GAO generally defers to an agency’s judgment when it comes to the evaluation of proposals. This deference flags, however, when an agency evaluates competing proposals inconsistently; or, in other words, treats offerors disparately.
Let’s take a look at how GAO, in a recently sustained protest, found that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable.
In Bristol Environmental Remediation Services, LLC, B-416980 et al. (Jan. 16, 2019), the Army Corps of Engineers solicited environmental remediation and munitions response services. The agency noted that it would evaluate the proposals on a best-value tradeoff basis, with non-price considerations being significantly more important than price. In all, the agency planned to award up to 10 fixed-price IDIQ task-order contracts.
After conducting discussions with offerors in the competitive range and obtaining revised proposals, the agency assigned all offerors identical ratings for their non-price factors, with one exception. For the least important non-price factor–which consisted of offerors’ proposing a technical approach for a sample project–the agency assigned identified two weaknesses in Bristol’s proposal and assigned it a marginal rating. (This marginal rating cost Bristol a contract, which the agency awarded to six other offerors.) As you can imagine, Bristol challenged the two assigned weaknesses.