Energy Engineering & Consulting Services, LLC

B-407605: Jan 15, 2013

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Energy Engineering & Consulting Services, LLC (EECS), of Swayzee, Indiana, protests the issuance of a task order to Sebesta Blomberg, of Arlington, Virginia, under request for quotations (RFQ) No. ID04120157 issued by the General Services Administration (GSA) for retro-commissioning services. EECS challenges GSA's evaluation of its quotation as technically unacceptable.

We deny the protest.

Decision

Matter of: Energy Engineering & Consulting Services, LLC

File: B-407605

Date: January 15, 2013

Dennis R. Zappone, Energy Engineering & Consulting Services, LLC, for the protester.
Amy A. Cook, Esq., General Services Administration, for the agency.
Brent Burris, Esq., Susan K. McAuliffe, Esq., and Edward Goldstein, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.

DIGEST

Protest challenging agency’s rejection of quote as technically unacceptable for failing to provide sufficient detail in technical narrative is denied where the protester failed to demonstrate that the agency’s evaluation was unreasonable or inconsistent with the terms of the solicitation.

DECISION

Energy Engineering & Consulting Services, LLC (EECS), of Swayzee, Indiana, protests the issuance of a task order to Sebesta Blomberg, of Arlington, Virginia, under request for quotations (RFQ) No. ID04120157 issued by the General Services Administration (GSA) for retro-commissioning services. EECS challenges GSA’s evaluation of its quotation as technically unacceptable.

We deny the protest.

BACKGROUND

GSA issued the RFQ on August 13, 2012 under Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) 03FAC (Facilities Maintenance and Management) on behalf of the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency (AFCESA) for retro-commissioning services at multiple Air Force facilities.[1] Agency Report (AR), Exhibit (Exh.) 1, Contracting Officer’s Statement of Facts (CO Statement), at 1-2. The RFQ provided that quotes would be evaluated using a lowest-priced, technically acceptable (LPTA) evaluation scheme using two evaluation factors--professional and technical approach (evaluated on a pass/fail basis) and price. AR, Exh. 7, RFQ Instructions at 3-4.

With regard to professional and technical approach, vendors were to include a “narrative detailing the Offeror’s plans and capabilities to provide the services described in the Task Order’s Performance Work Statement [PWS].” Id. at 3. Further, the RFQ specified that to receive a rating of “pass” for the technical factor, the narrative was “to provide an explanation of how the Offeror will meet the requirements” and that the “Government will evaluate the Offeror’s ability to provide the full range of support services described in the PWS.” Id. at 4. The RFQ also put vendors on notice that “[s]imple statements of compliance without the detailed description of how compliance will be accomplished may not be considered sufficient evidence that the Offeror can meet the Task Order performance requirements and may result in technical unacceptability.” Id. at 2.

As it relates to the protest, the PWS identified two phases of work: phase I, consisting of a kick-off meeting, planning, and investigation; and phase II, consisting of implementation and turnover. Section 9 of the PWS included several pages listing tasks that were required, or would possibly be required, for the phase II implementation stage of the retro-commissioning services. AR, Exh. 5, PWS at 13-16. Among other actions, section 9 specified required actions in connection with services related to heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, HVAC control systems, chiller operations, cooling towers, air distribution systems, direct expansion air conditioning, building automation and energy management, fired and unfired boilers, and electrical systems. Id.

GSA issued the RFQ using the GSA Information Technology Solutions Shop (ITSS), GSA’s electronic web-based processing system, with a closing date of September 12, 2012. AR, Exh. 1, CO Statement at 2. GSA received 10 quotes in response to the RFQ, including a quote submitted by EECS. Id. at 2, 9. The agency initially failed to retrieve EECS’s quote from the system, however, because EECS entered a price of “$0.00.” Id. at 9. The CO explained that he assumed this price of “$0.00” meant that EECS has submitted a “no bid” and thus, the CO did not confirm whether EECS had in fact uploaded documents to the system. Id.

A two-member technical evaluation team evaluated the 9 other quotes received, and determined that 8 of the 9 quotes were technically acceptable. Id. at 4-5. The CO then conducted a price evaluation of the 8 technically acceptable offerors, and determined that Sebesta Blomberg’s quote represented the best value to the Government under the LPTA evaluation. Id. at 5. GSA issued the task order to Sebesta Blomberg on September 20, 2012. Id.

On September 22, 2012, EECS contacted the CO and requested a debriefing. Upon ascertaining that EECS had in fact submitted a response to the RFQ, the CO reconvened the technical evaluation team. Id. The technical team evaluated the protester’s quote and concluded that it did not contain sufficient detail as to how EECS would meet the requirements contained in section 9 of the PWS. AR, Exh. 13a, Technical Evaluation of EECS Quote, at 1-3. As such, the technical team assigned the protester’s quote a rating of “fail”, finding that the lack of detail did not meet the Government’s requirements as stated in the PWS. Id. Pursuant to the RFQ, EECS’s quote was not considered further.

On September 27, 2012, GSA sent EECS a Brief Explanation of Award Decision (BEAD), notifying the protester that its quote was evaluated as technically unacceptable because it had not adequately described how it would meet the government’s requirements identified in section 9 of the PWS. AR, Exh. 1, CO Statement at 8. Although the document was properly addressed to EECS, a table summarizing the evaluated prices of EECS and the awardee mistakenly included the name of another company in place of EECS. Id. at 9.

Upon learning of the agency’s evaluation and selection decision, EECS filed a protest with this office, challenging the agency’s evaluation of its quote as technically unacceptable.

DISCUSSION

EECS maintains that the post-award evaluation of its quote, as well as the incorrect name in the BEAD document, indicate that the agency did not carefully and properly evaluate its quote. EECS also argues that the agency’s evaluation findings were unreasonable and inconsistent with the terms of the solicitation.

In reviewing an agency’s evaluation in an FSS competitive acquisition, we will not reevaluate quotations, but will examine the record to ensure that the agency’s evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the terms of the solicitation. Beckman Coulter, Inc., B-405452, Nov. 4, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 231 at 5; Maybank Indus., LLC, B-403327, B-403327.2, Oct. 21, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 249 at 5. It is a vendor’s burden to submit an adequately written quotation, and the vendor’s disagreement with an unfavorable rating does not establish that the evaluation was unreasonable. See CMI Mgmt., Inc., B-404645, Mar., 2, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 66 at 4-5; DEI Consulting, B-401258, July 13, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 151 at 2.

Regarding the protester’s assertion that the agency’s clerical and administrative errors show that its quote was not carefully and professionally evaluated, EECS has failed to demonstrate how these mistakes resulted in an inaccurate evaluation of its quote. With regard to substituting another company’s name in place of EECS’s name in the BEAD, the record reflects that all other aspects of the document were accurate and that the error was unrelated to the actual evaluation of the protester’s quote. Likewise, the record supports the CO’s explanation as to why EECS’s quote was initially overlooked in the ITSS system and there is no evidence of bad faith on part of the agency. See Celeris Systems, Inc., B-404651, March 24, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 72 at 6 (“[G]overnment officials are presumed to act in good faith, and a protester's claim that contracting officials were motivated by bias or bad faith must be supported by convincing proof.”). Upon learning that EECS’s quote was excluded from the evaluation, the CO promptly reconvened the technical team to evaluate the quote. AR, Exh. 1, CO Statement at 5. Thus, these alleged errors do not provide a basis to question the reasonableness of the agency’s evaluation.

EECS also argues that the agency unreasonably determined that its quote lacked sufficient detail and thus was technically unacceptable. As noted above, the RFQ directed offerors to provide a narrative explanation detailing how they would address the requirements of the PWS, which under section 9 included an extensive list of specific tasks that were required, or would possibly be required, during the phase II implementation stage of the retro-commissioning services. AR, Exh. 7, RFQ Instructions at 3-4; AR, Exh. 5, PWS at 13-16. The record reflects that EECS’s quote plainly made no mention of the implementation requirements identified under section 9, with the exception of a short paragraph, which is general in nature. AR, Exh. 12, EECS Quote, at 6. In assessing this paragraph, the agency’s evaluators determined that EECS’s quote provided “an inadequate description of work to be completed for section 9,” noting that the PWS’s description of required tasks under section 9 was three and one half pages in length, and evaluated EECS’s quote as unacceptable on this basis. AR, Exh. 13, Consensus Evaluation, at 2. While EECS ultimately disagrees with the agency’s determination that its quote failed to sufficiently address the stated requirements set forth in section 9 of the PWS, we have no basis to conclude that the agency’s determination in this regard was unreasonable, or contrary to the terms of the solicitation.

As a related matter, the protester also argues that the generalized statements contained in its narrative should have been deemed sufficient because the scope of repairs and the details of the work to be performed in the implementation phase would not be known until work had begun, and thus it could not provide a more detailed discussion.[2] See Protest at 5; Protester’s Comments at 5-6. Protester’s understanding in this regard, however, is inconsistent with the express terms of the RFQ. The RFQ directed firms to explain their plans and capabilities to perform the work identified in the PWS, which included those tasks that would be performed “as needed.” AR, Exh. 7, RFQ Instructions at 3-4; AR, Exh. 5, PWS at 13-16. Although not all of the tasks contained in the PWS would necessarily be required and not all of the details of the work were known prior to award, this did not preclude firms from explaining, based on the information available, how they would perform the work identified in the PWS. As discussed above, EECS largely failed to include any such explanation with regard to the implementation phase tasks contained in the PWS.

Ultimately, as noted above, a vendor is responsible for demonstrating affirmatively the merits of its quote and risks rejection if it fails to do so. See John Blood, B-402133, Jan. 15, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 30 at 3-4; HDL Research Lab, Inc., B-294959, Dec. 21, 2004, 2005 CPD ¶ 8 at 5. The RFQ here required vendors to submit technical narratives demonstrating how they would meet the PWS requirements. Since the protester's quote failed to do so with sufficient detail, we have no basis to question the agency's rejection of EECS quote as technically unacceptable under the terms of the RFQ.[3]

The protest is denied.

Susan A. Poling
General Counsel



[1] AFCESA provides centralized facility energy program management and support to Air Force facilities. AR, Exh. 5, Performance Work Statement (PWS), at 1. Generally speaking, the services sought by the AFCESA are to improve facility performance, reduce operation and maintenance costs, and improve environmental quality. Id. at 4.

[2] To the extent the protester has argued that the agency’s 10-page limit on technical narratives was too restrictive to allow for adequately detailed responses, this argument is untimely. See 4 C.F.R. § 21.1(a)(1).

[3] In its comments on the AR, EECS raises several arguments for the first time. Specifically, the protester contends that the agency was required to consider past performance, that the BEAD document did not comply with Federal Acquisition Regulation § 8.404(d), and that GSA was biased against small businesses. These arguments are untimely. See 4 C.F.R. §§ 21.2(a)(1) and (2).

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