Aquilent, Inc. under request for quotations (RFQ) No. DOL059RQ20030, issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) for information technology services. The protester contends that the selection of Aquilent's higher-rated, higher-priced quotation was inconsistent with the evaluation scheme in the solicitation.
The RFQ, issued on
Five vendors submitted quotations. Aquilent's quotation was rated highest for technical merit (under both the technical and past performance factors). Specifically, the Aquilent quotation received a rating of strong under five of the six subfactors of the technical factor, and a rating of exceptional for past performance. Aquilent's quoted price, the second-highest received, was $17,275,979. The protester's quotation received a rating of weak under five of the six subfactors of the technical factor; for past performance, the quotation was rated as satisfactory. The protester submitted the second-lowest price, $14,655,430.40. The source selection official considered the strengths of the Aquilent quotation under both the technical and past performance factors and noted that the lower-priced vendors, including Systems Plus, received lower technical and past performance ratings. Weighing the additional value of Aquilent's very good solution for meeting the needs and objectives of the program, as well as the higher level of confidence in the firm's performance at a price in line with the government estimate, the source selection official concluded that selection of Aquilent on the basis of that firm's substantially technically superior quotation warranted payment of an estimated 15'percent price premium associated with it. Award Documentation,
Systems Plus generally challenges the agency's evaluation of Aquilent's past performance. The protester alleges that, although the agency received two reference surveys rating the firm's past performance as exceptional, the agency should have lowered the rating based on its alleged knowledge of a recent computer system failure at a DOL facility for which Aquilent was responsible, according to Systems Plus. As support for its assertion, Systems Plus points to e-mail correspondence between agency personnel and information technology vendors then servicing the agency. Our review of the e-mail exchange provided by the protester about the system failure, however, indicates that the correspondence fails to identify Aquilent as the cause of the problem. Moreover, the agency points out that both the event and the e-mail exchange referenced by the protester took place after the past performance reference surveys had been submitted and reviewed, and that, in any event, the problem concerned a system overload from an unusually high volume of user activity which could not reasonably be attributed to a single contractor, since there were several vendors servicing the system at the time. The protester has not refuted the agency's rationale for its conclusion that the system failure does not provide any basis to question the awardee's otherwise exceptional past performance. Accordingly, the record provides no basis to question the propriety of the past performance evaluation.
Next, Systems Plus protests that the evaluation of quotations was inconsistent with the RFQ's terms. The protester states that although vendors reasonably should have assumed that the three evaluation factors would be given equal weight by the evaluators, they were not. Protester's Third Supplemental Protest Comments,
In reviewing protests of alleged improper evaluations and source selections, our Office examines the record to determine whether the agency's judgment was reasonable and in accord with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable procurement laws. See Abt Assocs., Inc., B-237060.2,
The protester generally argues that the technical factor was given more weight than the price factor. Our review of the record does not support the protester's contention. For instance, the protester argues that, since there is more discussion in the evaluation record and source selection decision dedicated to the technical merit of the quotations, compared to the vendors' prices, the technical factor must have been given more weight. Protester's Third Supplemental Protest Comments,
As noted above, the RFQ here permitted award to other than the low-priced vendor where that vendor's quotation was found to represent the best value based on consideration of three evaluation factors (technical, past performance, and price). Systems Plus has not challenged the underlying evaluation findings regarding the determination of Aquilent's substantial technical superiority, the reasonableness of that firm's price, or the reasonableness of the source selection authority's decision that specific strengths in the Aquilent quotation, along with its better past performance, warranted the payment of that firm's higher price. Under these circumstances, the agency's decision that the price premium associated with selecting Aquilent's quotation was warranted does not demonstrate that the agency failed to give equal weight to each of the evaluation factors.
The protest is denied.
Anthony H. Gamboa
 Systems Plus initially protested its evaluation ratings, but the firm failed to respond to the agency's comprehensive report in support of the evaluation. Accordingly, we consider the challenge abandoned. The Big Picture Co., Inc., B'220859.2,
 The contracting officer's tradeoff analysis initially focused on a comparison of the two quotations with the highest technical and past performance ratings (including Aquilent's), which were similar in price and substantially higher-rated than the other three quotations. Aquilent's quotation, slightly higher-rated and slightly lower-priced than the other of the two technically strong quotations, was then compared to the other lower-priced, lower-rated quotations. The contracting officer found that the third highest-rated quotation, the fourth highest-rated quotation (submitted by Systems Plus), and the lowest-rated quotation (which all quoted prices approximately 15 percent lower than the awardee's price) were at best weak and would not provide a comfortable level of confidence for good performance in this program, placing success, in the opinion of the evaluators and contracting officer, at risk. Award Documentation,
 To the extent Systems Plus contends that the RFQ improperly failed to identify the relative weight of the evaluation factors, the matter is untimely as it concerns an apparent impropriety in the solicitation that should have been challenged prior to the closing date. Bid Protest Regulations, 4 C.F.R. sect. 21.2(a)(1) (2005). In any event, as discussed below, Systems Plus in fact acknowledges that all vendors reasonably should have assumed that the three evaluation factors would be given equal weight by the evaluators. Protester's Third Supplemental Protest Comments,
As the agency reports, and the protester agrees, where a solicitation fails to indicate the relative importance of price and technical factors, it is reasonable to assume the factors are approximately equal in weight. See Beneco Enters., Inc., B-283154,
In its second supplemental protest, Systems Plus asserted that the agency improperly failed to terminate the award to Aquilent after the Small Business Administration (SBA) determined the firm was not a small business. DOL reports that there are intervening vendors in line for award before the protester in the event its protest on this ground were sustained; accordingly, Systems Plus is not an interested party to pursue the protest. See 4 C.F.R. sect. 21.0(a); Medical Info. Servs., B'287824,