Agency Appropriately Counted Unnumbered Cover Page In Determining Proposal Exceeded Page Limitations; Benaka Inc., GAO B-418639

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Protest challenging protester’s elimination from the competition is denied. The agency found that the protester’s proposal exceeded the page limitations and thus removed a page from the proposal. The removal of the page made the protester’s proposals unacceptable. The protester argued that the agency improperly counted the cover page as part of the page calculation. The solicitation, however, provided that the agency would count “all pages,” including blank pages, as part of the page calculation. GAO found that the agency reasonably included the cover page in its calculation.

The Army Corps of Engineers posted a solicitation seeking design-build services. The solicitation provided that offerors would be evaluated in two phases. In the first phase, offerors had to submit a volume that addressed their experience, technical approach, and past performance. That volume was not to exceed 35 pages. Any pages that exceeded the 35 page limit would not be evaluated.

Benaka Inc. submitted a phase 1 proposal. The Corps found that Benaka’s proposal totaled 36 pages and thus removed the last page from the proposal. Unfortunately, the last page of Benaka’s proposal was a required organization chart. Without the chart, Benaka’s proposal was assessed a deficiency. As a result, the Corps found Benaka’s proposal technically unacceptable. Benaka protested.

Benaka argued that the Corps unreasonably included the proposal cover page in the page calculation. Benaka contended that the solicitation did not identify the cover page as the type of page that would be counted toward the page limit. The solicitation provided that “all pages, including cover letters, Table of Contents pages, tables, illustrations, and appendices” would be counted in the page calculation. Benaka alleged that list did not include cover pages, so the agency should not have counted the cover page.

GAO rejected Benaka’ interpretation of the page limitation provision. The plain language of the provision did not limit the types of pages that would count against the 35 page limit. Indeed, the solicitation provided that “all pages “would be included in the calculation. Under Benaka’s interpretation, the Corps would be precluded from counting any proposal pages other than cover letter, table of contents, tables, and illustrations. Such an interpretation was antithetical to the very concept of the page limitations imposed by the solicitation.

Benaka argued that the cover page should not have been counted because it was unnumbered and non-substantive. But the Corps had explained in an amendment that even blank pages would count toward the limit.

Benaka raised additional challenges to the evaluation of its proposal, but GAO dismissed them because having been found unacceptable, Benaka was not interested party to raise additional evaluation challenges.

Benaka is represented by Lawrence M. Prosen, Gunjan R. Talati, Jamie C. Lipsitz, Benjamin L. Williams, and Caitlin E. Trevillyan of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP. The agency is represented by Maureen A. McAndrew, Jenna Gustafson, Paul Blenz, and Patsy Falcigno of the Army. GAO attorneys Christopher Alwood and Christina Sklarew participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - Benaka