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Nick Wakeman

GAO rules no bait-and-switch by winning bidder

A key provision for the bidders chasing the operations and maintenance contract for the Army’s Trojan IT Network was submitting resumes of 10 key people who would work on the system.

So imagine Altamira’s surprise when they learned that the winning bidder was going to replace seven of the 10 people it had in its proposal.

Altamira, bidding at the time as Invertix and the incumbent on the contract, argued to the Government Accountability Office that winning bidder Information Management Group had pulled a bait and switch on the Army.

After IMG won the contract with a $19.1 million bid, it told the Army that it would keep on two people who had worked on the contract for Altamira, but it needed to replace five others from its bid, including the proposed project manager.

But as you read the GAO decision, the number of people being replaced – while high – doesn’t mean it was a devious move on the part of IMG.

GAO wrote:

To establish an improper “bait-and-switch,”a protester must generally show that the firm in question either knowingly or negligently made a misrepresentation regarding resources that it did not expect to furnish during contract performance, and that the misrepresentation was relied upon by the agency in the evaluation and had a material impact on the evaluation results.

GAO could find nothing in the record to support Altamira’s contention that IMG misrepresented or was negligent in the personnel it proposed.

IMG took several steps before it submitted its proposal including verifying security clearances and qualifications. IMG’s president made a declaration as well as providing supporting, contemporaneous emails that they had every intention of using the 10 people in the proposals.

It wasn’t until after IMG won the contract and reached out to the people that they learned five were no longer available.

Altamira also pointed to the fact that IMG was advertising for positions that matched the description of key personnel in the proposal. But IMG said that this was standard practice and it does this in case there are issues and the people in the proposal are no longer available.

GAO agreed with IMG’s defense and ruled against Altamira’s bid protest.

“We see nothing unreasonable in IMG’s explanation,” GAO wrote in its decision. “In sum, the record does not establish that IMG misrepresented its intention to staff the task order with the personnel proposed.”

GAO also denied Altamira’s protest involving how the Army evaluated past performance. In this case, only Altamira had recent enough past performance but the solicitation said that if a bidder didn’t have recent relevant past performance, it would be given a grade of “unknown,” which would be deemed acceptable. So there was no basis for the agency to give Altamira more credit for its past performance.

Altamira also argued that the Army unreasonably assigned a weakness under a technical subfactor, but GAO said that wasn’t enough to prejudice the Army’s decision because Altamira’s bid was still higher than IMG’s.

I’m sure this is a bitter pill for Altamira and it’ll be one to watch if they appeal GAO’s decision to the Court of Federal Claims.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 17, 2015 at 12:42 PM


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