Proposal Submitted in Name of a Product, Instead of Company Providing the Product, Is Nonresponsive; Innovative Quality Solutions, LLC, GAO B-419009.2

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Protest challenging the rejection of the protester’s quotation as nonresponsive is denied. The protester submitted a quotation in the name of the product it was providing rather than in the name of the company providing the product. The agency rejected the quotation as nonresponsive. GAO found that the agency acted reasonably. The protester had the responsibility to adequately explain the relationship between itself and its product. The protester alleged that the difference between the company and the product was a minor issue that could be resolved through clarifications. But GAO found that the issue, which concerned the identity of the offeror, could not be resolved with clarifications.

The Department of Transportation posted an RFQ seeking railway car spotters—i.e., devices used to position railway cars. Innovative Quality Solutions, LLC (IQS) submitted a quote. IQS, however, submitted the quote in the name of its product line, BOSS Railcar Movers. The cover letter stated that the quotation was submitted on behalf of BOSS and was signed by the executive vice president/general manager of BOSS.

The contracting officer asked IQS to clarify the relationship between itself and BOSS. IQS stated that BOSS was the name of oy product, and IQS was the name of the company. IQS analogized to the Ford 150, which is a product, but the company that makes the F150 is Ford Motor Company. IQS explained that its literature emails, and marketing materials were all developed to promote the name of BOSS.

This explanation, however, did not allay the agency’s concerns. The agency rejected IQS quotation as non-responsive. The agency reasoned that the quotation had been submitted in the name of BOSS. The solicitation was set aside for small businesses, and BOSS was not a small business—indeed, it was not even a business. Moreover, the solicitation required all offerors to be registered in SAM to receive award, and BOSS was not registered in SAM.

After finding IQS’s quotation non-responsive, the agency made award to another vendor. It turned out, however, that vendor was not a small business. The agency took corrective action, terminated the award, and announced that it planned to pursue an unrestricted competition.

IQS protested the corrective action. IQS argued that it was an eligible small business and that the agency had unreasonably found its quotation nonresponsive.

GAO found that the agency acted reasonably in rejecting IQS’s proposal. IQS had the responsibility to submit a well-written proposal that adequately explained the relationship between BOSS and IQS. Here, the quotation was submitted on BOSS letterhead and represented that the BOSS would provide the railway spotters. But further communications revealed that any award would go to IQS. The agency reasonably concluded that the quotation as submitted did not identify the relationship between BOSS and IQS.

IQS alleged that any confusion caused by the use of the BOSS name in the quote was a minor issue that the company had resolved in communications with the agency. IQS contended that the agency was within its rights to accept the information from IQS about the relationship as a clarification.

But GAO found that the agency could not accept the information as a clarification. IQS’s explanation that BOSS was a product line and that IQS was the manufacturer meant that award would have to be made to IQS, not BOSS. Thus, the explanation did not clarify a minor issue; rather, it changed the identity of the company that submitted the quotation.

ISQ is represented by Shane J. McCall, Christopher S. Coleman, Nicole D. Pottroff, and Quinten R. Fisher of Koprince Law, LLC. The agency is represented by Felecia R. McBride of the Department of Transportation. GAO attorneys John Sorrenti and Christina Sklarew participated in the preparation of the decision.

GAO - Innovative Quality Solutions