In September of 2016, Aurotech Inc. won an award for a blanket purchase agreement with Health and Human Services, FDA. Discover Tech made a persuasive protest of that award, resulting in the FDA taking corrective action, and to reevaluate Aurotech’s and Discover Tech’s quotations. After the FDA revised its initial award, now choosing Discover Tech in the award determination, Aurotech filed an unsuccessful protest.
Aurotech challenged the Agency’s evaluation of how Discover Tech’s reductions to its quoted price would affect the technical and management approaches, and therefore its ratings. It also alleged Discover Tech did not explain in full how it had reduced its price from the first award determination. The GAO found the agency had reasonably evaluated the vendor’s explanation for the price reduction. Specifically, that Discovery Tech’s new understanding of initial deadlines for the contract, allowed them to reduce labor costs without hurt quality.
Which brings us to the more interesting bid protest topic; when does a clarification become a discussion? Aurotech next alleged that the FDA held unequal exchanges with the two vendors. Similar to Aurotech’s accusation Discovery Tech failed to explain its price reduction, the Agency was also curious of the price drop during its evaluation. The Agency contract specialist contacted Discovery Tech asking how the reduction in staffing could happen, without adjusting the technical quotation/management approach. Discover Tech explained its initial mistake evaluating deadlines which had caused the previous higher staff prediction.
The GAO considered this a clarification, or limited exchange used to resolve clerical mistakes. Aurotech obviously disagreed, calling this exchange an opportunity for Discovery Tech to cure a crucial failure in its proposal. The GAO was most persuaded by the fact no change to the proposal occurred. Had the vender been allowed to modify its technical and management approach, the GAO would have considered this a discussion, requiring both parties to be involved. Given Aurotech was also asked for a clarification on a different subject, the GAO denied the bid on the ground the FDA treated the vendors unequally.
About the Author:
Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia.