Protest of BIA Contract Award

B-204866: Jan 19, 1982

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A firm protested the award of a contract under a request for proposals issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The protester contended that, because the technical evaluators were biased in favor of the awardee, the technical proposals were not evaluated fairly. BIA formed a three-member evaluation panel with a nonevaluating chairman. The protester alleged that one member of the evaluation panel was a personal friend of the awardee's president and that the other two members may have been acquainted with the president. GAO has held that bias based on inference or supposition will not be attributed to procurement officials and, even where bias is shown, GAO will deny a protest if there is no indication that the bias adversely affected the protester's competitive standing. GAO found no basis to conclude that the evaluator who allegedly was a personal friend of the awardee's president gave preferential treatment to the awardee, influenced the other evaluators to do so, or that these evaluators did so simply because they might have known the awardee's president. With regard to the evaluation of the protester's proposal, it is the evaluators' function to determine the relative merits of technical proposals, and they have considerable discretion in making that determination. Therefore, GAO will not question an agency's technical evaluation unless the protester shows the agency's judgment lacked a reasonable basis. The record showed that the agency's evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the evaluation criteria and that the protester was aware of its shortcomings in demonstrating its approach. The protester suggested that, in view of the extensive discussion in its proposal to demonstrate its prior experience and expertise, the contracting agency should have inferred that the protester, in fact, understood the scope of work and would take a sound approach toward accomplishing that work. GAO held that it is up to the offeror to establish that its proposal will meet the Government's needs so that the offer can be evaluated according to the scheme set out in the solicitation. Accordingly, the protest was denied.