Protest of Federal Railroad Administration Contract Award

B-199741.2: Jul 31, 1981

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A firm protested the award of a contract contending that the agency did not adhere to the stated request for proposals (RFP) evaluation criteria in making an award to an offeror whose proposal had not received the highest technical score and whose technical/cost relationship was not the most advantageous to the Government. The protester had received the highest technical evaluation, but its evaluated costs were higher. The protester stated that this type of cost-reimbursement-type contract could not be awarded on the basis of the lowest proposed cost. The agency believed that the technical point score difference between the firms was not significant in terms of the Government's needs. It also pointed out that the RFP specifically stated that cost would be a significant evaluation factor. Once offerors are informed of the criteria against which their proposals are to be evaluated, it is incumbent upon the procuring agency to adhere to those criteria or inform all offerors of changes. GAO found nothing to indicate that the selection of the awardee was made other than in accordance with the evaluation scheme set forth in the RFP. GAO believed that the protester overemphasized the significance of the difference in point scores between the two proposals. In a negotiated procurement, selection officials have a broad discretion in determining the manner and extent to which they will make use of the technical and cost evaluation results. The determining element is not the difference in technical merit per se, but the considered judgment of the procuring agency concerning the significance of that difference. GAO did not believe that it was unreasonable to make the award to the awardee to take advantage of the lower costs despite the difference in technical scores. Accordingly, the protest was denied.