Protest of Department of Agriculture Contract Award

B-200608: Jan 30, 1981

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A firm protested the award of a contract to Utah State University under a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of Agriculture. The RFP solicited proposals for the training of Government employees in meat grading, inspection, and acceptance procedures. In its protest, the firm contended that the agency deviated from the evaluation criteria of the RFP, which placed primary emphasis on technical factors, by making an award at a lower cost. The record showed that, although the protester received the highest technical score, award was made to the lower-scored, lower-priced offeror. The only evidence furnished by the contracting agency to support the contracting officer's decision was the composite score sheet for all the evaluation board members, which contained no narrative commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal. GAO held that the instant record was insufficient to support the contracting officer's selection. GAO could not determine that the award was rationally founded without any factual explanation as to why the contracting officer concluded that the differences between the two technical proposals was in effect insubstantial. Accordingly, the protest was sustained. Additionally, since the Department of Agriculture has stated that it terminated its contract with the awardee for default and has resolicited its requirements, and since the protester has stated that it will accept an award under the original RFP, GAO recommends that the Department of Agriculture cancel the new RFP and award the terminated contract to the protester.