[Protest of Customs Service Contract Award]

B-212358: Jan 17, 1984

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A firm protested a Customs Service contract award, contending that the Customs Service based its final award decision on a factor which was not specified in the request for proposals (RFP) as a criterion for proposal evaluation. The protester also argued that the Customs Service improperly used its unsolicited proposal as a basis for the RFP and claimed that it was entitled to recover the costs of preparing its proposal. The Customs Service did not award the contract to the protester because, although it had the highest overall point score, its technical approach was inferior, and the Customs Service believed that a manpower reduction which the protester proposed was unrealistic and inadequately explained. The protester claimed that its lack of a Washington representative became a critical factor in the award determination although this requirement was not mentioned in the RFP. GAO found that, while some consideration was given to the offerer's access to military and Federal agency contacts, nothing indicated that this was a crucial factor in the award selection. In addition, some consideration of this factor was reasonable. Because a modification of the protester's bid proposed a manpower change which raised serious concerns about the continued acceptability of the proposal, GAO would not object to the Customs Service's conclusion that selection of the protester for award was not in the best interests of the Government. Because there was a high level of acceptability of offerers within the competitive range, GAO found no need for the agency to reopen discussions after best and final offers. GAO found the protester's contention that the RFP was improperly based on an unsolicited proposal to be untimely since this protest was filed after the closing date for receipt of initial proposals. Accordingly, the protest was denied in part and dismissed in part. Since the protest was denied, the protester's claim for proposal preparation costs was also denied.