Protest alleging that contracting activity used undisclosed evaluation criteria is denied where the record is clear that proposals were evaluated in accordance with the criteria set forth in the solicitation. Management Training Systems: Management Training Systems (MTS) protests the determination that its proposal was technically unacceptable under request for proposals (RFP) No. MTS contends that the Air Force had no reasonable basis to conclude that its proposal was technically unacceptable since the solicitation was ambiguous. Listed in descending order of relative importance were as follows: "1. Twenty-seven proposals were received by the amended date for receipt of initial proposals of December 18.
B-238555.2, Jul 17, 1990, 90-2 CPD 43
PROCUREMENT - Competitive Negotiation - Offers - Evaluation errors - Evaluation criteria - Application DIGEST: 1. Protest alleging that contracting activity used undisclosed evaluation criteria is denied where the record is clear that proposals were evaluated in accordance with the criteria set forth in the solicitation. PROCUREMENT - Competitive Negotiation - Offers - Technical acceptability - Deficiency - Blanket offers of compliance 2. Agency properly rejected protester's proposal as technically unacceptable where the proposal made a blanket offer to meet all required specifications but failed to provide sufficient detail regarding the solicitation's technical requirements.
Management Training Systems:
Management Training Systems (MTS) protests the determination that its proposal was technically unacceptable under request for proposals (RFP) No. F33600-89-R-0381, issued by the Department of the Air Force for the teaching of three supervisory and management training courses for Air Force civilian and military personnel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. MTS contends that the Air Force had no reasonable basis to conclude that its proposal was technically unacceptable since the solicitation was ambiguous, and the agency used undisclosed criteria in evaluating its proposal.
We deny the protest in part and dismiss it in part.
The solicitation, issued October 23, 1989, divided the training being procured into three categories: (1) first level supervisor-- seven presentations; (2) civilian personnel management course-- four presentations; and (3) mid-level supervisory and management course-- four presentations.
The criteria used in evaluating the technical proposals for this acquisition, listed in descending order of relative importance were as follows:
"1. QUALIFICATIONS OF INSTRUCTORS
- Meet minimum requirements of the Statement of Work.
- Ability to comprehend and instruct a class on Air Force Regulations (40 series concerning civilian personnel).
- Adequacy of educational specialty or experience.
"2. CORPORATE EXPERIENCE
- Meet the minimum program administration requirements.
"3. LESSON PLANS
- Understanding and potential for compliance with requirements.
- Provisions for periodic update.
- Identification for instructors.
- Evaluation of course effectiveness.
- Provision for review by 2750 Air Base Wing/DPCT Civilian Training Office.
"4. START-UP/PHASE-IN PLAN
- Schedule of operations tasks, manpower."
Twenty-seven proposals were received by the amended date for receipt of initial proposals of December 18, 1989, with 4 determined to be fully acceptable; 11 marginally acceptable; and 12 unacceptable. The agency included the fully acceptable and marginally acceptable proposals in the competitive range and eliminated the remaining proposals, one of which was that of MTS, by letters dated February 1, 1990.
MTS filed an agency-level protest challenging the elimination of its proposal from the competitive range on February 6, and by a notice dated February 9, the contracting officer denied the protest. MTS filed a protest in our Office on the same day, not only appealing the contracting officer's determination, but also alleging bad faith on the part of the contracting officials. MTS argues that the agency's determination that MTS' proposal was technically unacceptable was unreasonable and unfair. Specifically, the protester argues that the evaluation criteria in the solicitation were ambiguous and lacked specificity and that therefore it would be unfair to require MTS to supply a more detailed proposal than specifically was requested in the RFP.
We dismiss as untimely MTS' allegation that the evaluation criteria as contained in the solicitation were ambiguous. Protests based upon alleged improprieties in a solicitation which are apparent prior to the closing date for receipt of initial proposals must be filed prior to closing. C.F.R. Sec. 21.2(a)(1) (1990).
We will review, however, MTS' allegation that its proposal was not evaluated in accordance with the stated criteria. In reviewing protests against allegedly improper technical evaluations, our Office will not substitute its judgment for that of the contracting activity, but rather will examine the record to determine whether the agency's judgment was reasonable and in accord with listed evaluation criteria, and whether there were any violations of procurement statutes or regulations. Ross Aviation, Inc., B-236952, Jan. 22, 1990, 90-1 CPD Para. 83.
The contracting officer generally based his determination that MTS' proposal was technically unacceptable on the grounds that MTS failed to provide sufficient information in its proposal to enable the evaluators to determine whether it had the capability and experience to perform. Specifically, the contracting officer stated that MTS: (1) failed to document the qualifications of the individuals it proposed as instructors; (2) merely restated the statement of work from the RFP; (3) failed to specifically identify prior experience performing this type of contract; (4) failed to identify instructors; (5) did not adequately demonstrate its understanding and potential for compliance with the lesson plan requirement; (6) did not provide sufficiently for evaluation of course effectiveness or review; and (7) did not provide a schedule of operations for start/up phase in plan tasks, equipment, and manpower.
MTS alleges that it supplied a sufficient amount of information to establish that it was technically qualified to perform the training instruction, and that since the RFP did not specifically request detailed information it would be improper to downgrade MTS' proposal for failing to provide this type of information.
When submitting technical proposals, offerors generally are expected to submit sufficient detail to allow an agency to determine that minimum requirements will be met and to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of the offeror. A blanket offer of compliance is not an adequate substitute for the detailed and complete information necessary to establish that what the firm proposes will meet the agency's minimum needs. Sikora & Fogleman, B-236960, Jan. 17, 1990, 90-1 CPD Para. 61.
Here, for example, with respect to the qualifications of the instructors it would provide, MTS admits it did not specifically identify its proposed instructors or furnish their resumes. In its proposal it simply stated that "[t!he contractor not only meets but often exceeds the degree requirements ..." and included a list of the types of academic degrees its instructors would possess. The protester argues that no more than this was required by the solicitation, since the RFP requested "Identification for Instructors" not "of" instructors, which MTS says it interpreted to mean only a generalized identification of experience and degrees.
MTS' approach was tantamount to a general affirmation that, if awarded the contract, it would provide instructors who would meet the agency's needs. As we indicated above, this type of response is not generally acceptable in a technical proposal, and MTS' alleged reliance on a typographical error in the solicitation ("for" for "of") for a contrary interpretation is not reasonable. It certainly was not an interpretation shared by any of the other offerors all of which, the Air Force reports, did provide resumes. Under these circumstances, the Air Force reasonably concluded that MTS had not sufficiently demonstrated that the instructors that would be used during performance would be qualified.
Similarly, the protester disputes the contracting officer's conclusion that it did not sufficiently identify its previous experience, since it did state in its proposal that it possesses broad based experience in both the public and private sector and listed the names of universities and industries with which it has done business. The protester did not provide specific details of prior contracts or consulting arrangements, however, such as their duration, dollar value, or particular content as it relates to the Air Force's needs under this solicitation.
Again, we find that it is not unreasonable for the agency to downgrade a technical proposal that contains mere generalities that it possesses experience or qualifications without any information in support of these assertions. It is an offeror's obligation to establish that what it proposes will meet the government's needs, and where a proposal fails to include information called for by the RFP, which is necessary to establish compliance with the specifications, the agency may reasonably find the proposal technically unacceptable. Aydin Corp. (West), B-237450, Jan. 18, 1990, 90-1 CPD Para. 69.
MTS also argues that the rejection of its proposal was not made in good faith and, in fact, is part of a larger plan by the agency to have this work performed in-house. This contention is denied by the Air Force which notes that this solicitation is not being conducted as an Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-76 cost comparison study, and which states that such a study would not be initiated unless no acceptable proposal was received under this solicitation. The protester's representative provides no support for this allegation besides stating that while employed by a prior contractor she had previous problems with one of the members of the evaluation panel. Our review of the technical evaluations, however, revealed that MTS received low scores from all of the evaluators and not just from the named individual. We will not attribute unfair or prejudicial motives to procurement officials on the basis of inference or supposition, and unsupported allegations, such as MTS' here, do not establish bad faith. Sikora & Fogleman, B-236960, supra.
Accordingly, the protest is denied in part and dismissed in part.