[Protest of USIBWC Contract Award for Wastewater Treatment Plant Operation and Maintenance]

B-274289.2: Dec 19, 1996

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A firm protested an International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) contract award for wastewater treatment plant operation and maintenance, contending that USIBWC failed to hold meaningful discussions regarding its proposed staffing level. GAO held that: (1) USIBWC failed to hold meaningful discussions with the protester, since USIBWC did not communicate its concerns about the protester's staffing proposal to the protester during several rounds of discussions; (2) USIBWC's request for best-and-final offers (BAFO) constituted discussions; (3) the deficiency in the protester's staffing proposal should have been raised during discussions and the protester should have been given an opportunity to correct that deficiency; (4) USIBWC's generic request to all bidders for a detailed staffing plan in a certain format did not constitute sufficient notice to the protester about its staffing deficiency; and (5) USIBWC's notifying the protester of its staffing deficiency would not have constituted technical leveling, since there were no technical discussions. Accordingly, the protest was sustained, and GAO recommended that USIBWC: (1) reopen and conduct appropriate discussions with the competitive range bidders; (2) request revised BAFOs and make a new source decision; (3) terminate the awardee's contract if award to another bidder is appropriate and make award to that bidder; and (4) reimburse the protester for its protest costs.

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