Protest Alleging Agency Failed To Adhere to Stated Evaluation Criteria

B-201140: Mar 5, 1981

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A firm protested the award of a contract by the Agency for International Development (AID) for certain shipping and warehousing services. The protester alleged that it submitted the low aggregate bid under the invitation for bids (IFB) and that the award was improperly made to the awardee because AID failed to adhere to the stated evaluation criteria. GAO concurred with the protester that the award was improper, but for a different reason. The IFB called for a total aggregate amount bid based on the addition of the unit prices without any extention of the estimates in the IFB. The basis of award clause stated that the price most advantageous to the Government would be determined on the basis of the lowest aggregate total. In addition, the clause provided for the rejection of any bid that contained unrealistic prices in regard to other prices in the bid or to commercial or Government prices for the same operation. The protester's aggregate total was the low bid. The awardee's aggregate total was the high bid. However, AID decided that the individual item prices bid by the protester were unbalanced. GAO believed that the IFB encouraged unbalanced bidding. The IFB invited bids on a unit basis and indicated that the selection for award would be made on the basis of the sum of the unit prices. While the protester's bid was mathematically unbalanced, the evaluation criteria in the IFB did not provide for bids being evaluated on the basis of the Government's estimated requirements. Therefore, the bid evaluation method in the IFB did not provide a basis for determining whether the bid was materially unbalanced. Where an IFB is structured so as to encourage unbalanced bidding and the evaluation method specified in the IFB is insufficient to provide assurances that the award will result in the lowest cost to the Government, the IFB is defective and no bid can properly be evaluated. In addition, revised evaluation criteria may not be used after bid opening to justify award because bidders have not competed on that basis. Therefore, the contract should be terminated, and the remaining requirements should be resolicited under the IFB which provides for evaluation on the basis of the Government's estimate of its requirements.

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