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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
FAR 15.308 says, "The source selection authority's (SSA) decision shall be based on a comparative assessment of proposals against all source selection criteria. While the SSA may use reports and analyses prepared by others, the source selection decision shall represent the SSA's independent judgment . . ." Question: I am aware that quite often the evaluators and CO provide the SSA an evaluation report and award recommendation memo. Typically, that "memo" does NOT include the actual proposals from the offerors, not as enclosures, attachments, or otherwise. So how can the SSA actually comparatively assess the proposals if the SSA has never even seen the proposals? All the SSA sees is the evaluation report/recommendation. While FAR 15.308 does say the SSA can "use reports and analyses prepared by others," doesn't the SSA still have a duty to actually look at the actual proposals?
How detailed does a LPTA Source Selection Decision Document (SSDD) have to be? I have seen where the TEP members/evaluators used an Evaluation Worksheet Template for each proposal. The Template had a simple grid chart with a column for "Acceptable" and a column for "Unacceptable" where they could enter a checkmark and also the page/section number of the proposal where the supporting language appeared in the proposal. There was no narrative allowed on the Template, unless a proposal was found technically unacceptable. In that case, the evaluator had a block of lines to write a narrative explaining why they found the proposal technically unacceptable on that particular criteria. Once the TEP report is finalized, it goes to the SSA, who writes the SSDD. Can the SSA simply write 1-2 sentences stating that the awardee's proposal is technically acceptable and is the lowest price? As there is no Tradeoff, then there really doesn't seem to be much to say. Does the SSA have a duty to "talk up" the contents of the awardee's proposal? What of the other offerors' proposals? The concern is that the SSA usually relies upon the TEP Report and pulls narrative from it. That works fine in a Tradeoff. But for LPTA, if the TEP members simply put checkmarks and marked the page/section of the proposal, with no narrative, what is the SSA supposed to do? The SSA has a duty to review the proposals themselves, but usually they do that and then still rely upon the TEP report in their SSDD.