[Protest of USDA Cancellation of IFB]

B-208189: Jan 17, 1983

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A firm protested the Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service (SCS) cancellation of an invitation for bids (IFB) for reconstruction of an abandoned mine site. SCS justified the cancellation after bid opening on the grounds that its intended method of evaluation was not clear to bidders; the contract was awarded to another firm under a revised solicitation. Under the canceled solicitation, the eventual awardee was the apparent low bidder and the protester was the second low bidder. GAO found that: (1) the agency's evaluation scheme was accurately set forth and did not mislead any of the bidders; (2) even if the evaluation section of the IFB was deficient, there was no evidence of prejudice to any bidder; (3) the awardee should have been found nonresponsive, because its bid offered a make and model of tractor other than that specified in the IFB; (4) the effect of resolicitation was to give the awardee, which was originally nonresponsive under the canceled solicitation, an opportunity to become responsive; and (5) cancellation of the original solicitation created an auction situation and undermined the integrity of the competitive procurement system. GAO recommended that SCS immediately issue a stop order and determine whether the protester would be willing and able to complete the contract at the unit prices it originally bid and, if so, how expensive it would be to terminate the contract for the convenience of the Government. Accordingly, the protest was sustained.