COFC Renounces GAO Rule, Declines to Find Offeror Has Duty to Notify Agency of Changes in Personnel; Golden IT, LLC v. United States, COFC No. 21-1966C

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Protest challenging agency’s evaluation of proposals is denied. The protester alleged the agency disparately evaluated quotations, but the court found that the protester’s and awardee’s quotations were not substantively indistinguishable. The protester alleged the awardee had not complied with minimum solicitation requirements, but the court ruled that alleged minimum requirements weren’t really requirements. The protester alleged the awardee misrepresented the availability of a key person, but the court found no evidence to support this claim. What’s more, the court rejected a GAO rule that requires offerors to inform the agency of changes to proposed personnel.

Background

The U.S. Census Bureau issued an RFQ seeking to award a BPA for IT support services. Four offerors, including Golden IT, LLC and Spatial Front, Inc. (SFI), submitted quotations. The Census Bureau awarded the contract to SFI, finding that the company had a superior technical proposal that justified its higher price. Golden filed a protest with the Court of Federal Claims.

Legal Analysis

  • No Disparate Evaluation – Golden alleged the agency disparately evaluated its proposal relative to SFI’s. The court, however, found that Golden’s and SFI’s proposals were not substantively indistinguishable. For instance, Golden complained that SFI had received a strength for proposing a transition manager while Golden did not. The court, however, noted that SFI proposed a dedicated transition manager while Golden merely stated its product manager could also function as a transition manager. Additionally, Golden received a weakness for its approach to scalability, but the court noted Golden’s discussion of scalability was brief while SFI devoted four pages to the topic.
  • SFI Had Not Failed to Meet a Material Solicitation Term – Golden contended that SFI had not complied with a solicitation requirement for mapping years of experience to labor categories. While SFI acknowledged that it hadn’t mapped to the labor categories, the court found that mapping  was not a mandatory requirement. The RFQ did not require that vendors precisely map labor categories. Indeed, the RFQ stated that the government was only looking for comparable labor categories. In any event, the court noted that Golden had failed to map more labor categories than SFI. If SFI’s proposal had been non-compliant, then so was Golden’s.
  • No Evidence of Material Misrepresentation – Golden contended that SFI had misrepresented the availability of one its key personnel. SFI had proposed an individual who left the company shortly after quotations were submitted. While the timing of this individual’s departure raised questions, the court noted there was no evidence in the record that SFI knew this person was leaving before it submitted its proposal. In fact, the court opined, given that evidence to support a claim of knowing misrepresentation is rarely in the record, Golden should have conducted additional discovery.
  • Court Rejects GAO Rule Re Duty to Advise of Changes In Personnel – Golden contended that SFI had a duty to advise the agency of changes to its proposed staffing. The court, however, noted that this rule had been created by GAO, and that it lacked a legal basis—i.e., it was not codified in a statute or regulation. The court declined to apply it.

Golden is represented by Jon D Levin, W. Brad English, J. Dale Gibson, Emily L. Chancey, Joshua B. Duvall, and Nicholas P. Greer of Maynard, Cooper & Gale. The intervenor, SFI, is represented by Katherine Burrows, Jonathan T. Williams, Samuel S. Finnerty, and Patrick T. Rothwell of PilieroMazza PLLC. The government is represented by Bret R. Vallacher, Brian M. Boynton, and Patricia McCarthy of the Department of Justice as well as Wilmary Bernal of the Department of Commerce.

Golden IT