Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the public version of its decision sustaining the protest of contractor A-P-T Research, Inc. with respect to a procurement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for various support services. In addition to a potential impaired objectivity organizational conflict of interest, the protest was sustained because the awardee’s proposed professional compensation was at the low end of the experience and compensation scales used for evaluation. With that, the contemporaneous record lacked a reasoned basis for finding the professional compensation and related costs to be acceptable or realistic.
Because a cost-reimbursement contract’s cost is driven in significant measure by labor costs, the procuring agency is required to evaluate each offeror’s direct labor rates to ensure that they are realistic. The purpose of a review of compensation for professional employees under the provision at FAR § 52.222-46 is to determine whether offerors will obtain and keep the quality of professional services needed for adequate contract performance and to evaluate whether offerors understand the nature of the work to be performed. As the FAR provision states, the “professional compensation proposed will be considered in terms of its impact upon recruiting and retention, its realism, and its consistency with a total plan for compensation.” Further supporting information including “data, such as recognized national and regional compensation surveys and studies of professional, public, and private organizations, used in establishing the total compensation structure” are to be provided.
In brief, the Agency sustained the protest because “the record contains no meaningful explanation of how [NASA] concluded that [the awardee] would be able to retain” the proposed incumbent employees at the compensation offered, which would result in significant pay decreases. Rather, the record contained only general statements that concerns regarding compensation had been addressed via discussions.
Notably, the Agency did not express a view on the argument that FAR § 52.222-46 requires a direct comparison of proposed compensation and actual incumbent compensation rates. However, it is clear that under-cutting on professional salaries can be a dangerous gambit.
About the Author:
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.