• Joshua Duvall

GAO Protest: Key Personnel Bio Sinks Contractor's Proposal

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) bid protest decision highlights the importance of ensuring that key personnel biographies comply with solicitation requirements. As shown below, failure to do so may lead to a deficiency and a lost opportunity.


The protest of Golden Key Group, LLC, B-419001, November 16, 2020 involved a challenge to a Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) task order for support services to assist the VA’s efforts under the transition assistance program (“TAP”). [1] Briefly, the unrestricted solicitation contemplated a best value trade-off evaluation using a two-phased approach. Under phase one, the VA would evaluate an offeror’s experience on a pass/fail basis, eliminating proposals that failed to demonstrate a “positive experience” under volume one. Under phase two, the VA would evaluate the remaining proposals under the following factors: technical capability, past performance, and SDVOSB and VOSB evaluation factors.


For technical capability, offerors were required to explain how they were going to meet the performance work statement (“PWS”) requirements, which included the submission of biographies for key personnel. Notably, the biographies needed to “clearly demonstrate” that the key personnel satisfy the PWS requirements. For example, program managers ("PM") were required to possess 12 years of experience and either a project management certification or an additional four years of experience in a related field.


Following evaluations – in which the protester received an “unsatisfactory” technical capability rating – and notice of award, the protester requested and received a debriefing and then filed its protest at GAO.


Here, the protester argued that the “unsatisfactory” technical capability rating was unreasonable, and that the VA’s technical evaluation error (plus a past performance evaluation error) impacted its best-value tradeoff decision. Regarding the technical capability rating, the VA evaluated the protester as “unsatisfactory” because the PM’s biography failed to show that the PM had either a project management certification or an additional 4 years of related experience, as required under the PWS. Because it was unclear whether the PM possessed the required experience, the evaluation team gave the protester a deficiency.


In its protest, the protester noted that its PM had 26 years of experience. The protester further argued that while it “inadvertently omitted, through an editing error, several years of [the PM’s] experience” in the PM’s biography, the VA should have determined that its PM met the PWS experience requirements because its proposal and the remainder of the PM’s biography showed that the PM possessed the required experience. [2] Thus, to the extent that there was any uncertainty, the protester argued that the VA was required to seek clarifications.


At bottom, GAO found no basis to conclude that the VA’s evaluation was unreasonable and denied the protest. In so doing, GAO noted that the PWS required key personnel to satisfy certain requirements and that the protester admitted that the biography for its PM showed only from “2010 to present." Because the solicitation did not contemplate discussions, the protester was responsible for showing that its proposal met the PWS requirements. Ultimately, in denying the protest, GAO concluded that the protester’s failure to include the required experience in the PM’s biography did not “render the agency’s evaluation unreasonable.”


Takeaway


This bid protest decision provides a cautionary reminder on key personnel biographies and the importance of complying with solicitation requirements. Indeed, while this protest focused on biographies, the reasoning here may also extend to key personnel résumé submissions. Thus, where a solicitation contemplates biographies (or résumés), contractors should carefully scrutinize them to ensure that they comply with any solicitation requirements – failure to do so may lead to a lost opportunity.


__________

[1] The solicitation was issued on an unrestricted basis pursuant to the General Services Administration’s ("GSA") Human Capital and Training Solutions indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity ("IDIQ") contract.


[2] GAO determined that the protester's technical proposal stated that its PM had 26 years of experience, but the PM's biography failed to support that claim.


. . .


#govcon #govconjudicata #bidprotest #matross


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