[Protest of Contract Awards Under Navy and Corps of Engineers IFB's]

B-206905,B-208034,B-208223: Mar 29, 1983

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A firm protested the award of any contracts under invitations for bids issued by the Navy or the Corps of Engineers which called for the installation of underground heat distribution (UHD) systems. The protester, a supplier of UHD systems and a potential subcontractor, contended that certain other suppliers were not fully required to comply with the prequalification procedures applicable to UHD systems on military projects. The protester alleged that: (1) certain systems were subjected to testing less severe than that prescribed by the prequalification procedure; (2) some suppliers were not required to test one aspect of their systems, contrary to the terms of the prequalification procedure; and (3) other suppliers did not list all of their systems' limitations as directed. The protester asked that the firms in question have their qualifications rescinded until they have complied with every requirement. In reviewing these allegations, GAO would not question the technical judgments involved since they were the province of the multiagency committee, which applied the prequalification procedure, and the agencies involved. Therefore, GAO confined its review to considering whether the committee reasonably interpreted the standards in question and fairly applied them. GAO found that: (1) the agencies' interpretation of the prequalification procedure for testing was reasonable and there was no evidence that a more lenient standard for testing was applied to some suppliers; (2) the fact that some suppliers were not subjected to one test did not evidence a failure of the committee to treat all suppliers equally or fairly because the test in question was not mandatory; and (3) because the committee did not require that system limitations be listed in suppliers' brochures, GAO could not conclude that the systems which failed to list these items should have their qualifications revoked. GAO did note that the committee should clarify the prequalification procedure to indicate what system limitations must be set forth in suppliers' brochures. A protest that the committee improperly concealed information concerning possible other prequalification deficiencies was dismissed. Accordingly, the protests were denied in part and dismissed in part.