GBTI Solutions, Inc.
B-409114.3,B-409114.5: Jan 29, 2014
GBTI Solutions, Inc., of McLean, Virginia, protests the issuance of a task order to Business Information Technology Solutions, Inc. (BITS), of Alexandria, Virginia, by the Defense Logistics Agency under request for quotations (RFQ) No. SP4701-13-Q-0039 for desktop managed services for the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). GBTI asserts that the agency unreasonably evaluated its proposal and that the agency's best value tradeoff analysis was flawed.
We deny the protest.
Matter of: GBTI Solutions, Inc.
File: B-409114.3; B-409114.5
Date: January 29, 2014
1. Protest challenging evaluation of protesters past performance is denied where record shows that evaluation was either reasonable or did not prejudice protester.
2. Protest challenging agencys best value tradeoff is denied where record reflects that agency substantively considered relative merits of and price difference between proposals, and error noted by protester was not prejudicial.
GBTI Solutions, Inc., of McLean, Virginia, protests the issuance of a task order to Business Information Technology Solutions, Inc. (BITS), of Alexandria, Virginia, by the Defense Logistics Agency under request for quotations (RFQ) No. SP4701-13-Q-0039 for desktop managed services for the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). GBTI asserts that the agency unreasonably evaluated its proposal and that the agencys best value tradeoff analysis was flawed.
We deny the protest.
The solicitation, which was issued on December 17, 2012 as a total small business set-aside, sought proposals from vendors holding Federal Supply Schedule contracts under Schedule 70, General Purpose Commercial Information Technology Equipment, Software, and Services. See Agency Report (AR), Tab 21, Award Decision Document (ADD), at 1. The solicitation contemplated the award of a single fixed-price task order with a base period of one year and two one-year option periods. RFQ at 1-2. Award was to be made based on the proposal that was determined to represent the best value to the government considering the following factors: program management approach, key personnel, past performance, and price. Id. at 66. The non-price factors were stated to be in descending order of importance and to be significantly more important than price. Id.
In general terms, the solicitation sought desktop managed services to support more than 5200 users within DCAA. See RFQ at 19, 34. The support was to encompass DCAAs
computing infrastructure environment that includes desktop computing hardware devices and associated system software, laptop/notebook computing hardware devices and associated system software, business productivity software . . . , network-attached printers, scanners, multifunctional devices (such as printer/scanner/fax) and copiers that are attached to the local-area network (LAN), handheld computing hardware devices and associated system software (for example, Smartphones, PDAs and handheld devices), locally attached peripheral devices . . . , and file, print and local application servers.
Id. at 19. The requirements were broken into the several main task areas, one of which was helpdesk support. See id. at 19-25.
As relevant to this protest, under the past performance factor, vendors were to provide detailed information regarding the performance of two or three contracts having similar scope, magnitude and complexity to the solicited requirement. RFQ at 75-76. This information was to be provided in a form titled past performance template, which, among other things, instructed vendors to [d]escribe the metrics used for evaluating the success of the program. Id. at 96.
Also regarding past performance, the solicitation stated that the agency would
consider the relevance of the vendors past performance and how well the vendor performed . . . in the last three years and success with projects that are similar in scope and complexity to the tasks identified in the [performance work statement]. . . . There will be a rating given for relevancy and one for quality and the two combined ratings will provide an overall performance confidence assessment rating.
RFQ at 67. The solicitation also stated that the agency would consider the vendors history of successful completion of projects; history of producing high-quality reports and deliverables; and history of staying on schedule and within budget. Id. at 68. Additionally, the solicitation stated that the agency will contact previous customers based on information provided by the vendor. Id. at 67.
The agency received numerous proposals by the solicitations closing date, including proposals from GBTI and BITS. AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 3. A selection evaluation team (SET) evaluated the proposals under the non-price factors; identified proposal strengths, weaknesses, and deficiencies; assigned adjectival ratings; and documented the evaluation results in a report. See id. Pricing also was evaluated. See id. The agency then established a negotiation range consisting only of the most highly rated proposals. AR, Tab 13, Determination of Vendors in the Negotiation Range, at 3.
Next, the agency entered into negotiations with the negotiation range vendors by sending letters that advised of proposal weaknesses and that requested proposal revisions. See AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 3. All vendors in the negotiation range submitted proposal revisions. Id. All of these vendors also submitted revised pricing in a reverse auction conducted by the agency. Id.
After evaluating the proposal revisions, the SET assigned final proposal ratings. See AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 3. The final proposal ratings for GBTI and BITS, together with their final evaluated pricing, are shown in the table below.
Program Management Approach
Unknown Confidence (Neutral)
Id. at 7, 38.
The contracting officer documented a best value analysis wherein the merits of BITSs proposal were compared to the merits of each of the other proposals in the negotiation range. AR, Tab 11, Contracting Officers Negotiation Memorandum (CONM), at 45-51. In comparing GBTIs and BITSs proposals, the contracting officer noted that both proposals received the same ratings under the program management approach and key personnel factors. Id. at 45-46. She found, however, that BITSs proposal had an edge over GBTIs proposal under both of these factors because BITSs proposal had more strengths and fewer weaknesses than GBTIs proposal. Id.
In comparing GBTIs and BITSs proposals under the past performance factor, the contracting officer found as follows:
GBTI received an Unknown Confidence rating for Past Performance whereas BITS has received a Satisfactory Confidence rating. GBTIs Past Performance efforts were rated Non-relevant because the efforts involved possess a minimal amount of the scope and effort this solicitation requires. The vendor did not include a customer evaluation or information pertaining to meeting Service Level Agreements (SLA) and thus they received a Neutral Quality rating. . . . BITS past performance record is more advantageous than that of GBTI, as they have provided evidence of more relevant experience and a good level of quality performance.
AR, Tab 11, CONM, at 46. The contracting officer concluded her comparison of GBTIs and BITSs proposals as follows: Based on the advantages provided with BITS proposal[,] paying a premium to BITS of $945,193.50 or 14.1% is warranted for a proposal with more technical merit and lower overall risk. Id.
Based on her analysis of BITSs proposal relative to each of the other proposals in the negotiation range, the contracting officer found BITSs proposal to represent the best value to the government, and she recommended making the award to BITS. AR, Tab 11, CONM, at 51. After considering the proposals and the evaluation documentation, the source selection official (SSO) agreed that BITSs proposal represented the best value to the government. AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 46-47.
On September 27, 2013, the agency awarded the task order to BITS. AR, Tab 22, Task Order, at 1. This protest followed.
GBTI asserts that the agency unreasonably evaluated its proposal and that the agencys best value tradeoff analysis was flawed. We have considered all of GBTIs allegations, and, based on the record, we conclude that none furnish a basis on which to sustain the protest. Below we discuss GBTIs chief contentions.
GBTI challenges the rating of non-relevant that the agency assigned its proposal under the relevancy aspect of the past performance factor. Protest at 5-6; Comments at 5-6; Supp. Comments at 3-4. In this regard, GBTI argues that the past performance section of its proposal included examples of work that are relevant to the solicited requirement and that the agency ignored this information. Protest at 5; Comments at 5-6; Supp. Comments 3-4.
In reviewing a protest challenging an agencys past performance evaluation, we will examine the record to determine whether the agencys judgment was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria and applicable statutes and regulations. Ostrom Painting & Sandblasting, Inc., B-285244, July 18, 2000, 2000 CPD ¶ 132 at 4. A protesters disagreement with the agencys evaluation provides no basis to question the reasonableness of the evaluators judgments. Citywide Managing Servs. of Port Washington, Inc., B-281287.12, B-281287.13, Nov. 15, 2000, 2001 CPD ¶ 6 at 10-11. The relative merits of vendors past performance information is generally within the broad discretion of the contracting agency, and our Office will not substitute our judgment for that of the agency. Paragon Tech. Group, Inc., B-407331, Dec. 18, 2012, 2013 CPD ¶ 11 at 5.
GBTIs proposal provided past performance information for three contracts. The first was a helpdesk support contract valued at approximately $443,000 under which the firm supported 60 users. AR, Tab 16, GBTI Non-Price Proposal (Revised), at 36. The record reflects that the core reason that the agency found this contact to be not relevant was that its magnitude was not comparable to the magnitude of the solicited requirement. See AR, Tab 29, Contracting Officer Decl., attach. 1, Final SET Report Excerpt, GBTI Past Performance Evaluation, at 11 (hereinafter GBTI Final Past Performance Evaluation); see also AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 13.
As stated above, the protested task order has a value of $6,701,806 and requires the support of more than 5200 users. AR, Tab 22, Task Order, at 2; RFQ at 34. We acknowledge GBTIs arguments regarding the similarity of some of the services that it performed under this contract to some of the services required under the solicitation. Nevertheless, given the significant disparity in dollar value between GBTIs contract (approximately $443,000) and the protested task order (approximately $6.7 million), and given the significant disparity between the number of users supported under the GBTIs contract (60 users) and the protested task order (more than 5200 users), we find the agencys judgment that this contract was not relevant to be reasonable.
We similarly see reasonable bases for the agencys judgments that the other two contracts in GBTIs proposal did not qualify as relevant. For example, the second contract in GBTIs proposal involved full support of a website with 3.5 million users. AR, Tab 16, GBTI Non-Price Proposal (Revised), at 39. As discussed above, however, the solicitation here contemplated the support of a large and diverse information technology system that included desktop and laptop devices and their software; business productivity software; network-attached printers, scanners, and multifunctional devices; handheld computing devices and their software; and locally-attached peripheral devices. RFQ at 19.
The record reflects that the agency found GBTIs project to be not relevant in essence because [t]he range of subject of [service] calls is limited to problems associated with a single website, AR, Tab 29, GBTI Final Past Performance Evaluation, at 11, and because the project has only minimal similarity, in terms of types of problems and solutions, to the remote user support and Helpdesk ticketing systems required in the solicitation, AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 13. Given the significant difference between the type of support provided under GBTIs contract and the type of support to be provided under the solicitation, we see no basis to question the agencys judgment that this project did not qualify as relevant.
GBTI also challenges the neutral rating assigned to its proposal under the quality aspect of the past performance factor. Comments at 7-8; Supp. Comments at 4-6. In this regard, GBTI points out that the neutral rating hinges largely on the agencys finding that GBTI did not provide adequate information regarding meeting SLAs under prior contracts. Comments at 7; Supp. Comments at 4-6. GBTI argues that this was improper because, according to GBTI, the firms proposal revisions address[ed] achievement of SLAs and performance metrics. Comments at 7.
As discussed above, the solicitation instructed vendors to [d]escribe the metrics used for evaluating the success of past projects. RFQ at 96. In its negotiations letter to GBTI, the agency stated that GBTIs proposal lacked information pertaining to meeting SLAs. AR, Tab 15, GBTI Negotiation Ltr., at 2. In its proposal revision, GBTI provided an identical response for each past project. AR, Tab 16, GBTI Non-Price Proposal (Revised), at 37, 40-41, 43-44. The responses consisted of a list of types of metrics that were used and a blanket statement that the firm regularly meets benchmarks based on these metrics. Id. at 37, 40, 43.
The solicitation here advised that under the past performance factor, the agency would consider, among other things, the vendors history of successful completion of projects; history of producing high-quality reports and deliverables; and history of staying on schedule and within budget. RFQ at 68. Given that both the solicitation and GBTIs negotiations letter requested information regarding how successfully GBTI had performed its past projects, and given that GBTIs revised proposal lacked specific information in this area, we do not view agencys judgment that this lack of information supported to a neutral rating to be unreasonable.
GBTI also challenges the neutral rating on the basis that the solicitation stated that the agency will contact the vendors previous customers, yet nothing in the record reflects that the agency contacted the customers listed in GBTIs proposal. Comments at 7-8 (quoting RFQ at 67); Supp. Comments at 2-3 (same).
The agency acknowledges that GBTIs previous customers were not contacted. Supp. AR at 37. The agency, however, takes the position that its failure to contact the references did not prejudice GBTI. Based on the record here, we agree.
Competitive prejudice is an essential element of a viable protest; where the protester fails to demonstrate that, but for the agencys actions, it would have had a substantial chance of receiving the award, there is no basis for finding prejudice, and our Office will not sustain the protest, even if deficiencies in the agencys evaluation of proposals are found. See Maywood Closure Co., LLC, B-408343 et al., Aug. 23, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 199 at 6; G4S Govt Servs., B-401694, B-401694.2, Nov. 4, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 236 at 4.
Here, although GBTI and BITS received the same ratings under the program management approach and key personnel factors, the ADD reflects detailed and reasonable bases on which the SSO found that BITSs proposal had an edge over GBTIs proposal under both factors. See AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 40. Further, as discussed above, we find the non-relevant rating assigned to GBTIs proposal under the relevancy aspect of the past performance factor to be reasonable. We note also that in contrast to GBTI, BITS received ratings of somewhat relevant and good under the relevancy and quality aspects of the past performance factor, respectively, and an overall past performance rating of satisfactory confidence. Id. at 7. Finally, we note that the solicitation expressly provided that past performance was the least important non-price factor. RFQ at 66. For these reasons, we cannot conclude that but for the agencys failure to contact GBTIs past customers, GBTI would have had a substantial chance of receiving the award. See Maywood Closure Co., LLC, supra; G4S Govt Servs., supra, at 11. This basis of protest is denied.
Best Value Tradeoff
GBTI also challenges the award to BITS on the basis that the agency incorrectly calculated the percentage of difference between GBTIs evaluated price and BITSs evaluated price. Protest at 3-4; Comments at 2-3. In particular, GBTI points out that the agencys tradeoff analysis states that the percentage of difference is 14.1 percent, when in fact it is 16.4 percent. Protest at 3-4.
We find that although the agency incorrectly calculated the percentage, the record reflects that for a number of reasons, GBTI was not prejudiced by the error.
First, in all but one instance where the error appears in the record, the correct absolute dollar difference between the two firms pricing appears in the same sentence as the percentage. AR, Tab 21, ADD, 41-42, 46-47. For example, the tradeoff analysis includes the statement that [b]ased on the advantages provided with BITS proposal[,] paying a premium to BITS of $945,193.50 or 14.1% is warranted for a proposal with more technical merit and lower overall risk. Id. at 41. As another example, the tradeoff analysis states that [i]n comparison to BITS, GBTI was lower in price by $945,193.50 (14.10%). Id. at 46. Second, the error involves a difference of just over two percentage points. Finally, the record reflects that both the contracting officer and the SSO substantively considered the relative merits of GBTIs and BITSs proposals when they decided that paying the premium associated with BITSs proposal was warranted. See id. at 40-41, 46. Accordingly, we find that GBTI was not prejudiced by the agencys calculation error, and this basis of protest is denied. See Earth Resources Tech., Inc., B-403043.2, B-403043.2, Oct. 18, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 248 at 8; Parmatic Filter Corp., B-285288.3, B-285288.4, Mar. 30, 2001, 2001 CPD ¶ 71 at 11-12.
Finally, GBTI argues that a source selection decision that relies on the absolute difference in pricing (rather than the percentage of difference in pricing) is unreasonable, and that even a 14 percent difference in pricing is too significant to justify the award to BITS. Protest at 4-5; Comments at 2-3. Based on the breadth of detail in the agencys tradeoff decision regarding the relative merits of the proposals, see AR, Tab 21, at 11-18, 40-41, we find these arguments unavailing.
The protest is denied.
Susan A. Poling
 Although the solicitation was an RFQ, it sought proposals. See RFQ at 69. Because the distinction between a quotation and a proposal has no bearing on our analysis in this protest, we use the term proposal throughout this decision.
 The agencys pre-award independent government cost estimate for the value of the contract was higher than the award amount. AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 35.
 After GBTI filed its protest, the agency contacted the three customers listed in GBTIs proposal. AR, Tab 30, Contracting Officers Decl., ¶ 7. Only one responded within the one-day time period offered by the agency, and that customers response stated GBTI had provided outstanding service. See id.
 In declarations submitted to our Office in response to the protest, both the contracting officer and the SSO state that the award decision was based on the absolute dollar difference between GBTIs and BITSs evaluated prices. AR, Tab 20, Contracting Officers Decl., ¶ 5; AR, Tab 24, SSO Decl., ¶ 5.
 GBTI raises a number of additional allegations regarding the agencys evaluation of its proposal. As stated above, we find that none furnish a basis on which to sustain the protest. By way of example, GBTI argues that the rating of good assigned to its proposal under the program management approach factor reflects that the agency improperly deviated from the evaluation rating definitions in the agencys internal evaluation plan. See Comments at 8; see also Protest at 8. The evaluation plan here defined a rating of good as applicable to a proposal that, among other things, contains strengths which outweigh any weaknesses. AR, Tab 12, Evaluation Plan, at 13. In evaluating GBTIs proposal under the program management approach, the agency identified one strength, several positive items, and no weaknesses. AR, Tab 21, ADD, at 11. Thus, GBTIs proposal rating under this factor is not at odds with the definition in the evaluation plan. Moreover, alleged deficiencies in the application of an agencys evaluation plan do not alone provide a basis for questioning the validity of an evaluation; such plans are internal agency instruction and do not give outside parties any rights. Resource Mgmt. Intl, Inc., B-278108, Dec. 22, 1997, 98-1 CPD ¶ 29 at 4; Management Plus, Inc., B-265852 , Dec. 29, 1995, 95-2 CPD ¶ 290 at 2 n.2. As another example of GBTIs additional allegations, the firm claims that because two of it proposed key personnel hold certain certifications, the agencys evaluation of its proposal under the key personnel factor was unreasonable. Protest at 6-7. Based on GBTIs acknowledgement that these personnel do not hold all of the certifications designated as highly desirable in the solicitation, see Protest at 6; RFQ at 90-91, we see no merit in this claim.