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QUESTION: Can an agency just make award to the highest-rated, highest-priced proposal without explaining the "tradeoff"? I saw a recent GAO decision that makes me wonder about this. In Green Earthworks Construction, Inc., B-410724 et al., Feb. 2, 2015, the Air Force issued a solicitation for abatement services for hazardous materials. Here is the link to the GAO decision: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/668348.pdf The RFP stated that there were only TWO EVALUATION FACTORS: PAST PERFORMANCE and PRICE. Although it did not use the phrase "Performance Price Tradeoff (PPT)," it appears that this was some variation on PPT. The proposals would be ranked from low to high for price. Price analysis would only be conducted on the "lowest-priced proposals." Next, the agency would evaluate for Past Performance. If the lowest-priced proposal also received a "Substantial Confidence" PP rating, then award would be made to that offeror, Otherwise, the PP assessment would continue, beginning with the next lowest-priced proposal, until an offeror with a substantial confidence rating was identified. If that didn't work out, then the SSA was to determine whether additional higher-priced groups of proposals should be considered and to then conduct a "best-value tradeoff." Green Earthworks challenged the source selection decision. GAO denied that challenge, finding that the awardee, All Phase, merited award under the stated terms of the solicitation: All Phase was the only proposal among the lowest-priced group that received a substantial confidence rating: Offeror A, Somewhat Relevant/Satisfactory PP, $2,450,362.00 Green Earthworks (Protester), Somewhat Relevant/Limited confidence PP, $2,487,585.86 All Phase (Awardee), Very Relevant/Substantial Confidence PP, $2,917,515.93 It appears that GAO is saying, no tradeoff was necessary because the RFP said that award would go to the proposal with Substantial Confidence. GAO wrote, "Additionally, to the extent the SSA made a tradeoff decision, we find the source selection decision here to be reasonable." Then GAO goes on to cite FAR 15.308 ("Source selection decisions must be documented, and include the rationale and any business judgments and tradeoffs made or relied upon by the SSA"). However, if you search for the RFP No. FA4620-14-R-B002, it actually shows the RFP was not done under FAR 15, but rather, it was a FAR Part 13 Simplified Acquisition. Link to the solicitation on FBO: https://www.fbo.gov/?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=cdce9fdbdd905d584d9fee2ea7911ba1&tab=core&_cview=1
I am researching the Performance Price Trade-off (PPT) method used by the Air Force. I have never seen one done before at my agency. We are not the Air Force. FACT PATTERN: Say an agency does PPT. It announces in the solicitation that the the evaluation criteria and methodology will be as follows: Price and Past Performance are weighted equal. The agency will first RANK proposals by PRICE. So the agency will do a Price Reasonableness analysis, and then rank proposals from Lowest Price to Highest. If a proposal's price is found unreasonable (meaning TOO HIGH), it will be thrown out. The agency also says in the solicitation that it will make a cut-off at the first top ten proposals on this ranking. So if the agency rank proposals #1 to #25, lowest-priced to highest-priced, even if all 25 proposals had prices that were evaluated as "reasonable," the agency would only take proposals #1 to #10. The Solicitation further states the following: The Government will initially evaluate for technical acceptability the ten (10) lowest priced proposals. If the government receives less than 10 proposals, all proposal will be evaluate for Technical Acceptability. If the Government receives 10 or more proposal, the Government will rank the proposals by initially proposed total price, and then select a minimum of the 10 lowest priced proposals, and then evaluate only those proposals for Technical Acceptability. If any of the proposal are found to be Technically Unacceptable, the unacceptable proposal will be replaced with the next lowest priced proposal on a one-for-one basis, until there are a minimum of 10 technically acceptable proposals, or until all proposal have been evaluated for technical acceptability. So proposals #1 through #10 move on to the next phase: the agency will evaluate technical acceptability on a GO/NO-GO or PASS/FAIL basis. Only the proposals found Technically Acceptable will move on to the next phase: evaluation for Past Performance. Any proposals found to have a rating of "LIMITED CONFIDENCE" or "NO CONFIDENCE" are thrown out. Now the agency sets a COMPETITIVE RANGE and holds DISCUSSIONS. It allows for revised proposals and then evaluates on the criteria and methodology in the solicitation again. Now, the remaining proposals are included in the SOURCE SELECTION DECISION. The agency will go down the list until it reaches the first offeror's proposal with a rating of "HIGH CONFIDENCE" on Past Performance. That offeror gets the award. If that offeror was not the first guy on the list, then the agency must write a TRADE-OFF decision. MY QUESTION: During the first round of evaluations, before the competitive range cut, if I was offeror #11 on the ranking from lowest price to highest price, shouldn't I be able to protest at GAO or COFC on the grounds that this artificial, mechanical "top ten cut-off" was a de facto competitive range decision WITHOUT evaluating my proposal on ALL evaluation factors, as is required by FAR 15.306©?