This is the third post in a five-part series about the most common reasons for winning GAO bid protests. The third most common reason for winning a bid protest is when an agency fails to follow the evaluation criteria stated in a solicitation for proposals.

As an example, in McGoldrick Construction Services Corporation, B- 409252.2 (Comp.Gen Mar. 28, 2014), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a solicitation for construction and maintenance services. The proposal was structured as a two-phase evaluation. In the first phase, the bidders would be whittled down to a few qualified bidders that would compete for the award in the second phase.

The whittling-down process was based on several evaluation criteria, including the organization and technical approach of the bidders. During the first phase, the Corps excluded one of the bidders, McGoldrick, from the second phase of the process. McGoldrick was excluded because the Corps’ rating of McGoldrick’s organization and technical approach was only “acceptable” (the highest possible rating was “substantial/good”).

McGoldrick filed a bid protest and argued that the Corps’ evaluation under the organization and technical approach factor was unreasonable. Before making its decision, the GAO noted that it will sustain a protest where the agency’s conclusions are inconsistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria, undocumented, or not reasonably based.

Based on the above standard, the GAO concluded that the Corps’ evaluation and assessment of a significant weakness to McGoldrick’s proposal was unreasonable for several reasons. One reason was that the Corps assessed a significant weakness to the proposal because McGoldrick would not have a quality control manager on site. But the RFP only required the QC manager, “or his designated representative for the task order site,” to be on the site at all times during construction. Since the Corps did not evaluate the full extent of McGoldrick’s quality control staff, the GAO agreed that the Corp’s interpretation of the RFP was unsupported. 

Ultimately, McGoldrick won its bid protest, and the GAO recommended the Corps reevaluate McGoldrick’s proposal in a manner that was reasonable and consistent with the RFP’s evaluation criteria. The GAO also recommended the Corps make a new determination about advancement of McGoldrick’s proposal to phase two of the competition, and the Corps recommenced the award of McGoldrick’s costs of filing and pursing the protest.

Bottom Line: Contractors bidding on public projects should find out the agency’s reasoning for assigning ratings to the contractor’s proposal. If the agency fails to follow the evaluation criteria stated in the RFP or other solicitation, the contractor should consider filing a bid protest.