Protest Alleging Improper Application of Solicitation's Evaluation Criteria

B-199918.2: Mar 25, 1981

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A firm protested the award of a contract under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of the Navy. The procurement was for certain Univac-compatible peripheral automated data processing (ADP) equipment and related items. The RFP solicited offers for a 48-month systems life on four possible methods of acquisition (MOA): purchase, lease with option to purchase (LWOP), full payout lease, and straight rental. The protester contended that it should have received the award under a proper application of the solicitation's evaluation and award criteria. The Navy rejected the protester's LWOP proposal, even though it was technically acceptable and offered the lowest systems life cost because it found that funds were neither available nor budgeted and could not reasonably be expected to become available for the purchase portion of that MOA. The protester contended that this conclusion was unreasonable, that the Navy's efforts to make funds available by reprograming were inadequate, and that Federal regulations require that award be made on an LWOP basis in these circumstances. The contracting officer was advised by the budget representatives that no purchase funds were available or budgeted, nor could any be expected to become available for exercise of the purchase option in fiscal year 1981 or fiscal year 1982 and that attempts to obtain funds through reprograming had been unsuccessful. In addition, no funds were available for outright purchase, the next lowest evaluated systems life cost MOA. GAO believed that it was apparent that the provision contained in the solicitation's evaluation and award criteria, warning that award would be subject to availability of funds for the proposed MOA, was different in intent and scope than the availability of funds for the next fiscal year clause. GAO believed that the contracting officer, having been advised that no funds for exercise of the purchase option were budgeted or expected to become available and that none could be reprogramed, reasonably concluded that funds were not available for the LWOP MOA. GAO believed that the contracting officer was justified in her reliance on the advice of the budget representatives. In addition, GAO found no merit to the protester's contention that the contracting officer's rejection of its proposal was unreasonable because its acceptance would only entail reprograming of funds in a small amount in the future. Accordingly, the protest was denied.

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