Protest of CIA Procurement

B-201133: Mar 18, 1981

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A manufacturer's agent protested the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) purchase from the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) of eight shelving units. The protester alleged that: (1) the entire procurement process was tainted because CIA procurement officials favored the use of the awarding manufacturer's equipment over the equipment offered by the protester; and (2) the agency's essential technical requirements were overly restrictive and derived from the awarding manufacturer's advertising brochures to ensure that only its equipment would meet the minimum needs of CIA. The protester challenged the purchase from the awardee because the purchase was made from FSS, and the awarding manufacturer, not the awardee, has an FSS contract with the General Services Administration (GSA). The record indicated that CIA requisitioned eight power shelving units, and the requisitioner requested that the award be made to the awardee on a sole-source basis. The contracting officer determined that a sole-source award was not justified since mechanized filing units were available from FSS under contracts between several commercial vendors and GSA. The contracting officer notified the requisitioner that he was about to make an award to the lowest priced offeror. Subsequently, the requisitioner identified four previously unstated essential minimum technical requirements to be satisfied, including one that the power file system have an electronic self-diagnostic feature. Purchases from FSS are governed by Federal regulations which require Federal agencies that procure from a multiple-award FSS to do so at the lowest price consistent with their minimum needs. Once the procuring agency determines its minimum needs, it is required to procure from the lowest priced supplier. The CIA justification for rejecting the protester's proposal was the failure of that proposal to contain a self-diagnostic feature. CIA has not adequately explained why that feature was added as a minimum essential requirement. Accordingly, this part of the protest was sustained. The protester's last basis for protest was that the award was improper. However, since the awardee was listed as an authorized agent for the awarding manufacturer under the manufacturer's FSS contract, this issue was denied.