[Protest of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Contract Award]

B-206708: Jul 26, 1982

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A firm protested the award of a contract for bus shuttle service to another firm under a request for quotations (RFQ) issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The protester, which submitted the low quotation, contended that: (1) even though it did not have the necessary license to provide bus service, it had advised the agency that it would subcontract the service while the license was being obtained; and (2) failure to award the contract to it constituted a negative responsibility determination and, since it was a small business, the agency should have referred the responsibility issue to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a Certificate of Competency (COC) determination. The protester requested that the agency refer the responsibility issue to SBA and, if a COC is granted, then the contract be awarded to it. Alternatively, the protester asked to be reimbursed for quotation preparation costs. The agency contended that it never made a nonresponsibility determination and that, even if GAO determined that it did find the protester nonresponsible, this was reasonable because an award to the protester would have risked delay or interruption of contract performance since it lacked the necessary license. GAO found that: (1) the rejection of the protester's quotation was based on the protester's lack of a license, which constituted a nonresponsibility determination; and (2) the fact that an RFQ was used to solicit offers did not exempt the procurement from the requirement to refer the responsibility issue to SBA. Accordingly, the protest was sustained. However, since the contract was substantially performed, no award to the protester was possible. Since it was not possible at the time of the protest to determine whether the protester had had a substantial chance of receiving the award, the protester was not entitled to quotation preparation costs.