[Protest of SSA Contract Award]

B-208607: Feb 14, 1983

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A firm protested the award of a contract under an invitation for bids (IFB) issued by the Social Security Administration. The IFB solicited bids on two groups of equipment. In the first group, the IFB purchase description required an AC adapter/recharger that would be compatible with the dictating machine being supplied. However, the awardee offered an AC adapter and an independent charger. In the opinion of GAO, the awardee's bid on the first group was nonresponsive and should have been rejected. However, since the awardee's equipment had been delivered, there was no effective relief that GAO could recommend. In the second group, the protester argued that an amendment to the IFB was improper. The protester stated that it had protested the amendment to the contracting office prior to bid opening, but the amendment remained unchanged. Bid protest procedures require that, when a protest of alleged specification defects is initially filed with the contracting agency prior to bid opening, the opening of bids without corrective action constitutes initial adverse agency action and any subsequent protest to GAO must be filed within 10 working days thereafter. The protest was filed over 2 months after bid opening; therefore, this part of the protest was untimely. The protester also contended that the awardee's product was not equal to the brand name product in quality, construction, or electronic excellence. However, an item offered as an equal to a specified brand name in a brand name or equal procurement need not meet the unique features of the brand name as long as the salient characteristics listed in the IFB are met. Accordingly, the protest was dismissed in part and denied in part.