Cornell Companies, Inc.
B-310548, Dec 3, 2007
Cornell Companies, Inc. protests the award of a contract to Dismas Charities, Inc. by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) under request for proposals (RFP) No. 200-0953-SC, for Residential Reentry Center (RRC) services in El Paso County, Texas. Cornell asserts that the agency failed to follow the evaluation criteria set forth in the solicitation, failed to hold meaningful discussions, and made a flawed source selection decision (SSD).
We deny the protest.
B-310548, Cornell Companies, Inc., December 3, 2007
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.
2. Assessed weakness was not required to be raised in discussions where the weakness was not considered significant, and did not prevent the proposal from meeting the solicitation requirements or having a reasonable chance of award.
Cornell Companies, Inc. protests the award of a contract to Dismas Charities, Inc. by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (
Timely proposals were received from Cornell and Dismas. In accordance with the solicitation, technical/management proposals were submitted to a three-person source selection evaluation board (SSEB), which was to review the proposals under the technical/management factors stated in the solicitation: site location, accountability, programs, facility, and personnel. RFP sections M.3, M.5, at 2.0. After initial review, the SSEB chairperson requested that the contracting officer conduct discussions with the offerors based on needed clarifications and deficiencies identified in the proposals. Agency Report (AR), Tab 5, Request to Open Discussions. Written discussions were then conducted with both offerors. AR, Tab 6, Discussions with Offerors.
After discussions, the SSEB evaluated the revised technical/management proposals and the contracting officer performed the past performance and price evaluations. After these evaluations, Cornell's revised proposal received a rating of blue/very good under the past performance factor, green/acceptable under the technical/management factor, and had an evaluated price of $14,794,571.88. AR, Tab 11,
Cornell first contends that its proposal was improperly rejected based on an unstated requirement that proposed site locations be within 1 mile of public transportation. The agency argues that Cornell's proposal was not rejected for its site location, but that Cornell's proposed site location was properly considered to be a weakness in its proposal.
The record shows that Cornell's proposed facility was located approximately 13 miles outside of
From the first site inspections, the SSEB evaluators noted that the proposed facility's distance from town and public transportation, and its isolated location, represented a weakness under the site location factor/site validity and suitability subfactor. See, e.g., AR, Tab 5, Working Papers of Evaluator Kristen Brown, at 2. These concerns were adopted in the technical/management evaluation and in the
In reviewing a protest of an agency's evaluation and
The record reflects that, contrary to Cornell's assertion, its proposal was never evaluated against an absolute public transportation requirement, and was at no point found deficient or unacceptable. Throughout the evaluation process, Cornell's proposed site location was found to meet all solicitation requirements, and its proposal was included in the competitive range and received a green/acceptable rating under the technical/management factor. The record shows that Cornell's proposal was merely assessed a weakness based on concerns about its proposed facility's distance from
Cornell also makes the argument that, to the extent its proposal was downgraded, it was improperly downgraded on the basis of a site location criterion not stated in the solicitation, namely, proximity to public transportation. The agency argues that it followed the stated evaluation criteria in assessing a weakness for Cornell's proposed site location. We agree.
A solicitation must inform offerors of the basis for proposal evaluation, and the evaluation must be based on the factors and significant subfactors set forth in the solicitation. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) sect. 15.304. However, while agencies are required to identify evaluation factors and significant subfactors, they are not required to identify all areas of each factor or subfactor which might be taken into account, provided that the unidentified areas are reasonably related to or encompassed by the stated criteria. MCA Research Corp., B-278268.2,
The solicitation here included site location as an evaluation factor under the general technical/management factor, and site validity and suitability as a subfactor that evaluates the proposed site location and considers the validity of the offeror's Right-To-Use and Zoning approval. RFP sect. M.5, at 2.1.1. The solicitation also stated that the evaluation under this subfactor would consider the suitability of the site location with regards to . . . responsiveness to proximity requirements defined in the SOW. . . .
The solicitation thus clearly anticipated an evaluation of the proposed site locations, and we think the proximity considerations evaluated by the agency are both reasonably related to, and encompassed by, the site location evaluation factor in the solicitation. As such, the agency was not required to individually identify those proximity concerns as areas of evaluation, see MCA Research Corp., supra; Bank Street College of Educ., B-213209, June 8, 1984, 84-1 CPD para. 607, and the agency's assessment of a weakness in Cornell's proposal under the site location technical/management factor was reasonable.
Cornell next argues that, because the agency had serious concerns about the location offered by Cornell from the time that the site visit was performed, Comments at 7, the agency was required by the FAR to raise those concerns in discussions. When discussions are held they must at least address deficiencies and significant weaknesses in the proposals. FAR sect. 15.306(d)(3). However, the agency is not required to discuss every area where a proposal could be improved, and the scope and extent of discussions is a matter within the contracting officer's discretion.
As discussed above, the record demonstrates that Cornell's site location was never considered to be a significant weakness or deficiency, and never prevented Cornell from having a reasonable chance for award. Nowhere in the SSEB working papers, the SSEB consensus papers, the technical/management evaluation memorandum, or the
Cornell's final argument is that the
In our view, the SSA's statement simply reflects her determination that the Dismas proposal's higher rating in the overall technical/management factor, and its strengths in site location, accountability and programs, justified the payment of a premium over Cornell's lower-priced, lower technically rated proposal. While reliance on erroneous information in the
The protest is denied.
Gary L. Kepplinger
 The site location factor had two subfactors, site validity and suitability and community relations program.
 The contracting officer, in the debriefing, disclosed the site location weakness in response to Cornell's request for the government's evaluation of significant weaknesses or deficiencies in Cornell's proposal. AR, Tab 14, Debriefing Request and Written Debriefing at 1, 5. However, the issue was referred to simply as a weakness in the debriefing, as it was in all other documentation in the record.