B-143868, SEP. 8, 1960

B-143868: Sep 8, 1960

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THE PUBLIC PRINTER: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED AUGUST 29. THE BIDS WERE OPENED ON AUGUST 12. WERE ALSO RECEIVED. THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY BID UNIT RATES DID NOT INDICATE WHETHER THE UNIT WAS SQUARE FEET. WAS UNABLE TO ARRIVE AT THE TOTAL AMOUNT QUOTED FOR EACH RESPECTIVE ITEM. TO MAKE THE AWARD TO THAT COMPANY BASED ON UNIT RATES WHICH WERE OBTAINED BY DIVIDING THE TOTAL AMOUNT QUOTED FOR EACH ITEM BY 50 PIECES. PURCHASE ORDER NO. 3867 FOR A TOTAL AMOUNT OF $408 WAS ISSUED AND MAILED TO THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY. THE ALLEGATION OF ERROR IN BID WAS CONFIRMED BY MR. HE EXPLAINED THAT THE COMPANY'S UNIT PRICE ON THE FIRST ITEM IS "13 1/2 CENTS" PER SQUARE FOOT AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN BASED ON 4 BY 12 OR 48 SQUARE FEET.

B-143868, SEP. 8, 1960

TO RAYMOND BLATTENBERGER, THE PUBLIC PRINTER:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED AUGUST 29, 1960, WITH ENCLOSURES, REQUESTING A DECISION AS TO WHETHER PURCHASE ORDER NO. 3867 ISSUED AUGUST 17, 1960, TO THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, MAY BE CANCELED.

ON JULY 29, 1960, THE GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE ADVERTISED FOR PRICES ON 50 PIECES OF WALL BOARD, TEMPERED MASONITE, 1/4 BY 48 BY 144 IN. AND 50 PIECES OF WALL BOARD, TEMPERED MASONITE, 3/16 BY 48 BY 144 IN., FOR SHIPMENT WITHIN TWO WEEKS AFTER RECEIPT OF AN ORDER. THE BIDS WERE OPENED ON AUGUST 12, 1960. THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY SUBMITTED A BID IN A TOTAL AMOUNT OF $408, WITH A QUOTATION OF "13 1/2 CENTS" IN THE UNIT PRICE COLUMN ON THE FIRST ITEM AND OF "12 CENTS" ON THE SECOND ITEM. FOUR OTHER BIDS, RANGING IN TOTAL AMOUNTS FROM $523.20 TO $847.20, WERE ALSO RECEIVED. THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY BID UNIT RATES DID NOT INDICATE WHETHER THE UNIT WAS SQUARE FEET, BOARD FEET, POUNDS, OR PIECES. ALL OTHER BIDDERS, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ONE WHO QUOTED ON A PER THOUSAND SQUARE FOOT BASIS, INDICATED THE UNIT PRICES AS PER PIECE.

YOU STATE THAT IN EVALUATING BIDS THE CONTRACTING OFFICER TRIED TO ARRIVE AT THE BASIS OF THE BOND COMPANY QUOTATIONS ON EACH OF THE ITEMS. MULTIPLIED THE UNIT RATE BY SQUARE FEET, BOARD FEET, AND PIECES, BUT WAS UNABLE TO ARRIVE AT THE TOTAL AMOUNT QUOTED FOR EACH RESPECTIVE ITEM. DECIDED, HOWEVER, TO MAKE THE AWARD TO THAT COMPANY BASED ON UNIT RATES WHICH WERE OBTAINED BY DIVIDING THE TOTAL AMOUNT QUOTED FOR EACH ITEM BY 50 PIECES; AND ON AUGUST 17, 1960, PURCHASE ORDER NO. 3867 FOR A TOTAL AMOUNT OF $408 WAS ISSUED AND MAILED TO THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY.

THEREAFTER, ON AUGUST 19, 1960, UPON RECEIPT OF THE PURCHASE ORDER, ALVIN A. WOLF OF THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY TELEPHONED THE CONTRACTING OFFICER AND ADVISED HIM THAT THE COMPANY'S BID HAD BEEN COMPUTED ON THE BASIS OF 32 (4 BY 8) SQUARE FEET PER PIECE RATHER THAN THE CORRECT FIGURE OF 48 (4 BY 12) SQUARE FEET PER PIECE. THE ALLEGATION OF ERROR IN BID WAS CONFIRMED BY MR. WOLF IN A LETTER DATED AUGUST 19, 1960. HE EXPLAINED THAT THE COMPANY'S UNIT PRICE ON THE FIRST ITEM IS "13 1/2 CENTS" PER SQUARE FOOT AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN BASED ON 4 BY 12 OR 48 SQUARE FEET, AND THAT THE CORRECT PRICE OF THE FIRST ITEM SHOULD BE "$6.44" PER PIECE, FOR A TOTAL OF $322 ON 50 PIECES, AND THAT THE CORRECT PRICE ON THE SECOND ITEM SHOULD BE 48 SQUARE FEET AT "12 CENTS" PER SQUARE FOOT OR $5.76 PER PIECE, MAKING A TOTAL OF $288 FOR 50 PIECES, WITH A CORRECT TOTAL PRICE FOR THE TWO ITEMS OF $610. HE REQUESTED PERMISSION EITHER TO AMEND THE COMPANY'S TOTAL BID PRICE TO $610 OR TO WITHDRAW ITS BID, OR BE ALLOWED TO FURNISH A FOREIGN BOARD EQUAL TO WHAT IT WOULD HAVE QUOTED ON AT THE AWARD PRICE. THE RECORD INDICATES THAT THE CONTRACTING OFFICER HAS STATED THAT THE BID WAS NOT CLEAR AS TO HOW THE COMPANY INTENDED THE UNIT PRICES TO BE USED AND THAT HE SHOULD HAVE REQUESTED THE COMPANY TO EXPLAIN THE UNIT RATE BEFORE AWARDING A CONTRACT FOR THIS MATERIAL. YOU STATE THAT IF THIS HAD BEEN DONE THE AWARD WOULD HAVE BEEN MADE TO ANOTHER BIDDER.

ON THE RECORD, THERE IS LITTLE ROOM FOR DOUBT THAT THE COMPANY MADE ERRORS IN ITS BID PRICES ON THE TWO ITEMS, AS ALLEGED. THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN THIS CASE ARE NOT SUCH, HOWEVER, AS WOULD WARRANT A DEPARTURE FROM THE GENERAL RULE THAT BIDS MAY NOT BE CHANGED AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN OPENED. SEE 17 COMP. GEN. 575. HOWEVER, SINCE THE BID WAS AMBIGUOUS AND SINCE THE CONTRACTING OFFICER WAS AWARE AT THE TIME OF EVALUATING THE BID OF THE POSSIBILITY OF ERROR THEREIN BUT DID NOT REQUEST THE BOND LUMBER COMPANY TO VERIFY ITS BID PRIOR TO ACCEPTANCE, SUCH ACCEPTANCE DID NOT RESULT IN A VALID AND BINDING CONTRACT.

IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, AND SINCE THE BIDDER PROMPTLY UPON RECEIPT OF THE AWARD EXPLAINED THE AMBIGUITY IN ITS BID AND STATED WHAT ITS INTENDED BID SHOULD HAVE BEEN, THE AWARD OF PURCHASE ORDER NO. 3867 MAY BE CANCELED.

THE PAPERS, EXCEPT THE LETTER FROM BOND LUMBER COMPANY, ARE RETURNED, AS REQUESTED.