Protest of Department of Education Contract Award

B-205380: Jul 12, 1982

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A firm protested the award of a contract under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of Education. The RFP contemplated a cost-plus-fixed fee contract for the development and dissemination of a handbook for bilingual vocational training programs. Proposals were first evaluated by a technical panel and the best and final offers of those in the competitive range were then evaluated by the program officer who was the chairman of the technical panel. He concluded that the awardee responded satisfactorily to all technical questions raised in the negotiations while the protester's responses were not completely satisfactory. The program officer recommended the selection of the awardee. The protester alleged: (1) bias on the part of one of the panelists who evaluated the initial proposals; (2) that the evaluation of the best and final offers was improper; (3) that the discussions on the weaknesses cited in its proposal were inadequate; and (4) that its high initial score did not justify the award to a higher priced firm. GAO held that: (1) a protester has the burden of proving bias on the part of proposal evaluators and prejudicial motives will not be attributed on the basis of inference or supposition; (2) it was not improper for only the chairman of the evaluation panel to evaluate best and final offers; (3) the ranking of proposals without the use of point scores was not improper since point scores were only used as guides for the award selection; (4) where the request for proposals indicated that technical and cost factors were evaluated without an indication of relative weight, both factors were accorded equal weight in evaluation; and (5) where the record did not reasonably support the procuring agency's determination that a higher priced proposal was technically superior to a lower priced proposal, and the record did not indicate that the agency properly considered costs in making its selection, the award to the higher priced firm was improper. Accordingly, the protest was sustained, but corrective action was not recommended.