[Protest of Selection of Awardee Under Navy RFP]

B-208009: Mar 17, 1983

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A firm protested a Navy contract award for maintenance services for an information system. The protester contended that: (1) the Navy's proposal evaluation was unreasonable and arbitrary; (2) it should have been selected for award as the lowest cost technically acceptable bidder; (3) the Navy did not treat all offerers equally during the procurement; (4) discussions held regarding its technical proposal were inadequate; and (5) the Navy discriminated against the protester because it was a woman-owned firm. The request for proposals (RFP) specified that technical approach, management, experience, and manpower allocation would all be weighted more heavily than cost as evaluation factors. The determination of the relative merits of a proposal is primarily a matter of administrative discretion which GAO will not disturb absent a showing that it is arbitrary or in violation of procurement regulations. GAO found that the Navy's evaluation of the proposed technical approaches, management plans, and experience was reasonable. As a result, GAO found that the agency's decision to award the contract to the firm which was superior in these factors over a lower priced bidder was reasonable. In addition, GAO found that the protester's argument that the lowest evaluated offer should receive the award was an untimely challenge to the RFP evaluation criteria, since a protest based on alleged improprieties in a solicitation which are apparent prior to the closing date for receipt of proposals must be filed prior to that date. Further, the record showed that the awardee was not able to revise its proposal due to discussions which it held with the Navy; therefore, the protest on this matter was without merit. In addition, GAO found that the Navy did not mislead the protester during discussions and that the content and extent of the discussions were reasonable. GAO stated that agencies are not obligated to afford offerers all-encompassing negotiations and the content and extent of discussions are a matter of judgment primarily for determination by the agency involved and not subject to question by GAO unless they are without a reasonable basis. The record showed that the content and extent of the discussions held were reasonable. GAO found no evidence of discrimination against the protester as a woman-owned firm. Accordingly, the protest was denied.

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