In general, an agency's evaluation of a government contracting bid is constrained by the factors specified in the evaluation. However, as the GAO reminded a disappointed bidder last week, those factors need not be expressly stated. Rather, the agency's decision will normally be upheld so long as the applied factors are "reasonably related to or encompassed by the stated evaluation criteria."
In the present case, the US Army had rejected an otherwise qualified bidder on the grounds that it lacked sufficient "preventative maintenance experience." Because this term was never mentioned in the solicitation, the company cried foul and claimed the agency relied on an impermissible factor.
"While [the GAO] agree[d] that the corporate experience factor did not expressly use the phrase 'preventive maintenance,' [it] nonetheless conclude[d] that experience contemplated by the RFP reasonably encompassed preventive maintenance experience for several reasons." Chief among these reasons was that "preventive maintenance comprises approximately 75 percent of all of the work contemplated under the solicitation." Because the majority of the work performed was preventative maintenance, the GAO surmised that the company was on more than sufficient notice that its experience in that field would be considered.
This case underscores a simple, but important point — the express evaluation factors are a starting point in bid preparation, but they are not the only consideration.
The GAO said in a decision released Thursday that even though the Army didn't explicitly state that it would evaluate NIKA Technologies Inc.'s corporate experience based on its preventive maintenance skills, the agency wasn't wrong for doing so. When requesting contract proposals, federal agencies are not required to list all the subfactors they will consider when evaluating whether bidders have the necessary skills and experience for a contract, according to the decision dated June 5.