Protest of Army Contract Award

B-200200: Apr 6, 1981

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A firm protested the award of a contract for word processing equipment under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of the Army. When the firm was notified by telephone of the award, it lodged an oral protest with the contracting officer and visited the contracting office on three occasions in attempts to resolve the protest. A subsequent written notification of the award was taken as a denial of its oral protest, and the firm filed a protest with GAO. The protester: (1) argued that the cost evaluation should have been done on a 60-month basis as specified in the RFP rather than the 12-month basis the Army actually used; (2) criticized the 10-point maximum score the Army allowed for the sort capability evaluation factor, pointing out that the RFP provided that equipment sorting a greater number of fields simultaneously would be awarded a greater number of points; and (3) argued that one of the evaluators erroneously gave the awardee four points under the screen size evaluation factor for its minimally required half page screen, when the RFP stated that equipment offering more than a half page screen would be awarded additional points. The Army argued that the protest was untimely because the protester should have known the basis for its protest when it was notified by telephone that the award had been made. Nothing in the record indicated that the Army denied the oral protest prior to the written notice of award. Therefore, GAO found the protest to be timely. GAO found that, because of a disparity in scoring cost evaluation over a 12-month period, it could not be determined accurately how the evaluators would have scored cost proposals on a 60-month basis. Therefore, it could not be concluded that the awardee would have been entitled to the award regardless of the life period used for the evaluation. As to the sort capability factor, GAO believed that it was defective and that the defect was prejudicial to the protester. If the evaluation method specified in the RFP had been followed, the protester would have been entitled to more points than the awardee. The Army conceded that the awardee should not have been given the four points for its screen size. GAO recommended that the remaining portion of the procurement be resolicited based on the Government's actual needs and evaluated on an objective basis to insure equality of treatment for all offers. Accordingly, the protest was sustained.