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Bid protest succeeds because agency failed to properly document evaluation

In a bid protest filed by Swets Information Services (B-410078, Oct. 20, 2014), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained a protest based upon inadequate documentation of the agency’s evaluation. However, the agency denied the protest on other grounds, including protester’s challenge that the agency’s past-performance evaluation was erroneous, because the protester failed to show it was prejudiced as a result of the alleged error.

Protester won on claim of lack of adequate documentation

The solicitation set forth the agency would evaluate each vendor’s technical capability through product demonstrations. Details of the demonstrations were set forth in the solicitation. Each vendor had to demonstrate its database product could locate 15 specific drug information items requiring the least number of “clicks,” or manual screen selections, by the end user.

The agency found that Cox Subscriptions, Inc.’s database outperformed other offerors by furnishing the required access in a more efficient manner. Swets protested on the grounds the evaluation was unreasonable because it was based on results that were inaccurate and undocumented. The GAO agreed, finding the agency’s evaluation of the vendors’ product demonstrations was unreasonable because it was based upon conclusions the agency failed to adequately document. The GAO specifically held the agency failed to maintain an evaluation record that permitted meaningful review of Swets’ claims and that the agency failed to rebut the protestor’s persuasive evidence about the number of screen selections required to demonstrate the effectiveness of Swets’ alternative databases. Swets submitted screen-by-screen, click-by-click walkthroughs for each of the different products at issue. The agency, on the other hand, had no documentation to support its claim that Cox’s database performed the required tasks more efficiently. Accordingly, the protest was sustained on this point.

Protester lost on claim of erroneous past-performance evaluation

The protester also argued the agency failed to evaluate protester’s past performance adequately because the agency did not consider all of the past performance references protester furnished. However, the GAO declined to decide whether the agency’s evaluation of the protester’s past performance was unreasonable because GAO found that the protester was not prejudiced by the error. Instead, the GAO decided that even if protester’s other past-performance references had been considered, the result would have been two outstanding ratings and two satisfactory ratings, rather than one outstanding and one satisfactory. Moreover, the GAO decided that the agency reasonably found the protester’s database was technically unacceptable; therefore, the protester would not have a substantial chance of receiving an award. Thus, the GAO found the error in reviewing past-performance didn’t prejudice the protester.


As always, the key to winning a bid protest is developing persuasive evidence. In this case, the protester did an excellent job of showing how the agency could have properly documented its decision by providing a detailed listing of the steps in a process if its software was used.

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