[Protest of NIH Contract Award]

B-208214: Sep 23, 1983

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A firm protested the award of a contract to another firm under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The RFP called for the development, maintenance, and distribution of a nucleic acid sequence data bank under a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The protester contended that: (1) the NIH staff improperly downgraded its final proposal based on considerations not encompassed by the evaluation criteria set forth in the solicitation; (2) the evaluators' written comments regarding its final proposal reflected their consideration of the factors not included in the evaluation criteria; (3) the awardee listed two co-principal investigators when the RFP required that a single principal investigator head the project; (4) the awardee's data collection capability was not properly evaluated since a subcontractor was to perform this function and no subcontract had been entered into at the time of the evaluation; (5) the awardee's use of an NIH computer system constituted an unfair competitive advantage; and (6) NIH failed to evaluate the cost of the awardee's proposed use of a particular computer network. GAO found that: (1) an agency may apply factors in its evaluation not specifically identified as evaluation criteria so long as they are reasonable; (2) the evaluators' comments were intended to call the contracting officer's attention to the need for precise contracting language, not for downgrading the protester's proposal; (3) one of the awardee's two co-principal investigators was designated the principal investigator and the other project manager; (4) the awardee submitted a proposal prepared by its tentative subcontractor; (5) the awardee's use of an NIH computer system was not an unfair advantage; and (6) NIH did not fail to evaluate the cost of the awardee's proposed use of the computer network. Accordingly, the protest was denied.

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