Protest of Department of Agriculture Contract Award

B-201447: Jun 15, 1981

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A firm protested the award of a contract by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to an individual to study the cost of sugar production in the United States. The protester alleged that the contracting activity officials were prejudiced in favor of the awardee because he had worked for USDA on a project which was the forerunner to the present study. It contended that the technical proposal evaluation was biased in favor of the awardee because he submitted only his resume as a technical proposal and still received a higher technical rating than the protester. Further, the protester contended that this contract was awarded to circumvent a Government freeze on hiring. The evaluation criteria in the request for proposals (RFP) involved the offeror's knowledge, skills, experience, and ability to perform the required work on time. Offerors were not required to submit models or designs to show how the required tasks were to be accomplished. Other than requesting a contract pricing proposal, the RFP was silent in regard to price and whether it would be a factor in determining which offeror would be awarded the contract. GAO found that the proposals were properly evaluated, even though the awardee's proposal consisted only of his resume and the statement that he would complete all required tasks on time. While price was not listed as an evaluation factor, GAO thought it should have been obvious to all offerors that, if proposals were otherwise equal, the overall cost to the Government to procure would be an important factor. The allegation that the contract was awarded to avoid a Government freeze on hiring raised the issue of whether the contract was an unauthorized personal services type contract. GAO noted that USDA has authority to employ persons or organizations on a temporary basis by contract or otherwise as long as provision for this exists in the applicable appropriation and the cost does not exceed the limitations prescribed in the appropriation. Therefore, the contract was authorized by law. Accordingly, the protest was denied.