The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just sustained a protest because the source selection authority (SSA) failed to substantively consider differences between proposals, and also failed to adequately explain and properly document the source selection decision. B-408046; B-408046.2.
This is a case where the award was made to the lower priced, lower-rated offeror. The differences on the technical scores were not great but the protester's were better than the successful awardee's. As we've noted over and over again, in these days of budget constrains, agencies tend to award to the lower priced offeror even in a best value procurement where the technical/management and past performance factors are significantly more important than cost or price. Here, GAO signals again that it is watching the store to see if the agency is following the rules.
While an agency has broad discretion in making a tradeoff between price and non-price factors, says GAO, "an award decision in favor of a lower-rated, lower-priced proposal must acknowledge and document any significant advantages of the higher-price, higher-rated proposal and explain why they are not worth the price premium." Put this rule in the book: An award decision in favor of a lower-priced proposal must acknowledge, explain and document any significant advantages of the higher-price, higher-rated proposal and explain why they are not worth the price premium.
In this very recent case, GAO said the solicitation stated that technical/management approach was more important than the past performance factor, and when combined the non-cost factors were significantly more important than the cost factor. The SSA's decision acknowledged that the protester's proposal was higher rated on past performance but the SSA found that the "slightly better" past performance ratings were not significant enough to warrant paying the higher evaluated price. The record did not explain why the SSA concluded that the protester's past performance as only "slightly better" and the record did not support the decision that this difference was not worth the price premium for the protester's proposal.
As we've reported before, conclusory statements are not enough to justify the source selection decision. The rule is that the SSA must explain the rationale for the decision and specifically justify awarding to a lower-priced offeror, in a best value procurement, by going on to explain (and document) the reasons why the higher-rated (for the non-price factors) offeror's higher price is not worth the premium.
Would that we all would finally get this message.