While we acknowledge that this information speaks generally to the companys experience, Valors experience operating CBOCs does not provide information about the experience of the specific individuals being proposed to do this work, which is the focus of the evaluation criteria for this factor.
Again, the SSAs finding, set out in its entirety above, provides no explanation.
As such, it should have been included in the tradeoff analysis. In sum, the record reflects that the agencys ultimate cost/technical tradeoff decision was inadequately documented, premised, at least in part, on an unreasonable evaluation, and failed to consider Arcadis lowest-priced proposal. The SSA raised the rating to good after identifying a significant strength under the factor and removing three weaknesses. Sterling argues that the significant strength added by the SSA was based on information not relevant to the evaluation criteria for the factor.
Correction of the identified errors could reasonably improve Arcadis evaluation rating under the technical approach factor, and could also result in a lower rating for the awardee under the previous experience and project team factor. The protester also contends that Valor omitted required information from its proposal pertaining to administrative support, and failed to propose adequate staffing. Supp. With respect to Sterlings contention that the SSA deviated from the evaluation scheme, Sterling argues that it was inconsistent with the terms of the RFP for the SSA to assign Valors proposal the following significant strength under the experience factor: Valor currently operates 28 CBOCs across the nation ranging in size from a few hundred enrollees to over 8,000.
FAR 16.505(b)(7); see also Systems Research & Applications Corp.; Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., B-299818 et al., Sept. While a comparative assessment might be made in the underlying documents upon which the selection decision relies, or in the selection decision itself, it must be documented and reviewable. B-413386.2, B-413386.3: Oct 28, 2016)Next, Heartland protests that the agencys best-value determination was contrary to the terms of the solicitation, which provided that the technical/management and past performance evaluation factors were significantly more important than price. Nonetheless, it is well-settled that an agency may properly select a lower-rated, lower-priced proposal where it reasonably concludes that the benefits of the higher-rated proposal are not worth the price premium.
Here, as noted, the evaluators identified specific strengths and weaknesses in the offerors non-cost proposals and past performance information, and also expressly ranked the proposals, and those findings were incorporated into the agencys source selection decision. In addition, the record contains no explanation of why, although the agency expressly ranked the proposals under the non-cost evaluation factors, it nonetheless found them equivalent. In this regard, Heartland characterizes the RFP as providing that price would only be given a major consideration if the vendors quotations were considered equal under the non-price factors, and asserts that its modestly higher price should have been of minor importance since Heartlands quotation was rated higher than Aces with regard to past performance and technical/management approach. Where, as here, a solicitation provides for a best-value award and identifies the factors for which tradeoffs will be made, a procuring agency must make its source selection decision consistent with those solicitation provisions. See, e.g., Bella Vista Landscaping, Inc., B-291310, Dec. The extent of required tradeoffs is governed by the test of rationality and consistency with the evaluation criteria.
While an agency has broad discretion in making a tradeoff between price and non-price factors, an award decision in favor of a lower-rated, lower-priced quotation must acknowledge and document any significant advantages of the higher-priced, higher-rated quotation, and explain why they are not worth the price premium. A protester's disagreement with the agency's determination, without more, does not establish that the evaluation or source selection was unreasonable. Here, the award decision identified strengths for PSI's quotation under the management approach subfactor of the technical factor and the past performance factor and explained that these strengths were the basis for assigning higher ratings to PSI's quotation, as compared to Skyhawk's. The award decision also stated that Skyhawk's proposed price was [,235,173], whereas PSI's proposed price was [,484,659]. See Dyn Corp Int'l, LLC, B-412451, B-412451.2, Feb 16, 2016, 2016 CPD 75 at 22. (NOTE: GAO's html and pdf decisions transposed PSI's and Skyhawk's prices. The table, from GAO, was added above to show the correct scoring and pricing.) The record here shows that the contracting officer concluded that there were only "negligible" or "minimal" differences between the vendors' quotations under the non-price evaluation factors. The common dictionary definition of the term "negligible" means "so small or unimportant or of so little consequence as to warrant little or no attention." Merriam-Webster Dictionary, visited Nov. The term "minimal" means "the least possible," "barely adequate," or "very small or slight." Id. See, e.g., Puglia Eng'g of California, Inc., B-297413 et al., Jan. Here, the record demonstrates that the SSA reviewed the report prepared by the TEB to assess the relative merits of the respective quotations. Servs., Inc., B-311329, B-311329.2, May 30, 2008, 2008 CPD 108 at 3. Fed., a division of IBM Corp.; Presidio Networked Solutions, Inc., B‑409806 et al., Aug.
The contracting officer concluded that PSI's quotation provided "only a negligible technical and past performance advantage" over Skyhawk's quotation, and therefore did not merit what the agency termed a "2% price premium." AR, Tab 10, Award Decision, at 14; see also Supp. We conclude that, in light of the contracting officer's use of these terms, the award decision was not a tradeoff decision in the sense of finding that a higher technically-rated quotation was not worth a price premium. He then utilized his own independent judgment in determining, consistent with the solicitation's evaluation criteria, that FJC represented the best value to the government. Although Man Tech's and OGS's proposals received the same adjectival ratings for all non-price factors, the record confirms that, the CO (and later, the SSA) reasonably found Man Tech's proposal to be technically superior and lower-priced. She found that MIRAC[ORP] met the definition of similar on its three past performance projects and the finding of a significant weakness and 5 Consensus rating were not warranted. The SSA did not provide any further explanation of how she concluded that MIRACORP met the definition for similar projects on its three past performance projects, such that the finding of the significant weakness and awardees past performance point score were not warranted. Although source selection officials may reasonably disagree with the ratings and recommendations of lower-level evaluators, they are nonetheless bound by the fundamental requirement that their independent judgments be reasonable, consistent with the provisions of the solicitation, and adequately documented. 15, 2014, 2014 CPD 241 at 14; see Earl Indus., LLC, B‑309996, B‑309996.4, Nov. Here, the SSEB rated the past performance of MIRACORP as containing a significant weakness.
A reasonable possibility of prejudice is a sufficient basis for sustaining a protest. This accreditation applies to all of their existing clinics as well as any new clinics they are awarded. According to Sterling, this information is not responsive to the evaluation criteria for this factor. While agencies properly may apply evaluation considerations thatare not expressly outlined in the RFP if those considerations are reasonably and logically encompassed within the stated evaluation criteria, there mustbe a clear nexus betweenthe stated and unstated criteria.We find the agencys best-value determination to be unreasonable because it is relies, in part, on a determination that is inadequately documented. B-413682.2, B-413682.3: Mar 29, 2017)In addition to the evaluation and discussions errors addressed above, Mevacon and Encanto argue that the Corps best‑value tradeoff decision was flawed because it relied solely on adjectival ratings and did not articulate a reasonable basis for the selection of Infinites higher-rated, higher-priced proposal. The evaluation also included a breakdown of the percentage of effort in each mission area to be performed by each prime contractor, subcontractor, and joint venture partner. The protester maintains that the agency unreasonably concluded that CI and UCS (along with two other offerors) were equivalent based solely on the firms adjectival ratings and did not perform a detailed critical analysis of the comparative merits of the proposals. Adjectival or point score evaluation ratings are merely guides to intelligent decision making.For the reasons discussed below, we agree and sustain the protest. The essence of an agencys evaluation is reflected in the evaluation record--the underlying merits of particular strengths and the proposal as a whole--rather than a comparison of the adjectival ratings. After receipt of final proposal revisions, the proposals included in the competitive range were rated as follows: Finally, the protester argues that the price/past performance tradeoff between Valdezs proposal and its own was inconsistent with the solicitation because both proposals received performance confidence ratings of substantial confidence. Those detailed strengths and weaknesses, along with the ranking of the proposals was carried forward into the agencys source selection decision. Metis Solutions, LLC, et al., B‑411173.2 et al., July 20, 2015, 2015 CPD 221 at 13.As such, the nexus between the experience of the company and the evaluation criteria is unclear. Nonetheless, the TEB did not assign a strength or significant strength to Valor under this factor based on its accreditation, and the SSA provided no explanation as to why he believed Valor merited a significant strength on this basis.The VA argues, in response to the protest, that the Joint Commission accreditation is directly related to [Valors] administrative support functions, proven abilities, and the level of training and experience that will be extended to meet the necessary administrative support functions of this contract. Given the lack of a clear nexus to the evaluation factor, and the failure of the SSA to adequately document the rationale for the assignment of a significant strength in this regard, we have no basis upon which to conclude that the SSAs evaluation was reasonable. As discussed above, however, the record is devoid of any explanation as to how the accreditation speaks to the training or experience of the Valor personnel that will be used to carry out the administrative support functions required by the contract.