Protest Involving Proposal Prices

B-197835: Oct 10, 1980

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A firm protested the award of a contract issued by the Air Force. The request for proposals (RFP) called for fixed-price proposals for gyroscopes to be used in an aircraft; the procurement was negotiated rather than advertised. Although no technical proposals were requested, the protester submitted one which included test data and an analysis of the specifications for the procurement to show that no further compatibility testing of its equipment would be required. Three grounds of protest were presented: (1) the contracting officer was obliged to evaluate the protester's technical proposal which would have shown that its proposal was lower in total cost than the awardee's; (2) offerors did not submit proposals on the same basis, thereby prejudicing the protester; and (3) the Air Force should have considered the protester's late price reduction as a basis for opening negotiations and should not have made an award on the basis of original proposals. The RFP provided for award on the basis of proposed price; it made no provision for consideration of savings available if certain testing did not have to be accomplished. Once offerors have been informed of the evaluation criteria it is incumbent upon the procuring agency to adhere to those criteria. Evaluation of the protester's technical proposal would have been inconsistent with the evaluation criteria upon which offers were requested and would have been improper. While the Air Force stated that some proposed modifications discussed at a preproposal conference were omitted from the specifications, it asserted that these modifications were a minor relaxation of tolerances. GAO noted that none of the offerors took exception to the RFP requirements. When all offerors were requested to extend their proposal acceptance period, the protester did so and reduced its unit price. While the potential savings of the protester's reduced price could have been used to open negotiations, according to prior decisions, the contracting officer did not need to do so if he reasonably believed there was no significant savings to be achieved. Accordingly, the protest was denied.