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CDBurner

No Meaningful Discriminators

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Let's say there is a tradeoff source selection where the Evaluation Team is having a really hard time coming up with discriminators to recommend to the SSA.  Prices are within fractions of a percent of each other, technical evaluations are very similar, having a hard time coming up with any sort of objective valuation of strengths.  Past Performance is essentially identical.  I'm sure this isn't the first time this has come up, what have others done in this situation, and how did it work out?  Just go ahead and recommend a decision on small differences no matter how fine?  Continue evaluating to try to draw out more meaningful differences?   Something else?   

All the GAO/COFC cases I've read seem to revolve around the idea that when prices are very similar, non-price factors become more important, and vice versa.  I haven't been able to locate anything that might hint at a precedence of what has happened when all factors are very similar.  Anyone have any suggestions? 

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11 minutes ago, CDBurner said:

I haven't been able to locate anything that might hint at a precedence of what has happened when all factors are very similar.

All things being equal make a recommendation to the SSA that Team believe is appropriate.

Maybe a too simplistic view but I wonder if you answered your own question especially when considering a restatement of a basic view of GAO that goes something like this - our Office will not question an agency’s evaluation where it is reasonable, consistent with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria, and is documented."  

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If you cant identify any advantages that higher priced proposal offers to the government over the lower priced, conforming proposal to justify paying a higher price, the lower priced proposal will likely represent the best value.  Is there a basis of award described in the solicitation?

Of course, the KO (or selection authority if different than the KO) has the final say and would also perform a responsibility determination before awarding a contract.

Why not discuss this with the KO rather than on this Forum? The readers here don't have the RFP or source selection plan?

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"Similar" is not identical. If there are no meaningful discriminators among nonprice factors, i.e., the offerors are essentially the same in terms of nonprice value, then the award goes to the company with the lowest price, even if the price is lower by only one cent. If two of the offerors are tied at the lowest price, consider the procedure in FAR 14.408-6.

This very rarely happens when the tradeoff process is used. The FAR does not anticipate such an event in a procurement conducted pursuant to Part 15, although my recollection is that pre-FAR regulations did. For a case in which it did happen see Building Operations Support Services, LLC, B-407711, 2013 CPD ¶ 56. Note how the "tie" was resolved. There are a few other such cases. I can't remember ever seeing a tradeoff process in which the offerors were literally identical on all factors. Moreover, if the process is tradeoff you could conduct discussions in an attempt to improve the proposals and see if you can get a tie-breaker.

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1 hour ago, C Culham said:

All things being equal make a recommendation to the SSA that Team believe is appropriate.

Maybe a too simplistic view but I wonder if you answered your own question especially when considering a restatement of a basic view of GAO that goes something like this - our Office will not question an agency’s evaluation where it is reasonable, consistent with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria, and is documented."  

I've had similar thoughts, hopefully that's how GAO would see it too (if it came to that).

58 minutes ago, joel hoffman said:

If you cant identify any advantages that higher priced proposal offers to the government over the lower priced, conforming proposal to justify paying a higher price, the lower priced proposal will likely represent the best value.  Is there a basis of award described in the solicitation?

Of course, the KO (or selection authority if different than the KO) has the final say and would also perform a responsibility determination before awarding a contract.

Why not discuss this with the KO rather than on this Forum? The readers here don't have the RFP or source selection plan?

I realize I've necessarily been a little light on the details, perhaps even a little willful obfuscation.  Suffice it to say I've discussed with KO, and the KO is looking for suggestions too.  Just reaching out to a lot of different resources, just appreciate the insight and opinions of those who have been around longer than I.

 

56 minutes ago, Vern Edwards said:

"Similar" is not identical. If there are no meaningful discriminators among nonprice factors, i.e., the offerors are essentially the same in terms of nonprice value, then the award goes to the company with the lowest price, even if the price is lower by only one cent. If two of the offerors are tied at the lowest price, consider the procedure in FAR 14.408-6.

This very rarely happens when the tradeoff process is used. The FAR does not anticipate such an event in a procurement conducted pursuant to Part 15, although my recollection is that pre-FAR regulations did. For a case in which it did happen see Building Operations Support Services, LLC, B-407711, 2013 CPD ¶ 56. Note how the "tie" was resolved. There are a few other such cases. I can't remember ever seeing a tradeoff process in which the offerors were literally identical on all factors. Moreover, if the process is tradeoff you could conduct discussions in an attempt to improve the proposals and see if you can get a tie-breaker.

Thanks Vern.   The insight on the fine differences on prices is appreciated.  I've been told of a legal doctrine of "substantially identical" when prices get within a few percentages of each other, (meaning once they get close enough, you treat them as if they were identical) but I've never run into anything in writing or the regs, so I'm glad to see you don't seem to have heard of it either.  I had forgotten about the sealed bidding procedures for ties (drawing lots).  Wow, I doubt it would ever come to that, but thanks for the reminder.    Also, thanks for the GAO case reference.  It's one I hadn't run across, and I can see some similarities. 

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CDBurner,  Not knowing the specifics, I was trying not to be definitive in my response.  However, here is the FAR policy on making a trade-off decision to award to other than the lowest priced offeror (emphasis added)..  

Even a couple of dollars difference still makes one of them the lowest priced offeror.

The title of the Thread is "No Meaningful Discriminators"

 

Quote

 

15.101-1 -- Tradeoff Process.

(a) A tradeoff process is appropriate when it may be in the best interest of the Government to consider award to other than the lowest priced offeror or other than the highest technically rated offeror.

(b) When using a tradeoff process, the following apply:

(1) All evaluation factors and significant subfactors that will affect contract award and their relative importance shall be clearly stated in the solicitation; and

(2) The solicitation shall state whether all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined, are significantly more important than, approximately equal to, or significantly less important than cost or price.

(c) This process permits tradeoffs among cost or price and non-cost factors and allows the Government to accept other than the lowest priced proposal. The perceived benefits of the higher priced proposal shall merit the additional cost, and the rationale for tradeoffs must be documented in the file in accordance with 15.406.

 

4 hours ago, CDBurner said:

the Evaluation Team is having a really hard time coming up with discriminators to recommend to the SSA.  Prices are within fractions of a percent of each other, technical evaluations are very similar, having a hard time coming up with any sort of objective valuation of strengths.

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