B-120041, JUNE 17, 1954, 33 COMP. GEN. 595

B-120041: Jun 17, 1954

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WHICH ARE DRAFTED TO ELIMINATE KNOWN UNDESIRABLE FEATURES OF SUCH MACHINES. WHICH ARE WRITTEN WITH A VIEW TOWARD PERMITTING A MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF COMPETITION AMONG CONCERNS EQUIPPED TO SUPPLY THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT ARE NOT UNDULY RESTRICTIVE. EVEN THOUGH THE SPECIFICATIONS ARE BASED TO A LARGE EXTENT UPON A MACHINE THAT HAS BEEN PREVIOUSLY MANUFACTURED BY ONLY ONE COMPANY. 1954: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MAY 12. A CONTRACT WAS NEGOTIATED IN JUNE. ANOTHER CONTRACT WAS NEGOTIATED WITH THAT COMPANY IN JANUARY. TWO CONTRACTS WERE NEGOTIATED IN FEBRUARY AND NOVEMBER. THERE ARE SET FORTH THE RESULTS OBTAINED IN THE OPERATION OF THE MACHINES FURNISHED BY THE TWO COMPANIES. IT WAS FOUND THAT THE STAMPS WOULD NOT RUN TRUE ON THE FEED ROLL.

B-120041, JUNE 17, 1954, 33 COMP. GEN. 595

BIDS - SPECIFICATIONS - RESTRICTIVE - PARTICULAR MAKE SPECIFICATIONS, ACCOMPANYING AN INVITATION FOR BIDS TO FURNISH POSTAGE STAMP DISPENSING MACHINES, WHICH ARE DRAFTED TO ELIMINATE KNOWN UNDESIRABLE FEATURES OF SUCH MACHINES; WHICH DO NOT OVERSTATE THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT; AND WHICH ARE WRITTEN WITH A VIEW TOWARD PERMITTING A MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF COMPETITION AMONG CONCERNS EQUIPPED TO SUPPLY THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT ARE NOT UNDULY RESTRICTIVE, EVEN THOUGH THE SPECIFICATIONS ARE BASED TO A LARGE EXTENT UPON A MACHINE THAT HAS BEEN PREVIOUSLY MANUFACTURED BY ONLY ONE COMPANY, BUT WHICH THROUGH EXPERIENCE AND TESTS HAS BEEN SHOWN TO POSSESS THE CHARACTERISTICS MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE DEPARTMENT.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL WEITZEL TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, JUNE 17, 1954:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MAY 12, 1954, REQUESTING A DECISION AS TO THE PROPRIETY OF THE SPECIFICATIONS MADE A PART OF INVITATION NO. 2493, ISSUED ON MARCH 25, 1954, FOR BIDS ON 500 POSTAGE STAMP DISPENSING MACHINES, WINDOW TYPE.

THE RECORD SHOWS THAT, AS THE OUTGROWTH OF A PROJECT TO DEVELOP A SATISFACTORY TYPE OF POSTAGE STAMP DISPENSING MACHINE FOR USE AT POST OFFICE SERVICE WINDOWS, A CONTRACT WAS NEGOTIATED IN JUNE, 1951, WITH THE JOHNSON FARE BOX COMPANY, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, TO PRODUCE SUCH A MACHINE AT A PRICE OF $9,840.39, CONSIDERED SUFFICIENT TO COVER ALL MATERIAL AND EXPERIMENTAL COSTS. ANOTHER CONTRACT WAS NEGOTIATED WITH THAT COMPANY IN JANUARY, 1953, FOR THE PURCHASE OF THREE ADDITIONAL DISPENSERS AT $4,300 EACH. AS A FURTHER INCIDENT TO THE PROJECT, TWO CONTRACTS WERE NEGOTIATED IN FEBRUARY AND NOVEMBER, 1953, WITH ELECTRIC VENDORS, INC., ONE FOR SIX MACHINES AT A TOTAL PRICE OF $6,500, AND ANOTHER FOR ONE MACHINE AT A PRICE OF $1,083.33.

IN A MEMORANDUM DATED APRIL 13, 1954, FROM MR. ALBRIGHT TO MR. BANTON, CHIEF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER, OF YOUR DEPARTMENT, THERE ARE SET FORTH THE RESULTS OBTAINED IN THE OPERATION OF THE MACHINES FURNISHED BY THE TWO COMPANIES. IN THE CASE OF THE JOHNSON FARE BOX COMPANY MACHINE, IT WAS FOUND THAT THE STAMPS WOULD NOT RUN TRUE ON THE FEED ROLL; THAT THE CUTTER WOULD NOT RETURN SUFFICIENTLY TO STOP THE MOTOR AFTER EACH DISPENSING OPERATION; AND THAT THE BELT DRIVING THE DISPENSING UNIT REQUIRED CONTINUOUS ADJUSTMENTS. FURTHER, IT APPEARS THAT SEVERAL OF THE MOTORS BURNED OUT AND, WHILE THE COMPANY MADE VARIOUS CHANGES, THE DEFECT IN THE MACHINES WHICH RELATED TO THE RUNNING OF STAMPS OFF THE FEED ROLL WAS NOT ELIMINATED ENTIRELY.

WHILE CERTAIN FAILURES WERE REPORTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OF THE MACHINES PRODUCED BY ELECTRIC VENDORS, INC., THE MACHINES APPEAR TO HAVE OPERATED GENERALLY IN A SATISFACTORY MANNER AND THE COMPANY IS STATED AS HAVING MADE CERTAIN IMPROVEMENTS WHICH APPARENTLY HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN CORRECTING THE REPORTED DEFECTS. MOST OF THE FEATURES OF THE LATTER TYPE OF MACHINE WERE INCORPORATED IN THE DEPARTMENT'S SPECIFICATIONS.

ON THE BASIS OF ALLEGEDLY SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE OF ITS MACHINE, THE JOHNSON FARE BOX COMPANY HAS OBJECTED TO THE SPECIFICATIONS PROPOSED TO BE USED IN THE PROCUREMENT UNDER INVITATION NO. 2493. YOU REQUEST A DECISION AS TO WHETHER THE SPECIFICATIONS WOULD BE UNDULY RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION.

IN THE DECISION OF APRIL 23, 1954, 33 COMP. GEN. 524, TO WHICH YOU REFER, IT WAS HELD THAT AN INVITATION FOR BIDS FOR THE PURCHASE OF PLATFORM STOOLS ISSUED BY YOUR DEPARTMENT WAS LEGALLY DEFECTIVE. HOWEVER, THAT CONCLUSION WAS RENDERED SOLELY ON THE GROUND THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS WERE DRAWN SO AS TO REQUIRE THE USE OF A PATENTED ADJUSTING DEVICE FOR THE STOOL WITHOUT AFFORDING BIDDERS AN OPPORTUNITY TO OFFER SUBSTITUTE "OR EQUAL" ITEMS. THAT IS NOT THE SITUATION HERE.

FROM THE RECORD PRESENTED, THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE PRESENT CASE DO NOT APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN OVERSTATED IN ANY RESPECT. WHAT WAS DESIRED WAS A COMPACT AND EASILY ASSEMBLED MACHINE OF SIMPLE CONSTRUCTION HAVING A MINIMUM OF OPERATING PARTS WHICH CAN BE INSTALLED AND MAINTAINED EASILY. THE MACHINE OF THE TYPE PRODUCED BY ELECTRIC VENDORS, INC., SATISFIED THOSE REQUIREMENTS AND PROVED SUCCESSFUL IN ACTUAL OPERATION. AND THE COST OF PRODUCING SUCH A MACHINE HAD BEEN FOUND TO BE CONSIDERABLY LESS THAN THE COST OF PRODUCING THE LARGER TYPE OF MACHINE FURNISHED BY THE JOHNSON FARE BOX COMPANY. THIS DIFFERENCE IN COST, WITH THE SMALLER MACHINE PROVING ADEQUATE FOR THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT, WOULD APPEAR IN ITSELF TO HAVE JUSTIFIED THE PREPARATION OF THE SPECIFICATIONS ON THE BASIS OF ACQUIRING THE SMALLER TYPE OF MACHINE. SEE 16 COMP. GEN. 464, 471. BUT, IN ADDITION, THERE ARE SET FORTH IN YOUR LETTER OTHER ADVANTAGES OF THE SMALLER MACHINE OVER THAT OF THE MACHINE FURNISHED BY THE JOHNSON FARE BOX COMPANY.

THE DEPARTMENTAL SPECIFICATIONS APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN WRITTEN WITH A VIEW TOWARD PERMITTING A MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF COMPETITION AMONG CONCERNS EQUIPPED TO SUPPLY THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT. OF COURSE, THE CHOICE OF CERTAIN FEATURES WAS NECESSARILY LIMITED BY REASON OF THE FACT THAT ONLY TWO KNOWN TYPES OF THESE MACHINES HAD BEEN DEVELOPED. IN SUM, HOWEVER, THE DRAFTING OF THESE SPECIFICATIONS SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN A QUESTION OF ELIMINATING KNOWN UNDESIRABLE FEATURES RATHER THAN FITTING THE SPECIFICATIONS TO THE PRODUCT OF ONE MANUFACTURER.

IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT TWO BIDS WERE RECEIVED IN RESPONSE TO THE GOVERNMENT'S INVITATION FOR BIDS, ONE FOR ELECTRIC VENDORS, INC., AND ANOTHER FROM THE COMPANY WHICH BUILT THE MACHINES FURNISHED BY THE JOHNSON FARE BOX COMPANY. THIS WOULD APPEAR TO INDICATE THAT FORMAL ADVERTISING WAS THE PREFERRED METHOD OF PROCUREMENT AND THAT THE SPECIFICATIONS WERE NOT IN FACT UNDULY RESTRICTIVE EVEN THOUGH BASED TO A LARGE EXTENT UPON THE SIZE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF A MACHINE WHICH ONLY ELECTRIC VENDORS, INC., HAD PREVIOUSLY MANUFACTURED.

ACCORDINGLY, YOU ARE ADVISED THAT ON THE PRESENT RECORD THIS OFFICE PERCEIVES NO BASIS FOR TAKING EXCEPTION TO THE SPECIFICATIONS FORMING A PART OF INVITATION NO. 2493.