GAO upholds NikSoft's protest of ID management contract

Agency failed to justify why it selected higher-priced vendor

The Justice Department awarded a $844,000 contract to a higher-priced information technology vendor without fully considering whether the vendor offered the best value, according to a new legal opinion released by the Government Accountability Office.

LS3 Technologies was awarded the contract that is now under protest by fellow bidder NikSoft systems.

After a protest was filed by a rival vendor, Justice officials accused the protesting vendor of an organizational conflict of interest without "hard facts," Lynn Gibson, GAO general counsel, wrote in the decision dated Feb. 29. A redacted version of the decision was released online on an unspecified date.

The GAO’s general counsel upheld the protest filed by NikSoft Systems Corp. of Reston, Va..

The GAO also said the Justice department should consider canceling the task order with LS3 Inc. of Odenton, Md. unless it can offer more evidence that it provides the best value.

The protest by NikSoft Systems was filed in response to the Office of Justice Program’s establishment of a blanket purchase agreement and award of an initial task order to LS3 Inc. to support federal identity, credential and access management services. The value of the task order was $844,122.

NikSoft and LS3 both had bid on the contract. LS3 had higher past performance scores, while NikSoft offered a lower price. NikSoft alleged that the Justice Department had not properly considered pricing or past performance factors.

The GAO agreed with NikSoft, saying Justice officials apparently selected the higher-rated quotation “without meaningfully considering the protester’s lower price.” Furthermore, the “agency failed to provide meaningful explanation of its evaluation of the protester’s past performance,” Gibson wrote in the decision.

After NikSoft filed the protest, Justice officials requested that it be dismissed on the basis that the protester had an organizational conflict of interest.

The agency asserted that NikSoft’s prior work in preparing a draft FICAM (federal identity, credential and access management) implementation plan gave the firm an unfair advantage. Justice officials supported that allegation by saying that NikSoft was the only bidder that included a price for software, and that the amount quoted, $350,000, was exactly what was allocated in the agency’s implementation plan.

The GAO denied the request to dismiss and said Justice had not offered sufficient evidence supporting its allegation.

“The agency has not shown its Organizational Conflict of Interest determination is based on hard facts showing the protester had unequal access to competitively-useful information,” Gibson wrote in the decision.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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