First American Business Solutions | United States GAO

Decision

Matter of: First American business solutions

To file: B-4200002

Dated: September 29, 2021

David Colangelo, First American Business Solutions, for the protester.
Wade L. Brown, Esq., Department of the Army, for the agency.
Emily R. O’Hara, Esq., And Peter H. Tran, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, were involved in preparing the decision.

DIGEST

The protest challenging the agency’s technical evaluation of the successful bidder’s bid is refused when the agency has reasonably determined that the successful bidder has certified that it has the appropriate technical certifications as required by the solicitation.

First American Business Solutions (First ABS), a small business in New Port Richey, Fla., Protests the award of a contract to Cornerstone Communications, Inc., of Fenton, Missouri, under Solicitation No. W91RUS21R0078, issued by the Department of the Army, Army Materiel Command, for support to telephone switching systems and associated equipment installed at Army facilities in Alaska. The protester mainly contends that the agency was unreasonable in finding the winner’s proposal technically acceptable.

We deny the protest.

CONTEXT

The tender, published on May 13, 2021, was to acquire technical assistance and remote support for Nortel / Avaya telephone switching systems used by the military as part of the defense switched network voice switches. who provided unclassified voice services to personnel located in Fort Wainwright. and Fort Greely, Alaska.[1] COS / MOL at 2; Agency Report (RA), Tab 4, Request for Proposals (RFP) through 9. Although not clearly stated in the solicitation, the agency indicates that the procurement was made as a procurement. trade items using Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 12 and 13 parts procedures. to Req. for additional development (AD) (resp. to AD) to 3. The requirement included, among other things, the provision of “remote diagnostic, testing, troubleshooting, troubleshooting and system restore services, remote software releases / patch administration, repair / replacement and remote technical support.[2] RFP at 5. Advance award of the bid solicitation would be made on a technically acceptable basis at the lowest price, taking into account only two evaluation factors: technical and price. Identifier. at 9 o’clock.

The military received three proposals in response to the solicitation. A technical evaluation team evaluated the proposals and ultimately found the Cornerstone and First ABS proposals to be technically acceptable. COS / MOL at 3. Based on prices offered by Cornerstone ($ 72,000) and First ABS ($ 120,278.20), the agency awarded Cornerstone the cheapest and technically acceptable offer. Identifier. to 3-4.

On July 19, the protester emailed the military, asking for the status of the supply. AR, Tab 14, Email from protester to agency at 9:00 a.m. The next day, the agency informed the protester that $ 72,000 had been paid to Cornerstone. Identifier. at 8. First ABS lodged its protest with our office on July 21st.

DISCUSSION

The protester raises multiple challenges to the agency’s actions in relation to this solicitation.[3] The protester mainly contends that the agency did not follow the terms of the tender in awarding a prize to Cornerstone because Cornerstone did not have the proper authorization – a framework contract for services from Ribbon Communications – to maintain the equipment required by the tender. We have examined all of the allegations raised by First ABS and find no basis to support the protest.

The protester argues that in order to deliver the required software versions and patch administration to the existing Nortel SL100 and CS2100 systems used by the military, the recipient had to have a framework service agreement from Ribbon Communications, as Ribbon Communications was the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of older Nortel systems. Event at 1. The protester claims that the required services could not be provided without such an agreement. Identifier. The protester argues that Cornerstone was not an authorized partner of Ribbon and therefore could not meet the requirements of the solicitation. Identifier. Therefore, according to First ABS, the military should have found Cornerstone’s proposal technically unacceptable. Identifier.

The agency responds that its assessment of the successful bidder’s proposal was not unreasonable because a bidder’s possession of a tape communications services agreement was not a solicitation requirement. COS / MOL at 8. Thus, according to the military, there was no obligation to consider possession or access to such an agreement during the technical evaluation of the proposals. Identifier. to 9. In the alternative, the agency argues that even if a tape communication services agreement was required by the solicitation, Cornerstone certified in its proposal that its subcontractor would have all the experience and certifications necessary to work with Nortel / Avaya equipment. Identifier. at 7, 10.

When simplified procurement procedures are used, the contracting authority has a wide discretion to design appropriate assessment procedures. FAR 13.106-2 (b) (1). However, the agency must conduct the procurement in a fair and equitable manner and evaluate the proposals in accordance with the terms of the tender. Responsive World, Inc., B-415490, October 23, 2017, 2017 CPD ¶ 326-4. When reviewing protests regarding allegedly inappropriate simplified acquisition valuations, we review the file to determine whether the agency has met this standard and exercised his discretion in a reasonable manner. Emergency Vehicle Installations Corp., B-408682, November 27, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 273 to 4. A protester’s disagreement with the agency’s judgment, without more, is not sufficient to establish that the agency acted unreasonably. Antico Cantiere Del Legno Giovanni Aprea Di Cataldo SRL, B-414112, February 21, 2017, 2017 DPC ¶ 58 to 4.

In this case, the record does not support the conclusion that the agency’s assessment of Cornerstone’s proposal was unreasonable. The call for tenders required offerors to “comply with all the terms and conditions of the call for tenders” and to “detail the proposed solution in their quote or attach a data specification sheet”. RFP at 3. As relevant here, the solicitation required offerors to attest or certify that they had the required certifications and levels of specialization to maintain existing telephone equipment. Identifier. to 4. The agency first argues that “a ribbon communication services agreement [was] not a requirement of the solicitation. COS / MOL to 9.

Our review of the solicitation indicates that while the military was correct in noting that a ribbon communications services agreement was not expressly listed as a requirement in the solicitation, the solicitation however required that all offerors certify that they were a “manufacturer authorized channel” and had the certifications and specializations required by the manufacturer to maintain the equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements. RFP at 4. Relevant here, the solicitation instructs offerors of the following:

If the requirement is renewal of hardware / software maintenance support for existing manufacturer equipment owned and operated by Command[,] The seller certifies (and must provide this certification) that it is a manufacturer authorized channel on the date of its bid submission and that it has the level of certification / specialization required by the manufacturer to service both the equipment [and software], in accordance with the manufacturer’s applicable certification / specialization requirements.

Identifier.

The Army confirms that this requirement was for the renewal of hardware and software maintenance support for existing Nortel / Avaya telephone switching systems at Fort Wainwright and Fort Greely. Rep. to AD at 1; RFP to 4. Thus, according to the terms of the solicitation, offerors were required to certify that they had all the necessary authorizations to access and maintain this equipment – which, in this case, necessarily included a ribbon communications services agreement. in order to maintain the existing Nortel / Avaya telephone equipment. See AR, Tab 17, Contracting Officer Declaration (indicating that the successful bidder “may provide, through a subcontractor, the obligatory Ribbon Communication master service ”) (emphasis added); AR, Tab 18, Emails between Ribbon Communications and the Army (confirming between Ribbon Communications and the military that the recipient’s subcontractor has the authorization from Ribbon Communications necessary to perform the requirements of the contract). Therefore, the Army’s initial assertion that a Ribbon Communications Services Agreement was not required by the solicitation is unconvincing. Nonetheless, as noted below, we agree with the agency that the recipient has met the requirements of the solicitation and that the agency’s assessment, in this case, was flawless. Identifier.

In its proposal, Cornerstone testified that it had all the certifications required by the manufacturer to service existing Nortel / Avaya equipment. See AR, Tab 7, Cornerstone proposal at 3. Cornerstone’s proposal stated that it had an “extensive network of highly qualified telecommunications professionals with experience and certifications from Avaya and Nortel” and that it could achieve all the “technical objectives described” in the call for tenders thanks to a subcontractor.[4] Identifier. Nothing in the solicitation limited an offeror’s ability to meet the requirements by working with a subcontractor, and nothing in the solicitation required the presentation of the necessary certificates or agreements at the time of proposal. . Thus, Cornerstone has satisfied the solicitation requirement that an Offeror certifies or “certify[y]”That he was an” Authorized Channel of the manufacturer on the date of his bid submission “and that he possessed” the level of certification / specialization required by [the] Manufacturer to be maintained. . . equipment. “[5] See RFP at 4. Based on our review of the file, we find that the military has evaluated Cornerstone’s proposal in accordance with the terms of the solicitation. See Reagent World, Inc., above. As such, we do not find unreasonable the technical evaluation of the winner’s proposal by the agency.

We deny the protest.

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
General Counsel

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