B-183131, APR 16, 1975

B-183131: Apr 16, 1975

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ESTABLISHMENT OF TEST PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE MINIMUM QUALITY STANDARDS FOR IRONED PRODUCTS IS MATTER ENTRUSTED TO DISCRETION OF COGNIZANT TECHNICAL ACTIVITY. THERE IS NO BASIS TO QUESTION IT. 2. PROTESTER'S FEAR THAT ITS QUALITY TEST RESULTS MAY BE SABOTAGED IS OVERCOME BY AGENCY'S OFFER TO PERMIT PROTESTER TO VIEW AND COMMENT ON TEST PROCEDURES. DISPENZA & ASSOCIATES: THIS IS THE THIRD PROTEST LODGED BY CHARLES J. THAT VA'S ADMINISTRATIVE PREFERENCE FOR A SYSTEM THAT BETTER REMOVES WRINKLES FROM ALL COTTON AND HEAVIER WEIGHT MATERIAL IS AN INSUFFICIENT REASON TO UNDULY RESTRICT COMPETITION. THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF FLATWORK PRODUCED IS A FUNCTION OF THE CAPABILITY OF THE INDIVIDUALS OPERATING THE MACHINES.

B-183131, APR 16, 1975

1. ESTABLISHMENT OF TEST PROCEDURES TO DETERMINE MINIMUM QUALITY STANDARDS FOR IRONED PRODUCTS IS MATTER ENTRUSTED TO DISCRETION OF COGNIZANT TECHNICAL ACTIVITY. SINCE NO EVIDENCE HAS BEEN PRESENTED THAT DISPUTES REASONABLENESS OF PROCEDURE, THERE IS NO BASIS TO QUESTION IT. 2. PROTESTER'S FEAR THAT ITS QUALITY TEST RESULTS MAY BE SABOTAGED IS OVERCOME BY AGENCY'S OFFER TO PERMIT PROTESTER TO VIEW AND COMMENT ON TEST PROCEDURES.

CHARLES J. DISPENZA & ASSOCIATES:

THIS IS THE THIRD PROTEST LODGED BY CHARLES J. DISPENZA & ASSOCIATES (DISPENZA) CONCERNING THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION (VA) SPECIFICATION FOR A FLATWORK IRONER AT ITS WILKES-BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA, HOSPITAL.

OUR FIRST DECISION ON THIS ITEM, B-178508, OCTOBER 23, 1973, RECOMMENDED THAT THE VA SOLICITATION FOR THE IRONER BE CANCELED BECAUSE THE VA SPECIFICATION UNDULY RESTRICTED COMPETITION. WE REACHED THIS CONCLUSION BECAUSE THE VA IMPOSED AN UNNECESSARY DESIGN REQUIREMENT ON ITS PERFORMANCE TYPE SPECIFICATION. WE RECOMMENDED THAT VA REVIEW ITS SPECIFICATION TO PROVIDE BIDDERS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MEET ITS PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENT BY USING A DESIGN OTHER THAN THE ONE SPECIFIED.

SUBSEQUENTLY, VA ISSUED THREE SOLICITATIONS, INCLUDING WILKES-BARRE, WHICH INCORPORATED VA SPECIFICATION X-1421, APPARENTLY WITHOUT CONSIDERING OUR RECOMMENDATION. THIS GAVE RISE TO OUR DECISION IN THE MATTER OF CHARLES J. DISPENZA & ASSOCIATES, ET AL., B-181102, B-180720, AUGUST 15, 1974. TO JUSTIFY THE RETENTION OF THE DESIGN REQUIREMENT, THE VA ADVANCED THE REASON THAT AN IRONER, OTHER THAN THE DESIGN TYPE SPECIFIED, DOES NOT PERFORM WELL ON SMALL PIECES AND HEAVIER ITEMS OF LAUNDRY.

WE AFFIRMED B-178508, SUPRA, THAT VA'S ADMINISTRATIVE PREFERENCE FOR A SYSTEM THAT BETTER REMOVES WRINKLES FROM ALL COTTON AND HEAVIER WEIGHT MATERIAL IS AN INSUFFICIENT REASON TO UNDULY RESTRICT COMPETITION. STATED FURTHER:

"*** THE QUALITY OF THE IRONING OF THE LINEN CAN BE ASCERTAINED BY INSPECTION OF THE PERFORMANCE OF THE OFFERED IRONERS AT FUNCTIONING INSTALLATIONS. IN PART, THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF FLATWORK PRODUCED IS A FUNCTION OF THE CAPABILITY OF THE INDIVIDUALS OPERATING THE MACHINES. HOWEVER, WE BELIEVE THAT THE CONDITIONS OF THE INSPECTION ARE MATTERS TO BE RESOLVED BY THE VA AND PROTESTERS.

"*** WE DID NOT STATE (IN B-178508, SUPRA) THAT VA WAS REQUIRED TO ACCEPT EQUIPMENT THAT COULD NOT MEET ITS PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS AND MINIMUM QUALITY STANDARDS. RATHER, IT IS OUR VIEW THAT IT IS INAPPROPRIATE TO STATE WHETHER THE IRONER IS TO BE CHEST OR ROLL-TYPE, THE SPECIFICATIONS OF PERFORMANCE AND QUALITY REQUIREMENTS BEING THE MINIMUM NEED OF THE VA. AGAIN, WE NOTE THAT *** VA (HAS) *** THE OPPORTUNITY TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE PROFFERED EQUIPMENT WILL MEET ITS NEEDS THROUGH ONSITE INSPECTIONS."

VA THEREAFTER ISSUED THE INSTANT INVITATION FOR BIDS (IFB) (M2-19-75) ON JANUARY 24, 1975. THE SPECIFICATION FOR THE IRONER REFLECTED OUR RECOMMENDATION BY REMOVING THE DESIGN REQUIREMENT. THE SPECIFICATION WAS ISSUED AFTER SOLICITING COMMENTS FROM THE LAUNDRY MACHINERY INDUSTRY. SPECIFICALLY, VA RECEIVED CONCURRENCE FROM THE IRONER MANUFACTURERS FOR THE PROPOSED PRODUCTION AND QUALITY REQUIREMENTS.

THE PARTICULAR FOCUS OF DISPENZA'S PROTEST IS THE TEST METHOD AND IMPLEMENTATION SPECIFIED. PARAGRAPH 4.7.3 REQUIRES, IN PERTINENT PART:

"*** AFTER ITEMS HAVE BEEN PROCESSED THROUGH THE FLATWORK IRONER AND WEIGHED, THEY WILL BE RATED FOR QUALITY IN ACCORDANCE WITH AATCC TEST METHOD 124. APPEARANCE OF THE FINISHED FLATWORK ITEMS SHALL HAVE A MINIMUM RATING OF 4.0 WHEN COMPARED WITH APPLICABLE AATCC FABRIC APPEARANCE REPLICAS. FAILURE OF THE FLATWORK IRONERS TO PRODUCE THE MINIMUM IN EITHER QUANTITY OR QUALITY WILL BE CAUSE FOR REJECTION."

DISPENZA FEARS THAT THE QUALITY TEST MAY BE SABOTAGED TO ITS DETRIMENT. TO REMEDY THIS, DISPENZA SUGGESTS PARTICULAR INDIVIDUALS TO COMPRISE THE QUALITY EVALUATION COMMITTEE IN ORDER TO COMPENSATE FOR THE VARIABLES ENCOUNTERED IN EACH HOSPITAL. ALSO, DISPENZA PROPOSES THAT THE QUALITY TEST BE CONDUCTED ONLY ONCE WITH THE RESULTS BEING CONCLUSIVE VA-WIDE AND OBVIATING THE NEED FOR ANY FURTHER TESTING ON FUTURE VA PROCUREMENTS OF THIS ITEM.

THE VA HAS RESPONDED THAT DISPENZA, OR ANY INTERESTED PARTY, MAY WITNESS THE TEST AND COMMENT ON THE PROCEDURES USED. VA STATES ITS WILLINGNESS TO USE AN EVALUATION COMMITTEE, BUT COMPOSED OF VA PERSONNEL WHO WILL UTILIZE THE IRONER AND ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS MAINTENANCE. FURTHER, VA INDICATES THAT THE QUALITY TESTING PROCEDURE WILL BE APPLIED ONCE, BUT TO EACH IRONER PURCHASED AT EACH INSTALLATION.

AS A GENERAL RULE, THE PREPARATION OF SPECIFICATIONS TO REFLECT THE GOVERNMENT'S MINIMUM NEEDS ARE COMMITTED TO THE DISCRETION OF THE PROCURING ACTIVITY AND WILL BE QUESTIONED ONLY WHEN EVIDENCE IS SUBMITTED TO SHOW THAT THE DETERMINATION WAS WITHOUT A REASONABLE FACTUAL BASIS. MATTER OF GALION MANUFACTURING COMPANY, ET AL., B 181227, DECEMBER 10, 1974, MATTER OF ALLEN AND VICKERS, INC; AMERICAN LAUNDRY MACHINERY, B- 181359, DECEMBER 7, 1974, 54 COMP. GEN. . THE ESTABLISHMENT OF QUALIFICATION AND TESTING PROCEDURES IS A MATTER OF SPECIFICATION PREPARATION AND IS ALSO A MATTER WITHIN THE AMBIT OF THE EXPERTISE OF THE COGNIZANT TECHNICAL ACTIVITY. 52 COMP. GEN. 778 (1973); B-172901, B- 173039, B-173087, NOVEMBER 14, 1971; B-173196, B 174035, DECEMBER 8, 1971. SINCE DISPENZA HAS PRESENTED NO INFORMATION THAT DISPUTES THE REASONABLENESS OF THE QUALITY TEST PROCEDURE, THERE IS NO BASIS FOR OUR OFFICE TO QUESTION THE TEST PROCEDURE. THE OPPORTUNITY AFFORDED DISPENZA TO ATTEND THE ACTUAL TEST AT EACH INSTALLATION, AND COMMENT THEREON, SHOULD SUFFICE TO ASSUAGE ITS FEARS THAT ITS RESULTS WILL BE SABOTAGED.

THE PROTEST IS DENIED.