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Office Depot, LLC, of Columbia, Maryland, protests the award of a contract to Mancon, LLC, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, under request for proposals (RFP) No. N00189-21-R-0011, issued by the Department of the Navy, Naval Supply Systems Command, to operate a commercial retail store at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. The protester argues that the agency failed to conduct a proper price evaluation and asserts that the best-value tradeoff and source selection decision was unreasonable. The protester also contends that the agency engaged in discussions with the awardee, which obligated the Navy to engage in discussions with all offerors.

We dismiss in part and deny in part the protest.
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DOCUMENT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
The decision issued on the date below was subject to a GAO Protective Order. This redacted version has been approved for public release.

Decision

Matter of:  Office Depot, LLC

File:  B-419809, B-419809.2

Date:  August 5, 2021

John G. Horan, Esq., Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, for the protester.
Michael L. Sterling, Esq., Anthony J. Mazzeo, Esq., and Daniel A.D. Salmon, Esq., Vandeventer Black LLP, for Mancon, LLC, the intervenor.
Philip Rappmund, Esq., Leslie Jefferson, Esq., and James P. Winthrop, Esq., Department of the Navy, for the agency.
Heather Weiner, Esq., and Jennifer D. Westfall-McGrail, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.

DIGEST

1.  Protester’s post-award protest challenges to the price evaluation methodology set forth in the solicitation are dismissed as untimely.

2.  Protest alleging that the agency failed to adequately consider the risks posed by awardee’s unbalanced pricing is denied where the record reflects that the agency evaluated the risk of unbalanced pricing and reasonably determined that the risk associated with a single overstated unit price was low.

3.  Agency’s post-proposal submission exchanges with awardee regarding price proposal were clarifications rather than discussions where the errors corrected were obvious on the face of the awardee’s proposal.

DECISION

Office Depot, LLC, of Columbia, Maryland, protests the award of a contract to Mancon, LLC, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, under request for proposals (RFP) No. N00189-21-R-0011, issued by the Department of the Navy, Naval Supply Systems Command, to operate a commercial retail store at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.  The protester argues that the agency failed to conduct a proper price evaluation and asserts that the best-value tradeoff and source selection decision was unreasonable.  The protester also contends that the agency engaged in discussions with the awardee, which obligated the Navy to engage in discussions with all offerors.

We dismiss in part and deny in part the protest.

BACKGROUND

The RFP, issued on December 2, 2020, contemplated award of a single indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity fixed-price contract, with economic price adjustment provisions, on a best-value tradeoff basis.[1]  Agency Report (AR), Tab 1, RFP at 1, 23; Contracting Officer’s Statement and Memorandum of Law (COS/MOL) at 1.  The solicitation sought proposals for services and supplies necessary to operate a commercial retail store at the Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, called the Norfolk Super Servmart (Servmart).[2]  RFP at 70. 

Offerors were advised that proposals would be evaluated under four factors:  technical management approach, past performance, small business participation plan, and price. Id. at 16, 18-20.  The technical management approach factor was significantly more important than past performance, and past performance was more important than the small business participation plan.  Id. at 23.  The non-price factors were significantly more important than price.  Id.

Of relevance here, the total evaluated price was to be calculated by adding an offeror’s proposed prices for a test market basket,[3] comprised of items commonly sold at the Navy’s Servmart; and the total material price, reflecting discounted commodity groups.[4] Id. at 28.  The solicitation explained that the total evaluated price would be the sum of the total material price and the total test market basket price.  RFP at 21-22.  The solicitation instructed that price was to be evaluated for reasonableness, in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) section 15.404-1(b), and the method of evaluation was “solely within the discretion of the [c]ontracting [o]fficer.”  Id. at 27.  The RFP required that the test market basket pricing be “representative of the offeror’s pricing methodology throughout the term of the contract.”  Id. at 21.

Offerors were to include in their price proposals a completed copy of attachment five to the RFP, proposing pricing for the items in the test market basket and the total material (commodities) price.  In addition, offerors were to include a copy of any current catalogs proposed to be used during the first year of the resulting contract.  Id.  

The agency received timely proposals from three offerors, including Office Depot and Mancon, by the closing date of January 19, 2021.  AR, Tab 5, Business Clearance Memorandum (BCM) at 21.  The final evaluation ratings and prices of the two proposals were as follows:[5]

OFFICE DEPOT

MANCON

Technical Management Approach

Acceptable

Acceptable

Past Performance

Substantial Confidence

Substantial Confidence

Small Business Participation Plan

Good

Good

Total Evaluated Price

$37,827,261

$26,918,559


Id. at 49.

In performing the best-value tradeoff analysis, the Navy conducted a detailed comparison of Office Depot’s and Mancon’s proposals under each factor.  Id. at 50-53.  Ultimately, the contracting officer, who was also the source selection authority for this procurement, found that “because Mancon was the lowest price proposal” and Office Depot’s “higher priced offer[ ] [does] not contain any advantage” that justifies “a significant price premium of 40%,” Mancon’s proposal represented the best value to the government.  Accordingly, the contracting officer selected Mancon for award.

On April 23, 2021, the agency notified Office Depot that its proposal had not been selected.  Protest, exh. 1, Unsuccessful Offeror Notice at 1.  After receiving a debriefing, Office Depot timely filed this protest with our Office. 

DISCUSSION

Office Depot raises various challenges to the award to Mancon.  Office Depot argues that the agency’s price evaluation was unreasonable because the agency failed to evaluate the items in the proposed test market basket, or calculate the total material price, in accordance with the terms of the RFP.  Office Depot also challenges the Navy’s price evaluation of Mancon’s proposal on the basis that the agency failed to adequately consider the risks posed by Mancon’s unbalanced pricing.  In addition, the protester asserts that clarifications with Mancon constituted discussions, which obligated the Navy to engage in discussions with all offerors, including Office Depot.  Finally, Office Depot challenges the agency’s best-value tradeoff and source selection decision.  While our decision may not specifically discuss each argument or variation of an argument, we have considered all of Office Depot’s assertions and find no basis to sustain the protest.

Price Evaluation

Office Depot challenges the agency’s evaluation of Mancon’s price proposal in three respects.  First, the protester contends that the agency improperly failed to analyze the proposed items for the test market basket in accordance with the terms of the RFP.  Second, the protester asserts that the agency improperly failed to calculate the total material price as required by the solicitation.  Finally, Office Depot argues that the agency failed to consider the risk of unbalanced pricing in Mancon’s proposal.  For the reasons discussed below, we dismiss the first two arguments because they are untimely challenges to the terms of the solicitation.  For the third allegation, concerning unbalanced pricing, we find no basis to sustain the protest.

Test Market Basket

In its initial protest, Office Depot argues that the Navy “did not analyze offerors’ pricing or supporting materials to ensure that Test Market Basket pricing was based on comparable products.”  Protest at 12.  The protester asserts that “[d]espite having the offerors’ catalogs and stock number or manufacturer’s part number for the items in the offerors’ market basket,” the agency failed to “analyze either the quality of the proposed items, or the quantity available of the proposed items.”  Id. at 15.  The protester maintains that the “pricing disparity between Office Depot’s and Mancon’s [total] evaluated prices indicates that Mancon likely offered lower quality or lower priced items in limited quantities for the Test Market Basket to obtain a low evaluated price.”  Id. 

The Navy requests dismissal of this protest ground as an untimely challenge to the price evaluation scheme.  The agency points out that the “quantities of each test market basket item was provided to all offerors in tab 3 of [the RFP’s pricing spreadsheet], and was not subject to change.”  Req. for Dismissal at 7; RFP; attach. 5, Pricing Spreadsheet, tab 3.  The agency also notes that, “[w]ith respect to the ‘quality’ of the proposed items, the solicitation stated that the ‘Government does not require a particular brand name for the Test Market Basket items’” and “offerors were thus simply required to provide compliant items.”  Req. for Dismissal at 7; RFP at 20.  The agency therefore maintains that the protester’s assertion--that the agency should have evaluated the quantity available, or the quality of, the proposed test market basket items--is an “attempt to modify the evaluation criteria after the date for the submission of proposals.”  Req. for Dismissal at 7.

In its response to the dismissal request, Office Depot asserts that this protest ground was not an untimely challenge to the terms of the solicitation.  The protester, however, fails to provide any substantive argument to support this assertion.  See Opposition to Req. for Dismissal at 5.  Instead, Office Depot raises a new challenge to the agency’s evaluation of the test market basket.  Rather than asserting that the agency improperly failed to evaluate the quantity available, or the quality of, the proposed test market basket items, to ensure the Test Market Basket pricing was based on comparable products, the protester’s new argument alleges that the Navy failed to evaluate whether the proposed test market basket items even met the solicitation’s minimum “descriptions and quantity requirements.”[6]  Id. 

Our Bid Protest Regulations contain strict rules for the timely submission of protests. These rules reflect the dual requirements of giving parties a fair opportunity to present their cases and resolving protests expeditiously without unduly disrupting or delaying the procurement process.  Verizon Wireless, B‑406854, B‑406854.2, Sept. 17, 2012, 2012 CPD ¶ 260 at 4.  Our timeliness rules specifically require that a protest based upon alleged solicitation improprieties that are apparent prior to the closing time for submission of proposals must be filed before that time.  4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(1); see AmaTerra Envtl. Inc., B‑408290.2, Oct. 23, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 242 at 3. 

Based on our review, we conclude that both the protester’s initial and new protest allegations concerning the test market basket are untimely.  With regard to the first allegation (that the agency should have evaluated the quantity available, or the quality of, the proposed test market basket items), as discussed above, the RFP clearly advised offerors that they were required to submit pricing for the items in the test market basket “in the quantities and units of issue specified” in the RFP.  RFP at 20-21.  As also previously discussed, the solicitation required only that the items proposed “meet the minimum salient characteristics shown in the description.”  Id.  To the extent the protester asserts that the evaluation should have assessed whether the proposed market basket items exceeded the RFP’s minimum salient characteristics or considered the quantity of an offeror’s inventory, the protester’s argument is untimely because it was not raised prior to the time for submission of proposals.  4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(1). 

As for the protester’s “new” argument, as also previously discussed, Office Depot contends that the Navy failed to properly evaluate whether the proposed test market basket items met the solicitation’s minimum “descriptions and quantity requirements.”  This argument essentially contends that the agency did not evaluate price proposals in accordance with the terms of the solicitation.  Although the protester raises this argument in response to the agency’s request for dismissal, the protester was on notice of the information providing the basis for this argument as of its April 27 debriefing.  See Protest, exh. 2, Debrief Letter.  Because the protester failed to raise this issue within 10 days of that date, it is untimely.  Bid Protest Regulations, 4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(2) (requiring protest issues be filed within 10 days after the basis is known or should have been known); Vigor Shipyards, Inc., B-409635, June 5, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 170 at 5 (explaining that where a protester initially files a timely protest, and later supplements it with new grounds of protest, the later-raised allegations must independently satisfy our timeliness requirements, since our Regulations do not contemplate the piecemeal presentation or development of protest issues).  Accordingly, this protest ground is also dismissed.

Total Material Price

The protester contends the agency failed to calculate the total material price for the price evaluation in accordance with the terms of the RFP.  The protester asserts that the agency improperly calculated the total material price by applying the offerors’ proposed service charges and discounts to the “plug-number dollar estimates” provided by the agency for each commodity and sub-commodity group, rather than applying them to the list prices, or average list prices, in an offeror’s catalog.  Protest at 15; Comments & Supp. Protest at 19. 

As noted above, the RFP clearly advised offerors that the “[t]ab 2-Total Material Price in Attachment 5 contains the estimated sales for each commodity and sub-commodity group” and specified that offerors “shall apply [their] proposed discounts and Government-sourced item service charges to the estimated sales in Tab 2-Total Material Price of Attachment 5-Material Price Submission Worksheet.”  RFP at 22.  To the extent the protester disagrees with this evaluation scheme, this argument is untimely because it was not raised prior to the time for submission of proposals.  4 C.F.R. § 21.2(a)(1).  Accordingly, this protest ground is also dismissed.

Unbalanced Pricing

Office Depot also challenges the Navy’s unbalanced pricing analysis, asserting that it was “very limited.”  Comments & Supp. Protest at 18-19.

With respect to unbalanced pricing, the FAR requires that contracting officers analyze offers with separately-priced line items or subline items to detect unbalancing.  FAR 15.404-1(g)(2).  Where unbalancing is detected, the contracting officer must then consider the risk posed, including the risk of paying an unreasonable price, and must consider whether to reject the offer if the risk is unreasonable.  FAR 15.404-1(g)(2).  While both understated and overstated prices are relevant to the question of whether unbalanced pricing exists, the primary risk to be assessed in an unbalanced pricing context is the risk posed by overstatement of prices because low prices (even below-cost prices) are not improper and do not themselves establish (or create the risk inherent in) unbalanced pricing.  See AIS Eng’g, Inc., B-410246, B-410246.2, Nov. 21, 2014, 2015 CPD ¶ 5 at 3.

Here, as noted above, the record shows that the contracting officer conducted an unbalanced pricing analysis of the awardee’s price proposal as required by the FAR.  The contracting officer compared Mancon’s unit pricing for each item to the unit prices of the other offerors.  AR, Tab 4, Price Analysis.  After concluding that Mancon’s unit prices for two items could be considered “unbalanced,” the contracting officer considered the risk associated with the unbalanced pricing.  AR, Tab 5, BCM at 43; COS/MOL at 13.  The contracting officer found the risk to be low as Mancon’s prices for the two items made up only 1.28 percent of the test market basket.  AR, Tab 5, BCM at 43. 

Additionally, the contracting officer explained that “the primary risk to be assessed in the context of unbalanced pricing is the potential for overstated prices,” and “only one item (cutlery kit) accounting for only 0.96% of the test market basket [ ] appeared to be highly priced.”  AR, Tab 5, BCM at 43; COS/MOL at 13.  The contracting officer stated that “[t]his one isolated product out of the tens of thousands of items expected to be sold is not expected to place the Government at significant risk of paying unbalanced prices.”  AR, Tab 5, BCM at 43.  Additionally, the contracting officer noted that the overstated price of the cutlery kit was likely due to an “unintended error in the pricing of the item,” particularly “since the price of the cutlery kit in Mancon’s current catalog is only $26.69 (as opposed to $160.60).”  Id.; COS/MOL at 13.  Ultimately, the contracting officer “assessed that the small percentage of this one highly priced item in relation to the total estimated value of the contract reflected a low overall risk of unbalanced pricing.”  COS/MOL at 13.  In addition, the contracting officer “observed that the pricing mechanisms and requirements of the contract are designed to mitigate any risk associated with the contractor pricing items too highly since the Servmart is not a required source of supply for customers at Naval Station Norfolk and it is in the contractor’s interest to price items competitively with other sources.”  AR, Tab 5, BCM at 44; COS/MOL at 13.

In our view, the agency has satisfied the requirements of the FAR to conduct an unbalanced pricing analysis by reasonably determining that the risk posed to the government was not significant enough to render Mancon’s proposal unacceptable. Office Depot has failed to establish that any additional analysis was required here.  We will not disturb an agency’s assessment of the risk posed by unbalanced pricing when, as here, the agency reasonably considers the relevant circumstances.  See, e.g., Gulf Master Gen. Trading, LLC, B-407941.2, July 15, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 210 at 5.  Accordingly, we find no basis to sustain the protest.

Improper Discussions

In its supplemental protest, filed after receipt of the agency report, Office Depot argues that the record shows the Navy improperly engaged in discussions with only Mancon.  The record confirms, and the Navy concedes, that the agency contacted Mancon after offerors submitted their proposals, but our review of the exchange leads us to conclude that the agency’s communication was a request for clarification, not discussions.

Section 15.306 of the FAR describes a spectrum of exchanges that may take place between an agency and an offeror during negotiated procurements.  Clarifications are “limited exchanges” between the government and offerors that may allow offerors to clarify certain aspects of proposals or to resolve minor clerical errors.  FAR 15.306(a)(2).  Discussions, on the other hand, occur when an agency indicates to an offeror significant weaknesses, deficiencies, and other aspects of its proposal that could be altered or explained to enhance materially the proposal’s potential for award.  FAR 15.306(d)(3).  The “acid test” for deciding whether discussions have been held is whether it can be said that an offeror was provided the opportunity to modify its proposal.  National Beef Packing Co., B-296534, Sept. 1, 2005, 2005 CPD ¶ 168 at 11; Park Tower Mgmt. Ltd., B-295589, B-295589.2, Mar. 22, 2005, 2005 CPD ¶ 77 at 7.

As indicated above, for the price proposal, the solicitation instructed offerors to use a pricing worksheet, included as attachment 5 to the solicitation, to submit their pricing for the total material price and the test market basket.  RFP at 21.  The solicitation explained that the total evaluated price would be the sum of the total material price and the total test market basket price.  Id. at 21-22.

As also previously noted, the test market basket was a sampling of 282 items to be sold at the Norfolk Super Servmart.  Offerors were to provide prices for the 282 items.  The 282 items were selected for inclusion in the test market basket based on the frequency with which they were sold at the Servmart.  The government provided the quantities for each item, and the offeror was to provide a price for each item, among other figures (such as proposed discount, service charge, etc.).  RFP, attach. 5, Pricing Spreadsheet, tab 3.

The contracting officer explains that during the evaluation of Mancon’s test market basket, she noticed three items for which the proposed unit price led her to believe that Mancon had committed a “clerical error” by proposing “a unit price for a different unit of measure than the test market basket required.”  Supp. COS/MOL at 2.  For example, the test market basket required offerors to propose a unit price for a dozen identification (ID) card holders.  Supp. COS/MOL at 2; RFP, attach. 2, Price Worksheet at tab 3, line 63.  The contracting officer explains that she thought “Mancon’s proposed unit price of $2.95 appeared to be an obvious clerical error as market research found pricing for a dozen ID card holders to be $42.09.”  Supp. COS/MOL at 2.  The contracting officer states that this “led [her] to surmise that Mancon had inadvertently proposed a unit price for one (1) ID card holder instead of 12.”  Id. 

Similarly, the test market basket required offerors to propose a unit price for 1,000 specimen bags.  The contracting officer found that “Mancon’s proposed unit price of $19.14 appeared to be an obvious clerical error” since “market research found pricing for 1000 specimen bags to be $175.88.”  Id.  The contracting officer states that this led her to assume that “Mancon had inadvertently proposed a unit price for a hundred (100) specimen bags.”  Id.

On April 9, 2021, the Navy sent an email to Mancon asking the offeror to clarify the unit of measure for each of the following three proposed unit prices in its test market basket:

1.For Item #63, is your Proposed Unit Price of $2.95 in Column J for one (1) 36 Retractable ID card reel, badge holder, NSN [national stock number] 8455015453657?

2.For Item #75, is your Proposed Unit Price of $19.14 in Column J for one hundred (100) Specimen Bags, NSN 6530013075430?

3.For Item #85, is you Proposed Unit Price of $11.52 in Column J for one hundred (100) Absorbent Liquid Pouches, NSN 6530013049754?

AR, Tab 6, Clarification Email at 1.

By email, dated April 12, 2021, Mancon confirmed that its proposed unit price of $2.95 was for a single badge holder and its proposed unit price of $19.14 was for 100 specimen bags.  Id.  For the third question, Mancon responded that the proposed unit price was for a box of 100 pouches.  Id. 

The contracting officer states that, after she “verified that Mancon had inadvertently quoted the incorrect quantity” for the first two items, she “corrected the clerical error in the price analysis.”  Supp. COS/MOL at 3.  Specifically, “since Mancon confirmed [the] proposed price for (1) ID Card Holder,” the contracting officer “multiplied Mancon’s proposed unit price by the applicable quantity . . . to determine a corrected unit price.”  Supp. COS/MOL at 3; AR, Tab 5, BCM at 36.  The contracting officer states that she made the same correction to Mancon’s proposed unit price for the specimen bags.[7]  Id.

Office Depot argues that the exchange between the Navy and Mancon allowed Mancon to revise its price proposal, and that therefore, discussions took place.  We disagree.

An agency may allow an offeror to correct a clerical error in a cost or price proposal through clarifications, as opposed to discussions, where the existence of the mistake and the amount intended by the offeror are clear from the face of the proposal.  IPlus, Inc., B-298020, B-298020.2, Jun. 5, 2006, 2006 CPD ¶ 90 at 5; Joint Threat Servs., B‑278168, B‑278168.2, Jan. 5, 1998, 98-1 CPD ¶ 18 at 12-13.

The record reflects that the agency believed that Mancon’s proposed unit price of $2.95 was for a single card holder and of $19.14 was for 100 specimen bags, and Mancon’s response to the agency’s questions confirmed that those unit prices were proposed for those quantities.  The record also shows that none of Mancon’s proposed unit prices changed as a result of the clarifications.  Rather, the clarifications allowed the contracting officer to verify that Mancon made an error in proposing the incorrect quantity for these two items; the contracting officer therefore corrected the clerical error in the quantity for these two items in the price analysis.  As for the test market basket, it was provided as part of the price evaluation to assess and compare the proposed prices of the offerors; the RFP established the quantities.  Further, the correction of the error did not competitively prejudice Office Depot since it had the effect of raising, not lowering, Mancon’s total evaluated price.  Officemax, Inc., B-299340.2, July 19, 2007, 2007 CPD ¶ 158 at 8 (“[O]ur Office will not sustain a protest absent a reasonable showing of competitive prejudice, that is, unless the protester demonstrates that, but for the agency’s actions, it would have a substantial chance of receiving award.”).  Under these circumstances, we find that this exchange did not constitute discussions, but rather was a clarification of an obvious error.  On this record, we find no basis to sustain the protest.

Best-Value Tradeoff Analysis

The protester also argues that the Navy conducted an unreasonable best-value tradeoff analysis based on its flawed price analysis and its failure to consider the advantages associated with Office Depot’s proposal.

As a general matter, source selection officials enjoy broad discretion in making tradeoffs between the comparative merits of competing proposals in a best-value evaluation scheme; such tradeoffs are governed only by the test of rationality and consistency with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria.  Coastal Int’l Sec., Inc., B-411756, B-411756.2, Oct. 19, 2015, 2015 CPD ¶ 340 at 14.  In a best-value procurement, such as this, it is the function of the source selection authority (SSA) to perform a price/technical tradeoff to determine whether one proposal’s technical superiority is worth a higher price. Raytheon Co., B-414062.3, Feb. 21, 2017, 2017 CPD ¶ 71 at 6.  When proposals are compared for purposes of a best-value tradeoff decision, the number of identified strengths is not dispositive; rather, it is the qualitative information underlying the ratings that the SSA should consider in assessing whether and to what extent meaningful differences exist between proposals.  National Gov’t Servs., Inc., B‑412142, Dec. 30, 2015, 2016 CPD ¶ 8 at 18-19.

On this record, we find no basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s tradeoff decision.  The record demonstrates that the SSA conducted a detailed comparison of Office Depot’s and Mancon’s proposals under each factor.  The SSA recognized that both proposals were rated acceptable under the technical management approach factor, with both proposals receiving a weakness and two strengths under this factor.  AR, Tab 5, BCM at 50.  With regard to past performance, both Mancon and Office Depot received substantial confidence ratings based on strong references.  Id. at 51.  For the small business participation plan, both proposals received a rating of “good” with the contracting officer finding that both proposals “demonstrated a thorough approach and understanding of the small business objectives.”  Id. at 52.  With regard to price, Office Depot’s total evaluated price was $37,827,261, and Mancon’s total evaluated price was $26,918,559.  Id. at 49. 

The SSA explained that, after conducting a comparison of the proposals under each factor, including a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses under the technical management approach factor, the technical evaluation board found a strength assessed for Office Depot’s “proposed custom website to be modeled on [its] commercial website] to be unique and advantageous to the government.”  Id. at 51.  Ultimately, however, the SSA concluded that this benefit alone does not warrant paying “a significant price premium of 40%[.]”  Id. at 52-53.  Accordingly, the contracting officer concluded that Mancon’s proposal represented the best value to the government.  Id.  Based on the record presented, we find no basis to object to the contracting officer’s tradeoff decision.

The protest is dismissed in part and denied in part.

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
General Counsel

   



[1] The solicitation was subsequently amended twice.  All references to the solicitation in this decision are to the conformed RFP.

[2] The Servmart provides supplies, parts, and equipment in the following commodity groups to the naval forces at the Naval Station:  office; janitorial and sanitation; industrial hardware; galley; safety; and tactical equipment.  COS/MOL at 1.

[3] The test market basket was a list of 282 items frequently sold at the Navy Servmart store in the past 2 years.  COS/MOL at 4.  The solicitation provided the quantities and the minimum salient characteristics for each item, and the offeror was to provide a price for each item, among other figures (such as proposed discount, service charge, etc.). RFP at 20; id., attach 5, Pricing Spreadsheet, tab 3.

[4] The total material price was based upon historical sales of the commodity groups from the prior Servmart contract.  COS/MOL at 5.  The solicitation provided an estimated amount, referred to as a “plug number,” for each commodity and sub-commodity group (i.e., galley, office, hardware, janitorial/sanitation, safety, tactical, government, etc.).  RFP, attach. 5, Pricing Spreadsheet, tab 2.  The solicitation required that offerors propose a discount rate (for commercial items) or a service charge (for government-source items such as those purchased from AbilityOne, the General Services Administration, etc.) for each commodity group “plug number.”  RFP at 22; COS/MOL at 5.

[5] Proposals were evaluated under the technical management approach and small business participation plan factors as outstanding, good, acceptable, marginal, or unacceptable.  RFP at 24, 27.  Under the past performance factor, quotations were evaluated as outstanding, acceptable, marginal, unacceptable, or neutral.  Id. at 26.

[6] For example, the protester asserts that “despite requesting catalogs, presumably to ensure compliance with the basket item descriptions and product availability,” the “Navy acknowledges” that “the Navy never checked the catalogs to confirm the proposed prices were for compliant products and products available for purchase in the quantities required under the contract.”  Id. at 6.   

[7] The contracting officer states that the remaining item, liquid pouches, was not corrected, because Mancon indicated that the price quoted was the price intended and that an error in quantity was not made.  Supp. COS/MOL at 3. 

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