By Carol O’Riordan and Alexis Ferruccio
A recent GAO decision demonstrates that when contemporaneous documentation shows evaluators made errors, the Source Selection Authority (SSA) award decision is at risk.
Ace Info challenged the evaluation of Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Request for Quotations (RFQ) for information technology operations support services (ITOSS) under EAGLE II. Ace Info protested, alleging multiple grounds in support. After rejecting all but one, GAO sustained the protest, holding that the agency incorrectly evaluated awardee Inserso’s past performance.
Ace Info alleged that the agency’s source selection evaluation switched background sections for two of Inserso’s contract references, all of which materially impacted the evaluation and skewed the award decision. The agency conceded the error, but argued it was nominal and had little impact on the final selection decision. The agency provided post-protest justifications that minimized the importance of errors.
The GAO noted that contemporaneous records trump post-protest explanations, and that the contemporaneous records here revealed that the agency’s “substantial errors” in evaluating Inserso’s past performance resulted in its failure document a reasonable basis for its evaluation. DHS not only transposed Inserso’s past performance information, it compounded the impact of the error when the agency relied on incorrect information in the remainder of the PPET report. Finally, the contemporaneous documentation showed that the SSA had relied on the inaccurate information in making the best value tradeoff and source selection.
The GAO will only sustain a protest when a protestor shows a reasonable possibility that it was prejudiced by the agency’s actions and that but for the actions, it would have had a substantial chance of receiving the award. Here, the GAO finds that without the transcription errors, Ace Info may have had a reasonable chance to win in the tradeoff determination.
Resolving any doubt regarding prejudice in favor of the protestor, GAO recommended that the agency reevaluate Inserso’s quotation in a manner consistent with the terms of the RFQ.