Protest Alleges Award Was Improper

B-196159: Jan 31, 1980

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A firm protested the award of a Navy contract, contending that the award was improper because the crane offered by the awardee did not meet the minimum requirements contained in the request for proposals (RFP). The Navy maintained that the protester misinterpreted the RFP requirements, and that the awardee's crane would meet its actual needs. A basic principle of Government procurement is that specifications must be sufficiently definite so as to permit competition on a common basis; the specifications must be free from ambiguity. Ambiguity exists if the specifications are susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation. In this case, the specifications were interpreted in two different ways, both of which could considered reasonable. Therefore, the specifications were ambiguous, and the bidders were not competing on a common basis. GAO recommended that the Navy resolicit this requirement using specifications free from ambiguity and, after obtaining an acceptable offer, if from other than the awardee, terminate the existing contract for the convenience of the Government and make the award under the resolicitation. If the awardee is successful under the resolicitation at a lower price, award thereunder should be made and its current contract terminated.