Protest of Navy Contract Award

B-204450: Feb 1, 1982

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A firm protested the award of a contract under an invitation for bids (IFB) issued by a Naval facilities engineering command for the construction of a housing, food preparation, dining, and entertainment complex. The award was protested on the alternate grounds that the IFB was defective and that the awardee's bid was nonresponsive. GAO found that the IFB provided for bids on four items. The first item was the entire work in accordance with the specifications, but not including work specified in the other three items as being "the addition of" certain structures and improvements. The IFB further stated that for purposes of award the low bidder would be the responsible bidder offering the low aggregate amount for the first item, plus or minus the additive or deductive items which provided the most features of the work within the funds determined to be available prior to bid opening. After bid opening, the subsequent awardee informed the Navy that its bid prices for items 2, 3, and 4 were not additive as required, but cumulative. The Navy determined from the awardee's bid that the error was obvious on its face. Correction of the error made that firm the lowest aggregate bidder, and the Navy awarded the contract accordingly, relying on a prior decision. GAO concluded that the Navy's reliance on a prior decision was correct since an IFB may be canceled by an agency after bid opening only if there are compelling reasons, and the mere fact that bidders used different methods of bidding did not constitute such a reason. Regarding the protester's contention that the awardee's bid was nonresponsive because it used a cumulative rather than additive method, GAO stated that it has rejected such contentions in similar circumstances involving a low aggregate bid on a cumulative basis, because the mistake in bid price was evident on the face of the bid when compared to other bids and to the Government estimate. Accordingly, the protest was denied.