B-145337, JUN. 2, 1961

B-145337: Jun 2, 1961

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TO THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER DATED APRIL 25. WERE REQUESTED ON COMPONENTS OF A SIGNAL CONDITIONING SYSTEM. GREGORY STATES THAT HE WAS ADVISED ITEM 17 MUST BE BID IN ORDER TO BE RESPONSIVE TO THE INVITATION FOR BIDS. THAT IF A BID WERE SUBMITTED ON AN ITEM THAT DEVIATED FROM THE SPECIFICATIONS OF THE INVITATION. ENCLOSED WITH THE SONEX BID WERE SPECIFICATIONS DESCRIBING ALL ITEMS EXCEPT THE VOLTAGE REGULATORS. THE SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE OSCILLATORS REFER TO INTERNAL REGULATORS WHICH INDICATES THAT THE REGULATORS WERE BUILT IN. SONEX ALLEGES THAT IT BID ON ITEM 17 BECAUSE IT WAS ADVISED THAT IT WAS NECESSARY TO BE RESPONSIVE AND THAT ITS BID ON ITEMS 1 THROUGH 16 WAS BASED ON FURNISHING OSCILLATORS WITH BUILT-IN REGULATORS.

B-145337, JUN. 2, 1961

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER DATED APRIL 25, 1961, WITH ENCLOSURES, FROM THE DEPUTY FOR PROCUREMENT AND PRODUCTION, RELATIVE TO THE PROTEST OF SONEX, INC., PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, AGAINST THE POSSIBLE AWARD OF A CONTRACT TO VECTOR MANUFACTURING COMPANY, INC., UNDER INVITATION FOR BIDS NO. 08-635-61-120, ISSUED BY EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA.

BIDS TO BE OPENED FEBRUARY 21, 1961 (EXTENDED TO FEBRUARY 27, 1961), WERE REQUESTED ON COMPONENTS OF A SIGNAL CONDITIONING SYSTEM, CONSISTING OF 19 ITEMS OF ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT, ITEMS 1 THROUGH 16 COVERING OSCILLATORS, AND ITEMS 17, 18 AND 19 COVERING VOLTAGE REGULATORS, AMPLIFIERS AND MOUNTING ASSEMBLIES RESPECTIVELY. ON FEBRUARY 16, 1961, MR. GREGORY, CHIEF ENGINEER OF SONEX, INC., CALLED MR. J. D. QUALLS, BUYER FOR THIS PROCUREMENT, AND REQUESTED ADVICE AS TO WHETHER A BID ON OSCILLATORS WITH BUILT-IN VOLTAGE REGULATORS, THEREBY ELIMINATING ITEM 17, WOULD BE RESPONSIVE. MR. GREGORY STATES THAT HE WAS ADVISED ITEM 17 MUST BE BID IN ORDER TO BE RESPONSIVE TO THE INVITATION FOR BIDS. HOWEVER, MR. QUALLS STATES HE ADVISED MR. GREGORY THAT HE COULD NOT INSTRUCT HIM HOW THE BID SHOULD BE SUBMITTED, BUT THAT IF A BID WERE SUBMITTED ON AN ITEM THAT DEVIATED FROM THE SPECIFICATIONS OF THE INVITATION, THE BID SHOULD BE QUALIFIED BY LETTER OR OTHER NOTATIONS.

THREE BIDDERS, INCLUDING VECTOR MANUFACTURING COMPANY, INC., PROPOSED TO FURNISH ITEMS 1 THROUGH 16 WITH BUILT-IN REGULATORS AND DID NOT BID ON ITEM 17, INDICATING ON THEIR BIDS THAT THIS ITEM WOULD NOT BE REQUIRED. SONEX BID ALL ITEMS AND TOOK NO EXCEPTION TO THE SPECIFICATIONS ON THE FACE OF ITS BID OR BY SEPARATE COMMUNICATION, BUT ENCLOSED WITH THE SONEX BID WERE SPECIFICATIONS DESCRIBING ALL ITEMS EXCEPT THE VOLTAGE REGULATORS, AND THE SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE OSCILLATORS REFER TO INTERNAL REGULATORS WHICH INDICATES THAT THE REGULATORS WERE BUILT IN.

SONEX ALLEGES THAT IT BID ON ITEM 17 BECAUSE IT WAS ADVISED THAT IT WAS NECESSARY TO BE RESPONSIVE AND THAT ITS BID ON ITEMS 1 THROUGH 16 WAS BASED ON FURNISHING OSCILLATORS WITH BUILT-IN REGULATORS, AND POINTS OUT THAT THE FACT THAT THE BID PRICES OF SONEX AND VECTOR ON ITEMS 1 THROUGH 16 WERE IDENTICAL IS FURTHER EVIDENCE THAT THEY WERE BIDDING ON THE SAME ITEM. HOWEVER, THE CONTRACTING OFFICER HAS CONCLUDED THAT THE BID OF SONEX MAY ONLY BE INTERPRETED AS OFFERING SEPARATE VOLTAGE REGULATORS AS CALLED FOR BY THE SPECIFICATIONS, AND THE BIDS OFFERING BUILT-IN REGULATORS ARE ALSO RESPONSIVE, AND THAT AWARD SHOULD BE MADE TO VECTOR MANUFACTURING COMPANY, THE LOWEST AGGREGATE BIDDER ON THE LATTER BASIS.

IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE THAT IN THE CONVERSATIONS WHICH TOOK PLACE PRIOR TO THE SUBMISSION OF ITS BID, SONEX MIGHT HAVE RECEIVED THE IMPRESSION THAT ITEM 17 MUST BE BID, AND WHERE AWARD IS BEING MADE ON A BASIS THAT DIFFERS IN ANY WAY FROM THAT ORIGINALLY CONTEMPLATED BY THE INVITATION IT SHOULD BE VERY CLEAR THAT ALL BIDDERS HAVE HAD FULL INFORMATION AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO COMPETE.

THE COMPETITIVE BIDDING SYSTEM REQUIRES THAT BIDDERS BE INFORMED OF THE BASIS ON WHICH THE BIDS WILL BE EVALUATED AND THE ELIMINATION OF ONE ITEM ON THE BASIS THAT IT WILL BE BUILT INTO 16 OTHER ITEMS APPEARS TO CONSTITUTE SUCH DEVIATION FROM THE METHOD OF EVALUATION CONTEMPLATED BY THE ORIGINAL INVITATION AS TO REQUIRE THAT ALL BIDDERS BE PLACED ON NOTICE OF SAME. IF THE PURCHASING ACTIVITY WAS NOT PREVIOUSLY ON NOTICE THAT THESE OSCILLATORS WERE MANUFACTURED WITH BUILT-IN VOLTAGE REGULATORS, THE CALL FROM SONEX GAVE NOTICE OF THIS FACT AND OF THE EXISTING DOUBT THAT BIDS ON SUCH BASIS WOULD BE CONSIDERED RESPONSIVE. IT IS OUR VIEW THAT SONEX WAS ENTITLED TO A DEFINITE ANSWER AS TO WHETHER SUCH BIDS WOULD BE CONSIDERED AND SINCE THE REQUEST FOR A RULING WAS MADE ELEVEN DAYS BEFORE THE OPENING DATE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN APPROPRIATE TO ISSUE AN AMENDMENT CLARIFYING THIS SITUATION.

FROM THE FOREGOING IT DOES NOT APPEAR THAT ALL BIDDERS HAD THE EQUALITY CONTEMPLATED BY THE RULES OF COMPETITIVE BIDDING. ACCORDINGLY, ALL BIDS SHOULD BE REJECTED AND THE PROCUREMENT READVERTISED, STATING CLEARLY THE BASIS UPON WHICH EVALUATION AND AWARD WILL BE MADE.