Protest of Determination To Exclude Proposal From Competitive Range

B-204045: Sep 23, 1981

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A firm protested the determination of the Forest Service to exclude its proposal from the competitive range in connection with a request for proposals (RFP) for certain teleprocessing services. The protester contended that, although discussions were conducted with the Forest Service, the Forest Service did not permit it to submit a best and final offer before eliminating it from the competition. Further, the protester argued that the Forest Service's determination established a competitive range of one, the awardee. The record showed that the Forest Service's preliminary inspection of the protester's proposal revealed that the protester had not satisfied one of the mandatory requirements of the RFP. Subsequently, the Forest Service asked the protester if it was willing to change its proposal, and the protester responded by changing the restriction in a manner considered acceptable to the Forest Service. GAO held that, at the time that the Forest Service contacted the protester for the necessary information, the proposals had not been evaluated and no competitive range had been established. Thus, based on the information given by the protester, GAO believed that the contact constituted discussions because the information concerned the acceptability of the protester's proposal. However, GAO did not believe that this gave the protester the right to submit a revised proposal, regardless of a subsequent competitive range determination. GAO has held that, where it is clear that the proposal should not continue to remain in the competitive range, it is permissible to drop the proposal without allowing the submission of a revised proposal even if the competitive range was previously established prior to discussions. Therefore, since the Forest Service determined that the protester's modified proposal was not in the competitive range, the contracting agency acted properly in not permitting a best and final offer from the protester. Additionally, GAO upheld the agency's determination to limit the competitive range since the protester's proposal was excluded because its cost was unrealistically high and since the second rated proposal was excluded because there was considerable disparity between the overall technical scores of its proposal and the first rated proposal. Accordingly, the protest was denied.