[Protest of GSA Contract Award]

B-209745,B-209817,B-209818,B-209820,B-210567: Jun 28, 1983

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A firm protested the award of any contract for landscape maintenance under eight solicitations issued by the General Services Administration (GSA). The protester alleged that the solicitations' estimated quantities of work were so unrealistic that bidders were forced to submit unbalanced bids. GSA argued that the estimates were reasonable and were based in large part on proper horticultural procedure and on previous years' experience under GSA contracts. GAO stated that, when an agency solicits bids for a requirements contract on the basis of estimated quantities, the agency must base its estimates on the best information available. However, there is no requirement that the estimates be absolutely correct. The mere presence of a risk factor in Government estimates does not render the estimates inaccurate. A protester challenging an agency's estimates bears the burden of proving that those estimates are not based on the best information available, otherwise misrepresent the agency's needs, or result from fraud or bad faith. GAO found that the protester failed to submit any evidence that the estimates did not accurately represent the agency's actual needs. Its argument rested solely on its previous experience on similar contracts. To prove its assertion, the protester would have had to demonstrate a reasonable doubt that awards to the low bidders would not result in the lowest ultimate cost to the Government. Since the protester did not show that the estimates were incorrect, GAO had no basis to conclude that the estimates precluded a reasonable determination that the awards to the low bidders would result in the lowest cost to the Government. Therefore, GAO concluded that the protester's position as to unbalanced bidding had no legal merit. GAO saw no reason to disagree with the GSA position that the use of requirements contracts was proper in these awards. The determination of how to best satisfy the Government's needs falls within the contracting officer's discretion, and GAO will not substitute its judgment absent a showing of abuse of this discretion. By submitting written determinations that the need for the services was urgent, GSA complied with Federal regulations for awarding contracts in the face of protests. Accordingly, the protests were denied.