Protest of CHAMPUS Contract Award

B-201710: Jan 4, 1982

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An insurance company protested the award of a contract challenging the authority of the awardee under its corporate charter to perform the services required by the contract and raising several objections to the agency's evaluation of the proposals. The contract was for claims processing services for health benefits provided by the agency in a six-state region. The request for proposals provided technical considerations were significantly more important than price in selecting the awardee. The protester contended that the agency improperly instructed its evaluators to confine their evaluation to the proposals and not to consider their personal knowledge of the competitors, argued that the agency failed to give experience significant weight, and asserted that the agency did not evaluate the price proposals in accordance with the solicitation. The protester also questioned the qualifications of the agency's evaluators. GAO found the protest as to the awardee's responsibility, the failure of the agency to conduct price negotiations with itself, and the agency evaluation of proposals and conduct of negotiations to be untimely as it was filed more than 10 working days after the basis of the protest was known. The remaining objections to the conduct of the procurement were timely. The protester contended that the agency improperly continued negotiations with the awardee after the receipt of best and final offers. GAO found the agency's explanation of the events to be totally plausible and did not find that the preaward survey to be conducted improperly. Additionally, the agency was correct in directing its evaluators to disregard their personal knowledge of the offerors, and GAO approved the method which the agency used in evaluating the proposals. However, GAO believed that the agency should clarify the intention of its evaluation factors. It is permissible to have portions of proposals evaluated by separate evaluation teams. GAO agreed with the protester that the price evaluation specifications were ambiguous; however, it would not consider the question because the protester was not prejudiced by the price evaluation method used. The personnel management of the evaluators is within the discretion of the contracting agency and will not be reviewed by GAO absent allegations of fraud, bad faith, or conflict of interest. Accordingly, the protest was denied in part and dismissed in part.