B-128917, OCT. 2, 1956

B-128917: Oct 2, 1956

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PRESIDENT: FURTHER REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 8. THE PRINCIPAL BASIS FOR YOUR PROTEST IS THAT THE HONING MACHINE OFFERED BY THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION. THE CONTRACT SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARDED YOU. THE CONTRACT WHICH WAS AWARDED THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION SHOULD BE CANCELED FORTHWITH. AS YOU WERE ADVISED IN OUR COMMUNICATION OF AUGUST 16. THE INVITATION ABOVE REFERRED TO WAS SENT TO 20 DIFFERENT DEALERS IN MACHINE TOOL EQUIPMENT. IT WAS FOUND THAT ONLY THREE BIDDERS RESPONDED TO THE GOVERNMENT'S ADVERTISEMENT. IT WAS ESTABLISHED THAT THE BIDS OF THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION AND THE BARNES DRILL COMPANY WERE RESPONSIVE TO THE ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE INVITATION.

B-128917, OCT. 2, 1956

TO C. ALLEN FULMER, PRESIDENT:

FURTHER REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 8, 1956, PROTESTING THE AWARD BY THE BROOKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, ALABAMA, OF A HONING MACHINE CONTRACT, NO. AF01/601/19762, DATED JUNE 7, 1956, TO THE MICROMATICHONE CORPORATION, DETROIT, MICHIGAN.

THE PRINCIPAL BASIS FOR YOUR PROTEST IS THAT THE HONING MACHINE OFFERED BY THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION, PURSUANT TO THE GOVERNMENT'S INVITATION NO. IFB-01/601/56/389, ISSUED APRIL 12, 1956, ALLEGEDLY DOES NOT CONFORM TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE SPECIFICATIONS. YOU CONTEND THAT SINCE YOU OFFERED WHAT YOU CONSIDER A SUITABLE MACHINE FOR ONLY $25,176, AS COMPARED TO THE SUCCESSFUL BIDDER'S ACCEPTED QUOTATION OF $48,952.05, THE CONTRACT SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARDED YOU, AND THE CONTRACT WHICH WAS AWARDED THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION SHOULD BE CANCELED FORTHWITH.

AS YOU WERE ADVISED IN OUR COMMUNICATION OF AUGUST 16, 1956, UPON THE RECEIPT OF YOUR PROTEST WE ORDERED A COMPLETE ADMINISTRATIVE INVESTIGATION INTO THE FACTS OF THIS CASE, WHICH INVESTIGATION HAS SINCE BEEN CONCLUDED, WITH RESULTS SUBSTANTIALLY AS FOLLOWS:

ON APRIL 12, 1956, THE INVITATION ABOVE REFERRED TO WAS SENT TO 20 DIFFERENT DEALERS IN MACHINE TOOL EQUIPMENT. AT THE BID OPENING ON MAY 3, 1956, IT WAS FOUND THAT ONLY THREE BIDDERS RESPONDED TO THE GOVERNMENT'S ADVERTISEMENT, THE C. ALLEN FULMER COMPANY, MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION AND THE BARNES DRILL COMPANY. UPON A TECHNICAL EVALUATION OF THE BIDS RECEIVED, WHICH EVALUATION REPORTEDLY HAS SINCE BEEN CONFIRMED BY THE RESPONSIBLE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIALS, IT WAS ESTABLISHED THAT THE BIDS OF THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION AND THE BARNES DRILL COMPANY WERE RESPONSIVE TO THE ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE INVITATION, WHEREAS THE PRODUCT YOUR FIRM PROPOSED TO FURNISH WAS FOUND NOT TO COMPLY WITH SPECIFICATION REQUIREMENTS. HENCE, YOUR BID WAS REJECTED, AND ON JUNE 7, 1956, AWARD OF THE CONTRACT WAS MADE TO THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION, THE LOWEST RESPONSIBLE BIDDER UNDER THE GOVERNMENT'S INVITATION.

A DETAILED EXPLANATION OF THE GOVERNMENT'S ACTION IN THIS MATTER IS CONTAINED IN A REPORT DATED SEPTEMBER 20, 1956, FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE, WHICH READS, IN PERTINENT PART---

"THE HONING MACHINE IN QUESTION WAS BEING PROCURED PRINCIPALLY FOR USE AT BROOKLEY AIR FORCE BASE IN MAINTENANCE AND OVERHAUL WORK ON AIRCRAFT HYDRAULIC STRUTS, ACTIVATING CYLINDERS AND MAINTENANCE PARTS ON SUCH AIRCRAFT AS THE B-36, B-47, AND B-52. THE SPECIFICATIONS WERE DRAWN TO ASSURE THAT THE MACHINE BEING PROCURED COULD PERFORM THE PRECISION WORK REQUIRED AS WELL AS OTHER WORK OF A LESS EXACTING NATURE. IN PARTICULAR, THE SPECIFICATION CALLED FOR THE INCLUSION OF GUIDE BARS TO (1) MINIMIZE ARCING OF THE SPINDLE WHEN THE HONING TOOL ENCOUNTERS HARD SPOTS IN THE CYLINDER, (2) MAKE MANUAL ALIGNMENT OF THE SPINDLE UNNECESSARY, THEREBY ADDING TO SAFETY OF OPERATION, (3) INCREASE PRECISION OF ALIGNMENT OF THE SPINDLE IN THE SAME PLANE WHETHER FLOATING OR FIXED HONING HEADS ARE EMPLOYED, (4) REDUCE THE NEED FOR HIGHLY SKILLED OPERATORS, AND FOR A NUMBER OF OTHER TECHNICAL REASONS. PRACTICAL FIELD EXPERIENCE WITH HONING MACHINES HAS CONVINCED AIR FORCE TECHNICIANS THAT GUIDE BARS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR PRECISION WORK, AND THEY DO NOT AGREE WITH THE ASSERTION OF THE FULMER COMPANY THAT THIS REQUIREMENT DOES NOT EXIST ON DIRECT THRUST MACHINES.

"THE MACHINE OFFERED BY THE C. ALLEN FULMER COMPANY IN ITS BID DOES NOT COME EQUIPPED WITH GUIDE BARS. THIS SUBSTANTIAL DEPARTURE FROM THE SPECIFICATIONS MADE THAT BID NONRESPONSIVE TO THE SPECIFICATIONS. IN THIS CONNECTION, IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT, AS A RESULT OF THE ORIGINAL PROTEST OF THE C. ALLEN FULMER COMPANY FOLLOWING THE DECISION TO REJECT ITS BID, A SPECIAL CONFERENCE WAS HELD AT WARNER ROBINS AIR MATERIEL AREA IN EARLY AUGUST TO DISCUSS WITH MR. FULMER THE TECHNICAL DEFICIENCIES WHICH MADE HIS BID NONRESPONSIVE. THE AIR FORCE TECHNICAL PEOPLE ATTENDING THIS CONFERENCE HAVE REMAINED FIRM IN THEIR CONCLUSION THAT NOT ONLY DID THE FULMER MACHINE FAIL TO MEET THE SPECIFICATION BUT ALSO THAT THE REQUIREMENT AS TO GUIDE BARS WAS ESSENTIAL.

"IN ACTUAL FACT, HAD THE SPECIFICATIONS BEEN DRAWN WITH GREATER SPECIFICITY AS TO THE STANDARD OF PERFORMANCE ACTUALLY REQUIRED OF THIS MACHINE, IT IS THE VIEW OF OUR TECHNICAL PEOPLE THAT OTHER GROUNDS FOR REJECTION OF THE FULMER BID WOULD HAVE BEEN APPARENT. THIS CONCLUSION IS BASED ON ACTUAL EXPERIENCE WITH FULMER MACHINES WHICH HAD SIMILAR OPERATING CHARACTERISTICS. * * *"

IN CASES SUCH AS THIS, WHERE THERE IS INVOLVED ESSENTIALLY A DISPUTE OVER A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE OF FACT, YOU MUST REALIZE, OF COURSE, THAT WE, HERE IN GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, HAVE NO DIRECT OR FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE OF THE FACTS OTHER THAN AS REPORTED TO US BY THE RESPONSIBLE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIALS OF THE GOVERNMENT. THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE, HAVING AFFIRMATIVELY REPORTED TO US, AFTER DUE INVESTIGATION, THAT THE PRODUCT OFFERED BY YOU DID NOT CONFORM TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE ADVERTISED SPECIFICATIONS, WHEREAS THE PRODUCT OFFERED BY THE SUCCESSFUL BIDDER DID MEET SUCH REQUIREMENTS, WE ARE LEFT WITH NO ALTERNATIVE IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES BUT TO ACCORD FINALITY TO SUCH ADMINISTRATIVE FINDINGS, PARTICULARLY IN THE ABSENCE OF CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY. SEE 3 COMP. GEN. 51; 16 ID. 1105, 1106.

FURTHERMORE, THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE CONSISTENTLY HAS ADHERED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT THE DUTY OR FUNCTION OF DETERMINING WHETHER A PIECE OF EQUIPMENT OFFERED BY A BIDDER CONFORMS TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE SPECIFICATIONS IS STRICTLY AN ADMINISTRATIVE ONE FOR EXERCISE PRIMARILY BY THE GOVERNMENT ACTIVITY HAVING JURISDICTION OVER THE AWARD. SEE, IN THIS CONNECTION, 35 COMP. GEN. 174; PP. 179-180.

THERE HAVING BEEN A DETERMINATION BY THE CONTRACTING OFFICIALS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE THAT THE PRODUCT OFFERED BY THE MICROMATIC HONE CORPORATION DID COMPLY WITH THE PERTINENT SPECIFICATIONS, AND THAT YOUR PRODUCT DID NOT, UPON THE BASIS OF THE FACTS OF RECORD WE WOULD NOT BE JUSTIFIED IN HOLDING THAT THE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION TAKEN IN THIS CASE WAS ILLEGAL OR IMPROPER.