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, helped prepare the decision.

DIGEST

A protest against the agency’s technical evaluation of the winner’s bid will be rejected if the agency determines, in reasonable discretion, that the winner has certified that they have the appropriate technical certifications required in the application.

First American Business Solutions (First ABS), a small company based in New Port Richey, Fla., Protests the award of a contract to Cornerstone Communications, Inc., Fenton, Missouri, call number W91RUS21R0078, issued by the Department of the Army, Army Materiel Command, in support of telephone switching systems and associated equipment installed at Army facilities in Alaska. The protester mainly claims that the agency did not reasonably consider the winner’s proposal to be technically acceptable.

We reject the protest.

CONTEXT

The tender, published on May 13, 2021, was for technical support and remote assistance for Nortel / Avaya telephone switching systems used by the military as part of the defense switched network voice switches, which did not rank Fort Wainwright personnel. Provide voice services to Fort Greely, Alaska.[1] COS / MOL at 2; Agency Report (RA), Tab 4, Request for Proposals (RFP) at 9 Although this is not clearly stated in the RFP, the agency stresses that procurement can be considered as the ” acquisition of commercial items according to federal government procedures. The Acquisition Settlement (FAR) was completed 12 and 13 or early. for Additional Development (AD) (or AD) to 3. Among other things, the requirement required the provision of “remote diagnostic services, testing, troubleshooting, troubleshooting and system recovery, software versions remote / patch management, repair / replacement and remote technical support. “[2] RFP at 5. The expected contract award would be on a technically acceptable basis at the lowest price, with only two evaluation factors considered: technical and price. ID card. at 9 o’clock.

The military received three proposals in response to the invitation. A technical evaluation team evaluated the proposals and ultimately determined that the Cornerstone and First ABS proposals were 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 lowest cost and technically acceptable supplier price. ID card. 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 a.m. The next day, the agency informed the protester that Cornerstone had received a reward of $ 72,000. ID card. at 8. The first ABS lodged their protest at our office on July 21st.

DISCUSSION

The protester questions the agency’s actions in response to this request on several occasions.[3] The protester mainly contends that the agency failed to honor the terms of the tender in awarding Cornerstone because Cornerstone did not have the necessary authorization – a framework agreement from Ribbon Communications – to maintain the equipment required for the tender. We have reviewed all of the allegations made by First ABS and cannot find any basis to support the protest.

The protester argues that in order to deliver the software versions and patch management required for the existing Nortel SL100 and CS2100 systems used by the military, the winner had to have a core service contract from Ribbon Communications, because Ribbon Communications is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for older Nortel systems. Protest at 1. The protester claims that the required services could not be provided without such an agreement. ID card. The protester alleges that Cornerstone was not an authorized partner of Ribbon and therefore was unable to meet the requirements of the solicitation. ID card. Therefore, according to First ABS, the military should have found Cornerstone’s proposal technically unacceptable. ID card.

The agency responded that its assessment of the successful bidder’s proposal was not inappropriate, as having a tape communication service contract was not a condition of eligibility for a supplier. COS / MOL on 8 According to the army, it was therefore not necessary to take into account the possession or access to such an agreement in the technical evaluation of the proposals. ID card. Regarding 9. Alternatively, the agency argues that, although the tender required a Ribbon Communications service contract, Cornerstone had confirmed in its tender that its subcontractor had all the experience and certifications necessary to work with Nortel / Avaya devices. ID card. the 7, 10.

When using simplified procurement procedures, the client has a wide discretion to design appropriate assessment procedures. FAR 13.106-2 (b) (1). However, the agency must proceed with the contract award under fair and equitable competition and evaluate the proposals in accordance with the terms of the tender. Reagent World, Inc., B-415490, October 23, 2017, 2017 CPD ¶ 326-4. When reviewing protests against allegedly inappropriate simplified acquisition valuations, we review the records to determine whether the agency complies with this standard and whether its reasonable discretion exercised. Emergency Vehicle Installations Corp., B-408682, November 27, 2013, 2013 CPD ¶ 273-4. If a protester no longer agrees with the agency’s judgment, this is insufficient to prove that the agency acted inappropriately. Antico Cantiere Del Legno Giovanni Aprea Di Cataldo SRL, B-414112, February 21, 2017, 2017 CPD ¶ 58 to 4.

In this case, the record does not support the conclusion that the Agency’s assessment of Cornerstone’s proposal was inadequate. The call for tenders required that service providers “fulfill all the conditions of the offer” and “describe in detail the solution proposed in their offer or attach a technical sheet”. RFP at 3. Where applicable, the RFP required that suppliers have the necessary certifications and levels of specialization to maintain existing telephone equipment. ID card. to 4. The agency first argues that “a ribbon communication services agreement” [was] no invitation request. “COS / MOL at 9.

Our review of the tender shows that while the military correctly states that a ribbon communication service contract was not specifically listed as a requirement in the tender, the tender offers required all vendors to confirm that they were a manufacturer-authorized channel ”and that they had the certifications and specializations. required by the manufacturer to maintain the equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements. RFP concerning 4. Relevant here, the request instructs suppliers on the following points:

If the requirement is a renewal of support for hardware / software maintenance for existing manufacturer devices owned and operated by the order[,] Seller certifies (and must provide this certification) that at the time of bid submission it is a manufacturer authorized channel and has the manufacturer certification / specialization level to service both devices [and software], in accordance with the applicable manufacturer’s certification / specialization requirements.

ID card.

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. Or to AD at 1; RFP at 4. Thus, subject to the terms of the tender, sellers had to confirm that they had all the necessary permissions to access and maintain this equipment – which in this case necessarily included a service agreement. ribbon communication around existing Nortel / Avaya telephone systems. See RA, Tab 17, Contract Agent Statement (from which it appears that the winner “may provide the master service required for the multi-function bar communication via a subcontractor”) (emphasis added); RA, Tab 18, Emails between Ribbon Communications and the Army (confirmation between Ribbon Communications and the military that the winner’s subcontractor has the authorization from Ribbon Communications required to meet the requirements of the contract). Therefore, the military’s initial assertion that an agreement on tape communication services was not required for the tender is unconvincing. Nevertheless, as explained below, we agree with the agency that the winner fulfilled the conditions of the call for applications and that the agency’s assessment was not critical in this case. ID card.

Cornerstone has certified in its offer that it has all the certifications required by the manufacturer to maintain existing Nortel / Avaya devices. See AR, Tab 7, Cornerstone’s Proposal at 3. Cornerstone’s Proposal stated that the company had an “extensive network of highly qualified telecommunications professionals with Avaya and Nortel experience and certifications” and had all the “technical objectives” described in the call for tenders. can be performed by a subcontractor.[4] ID card. Nothing in the offer limited a supplier’s ability to meet the requirements by working with a subcontractor, and nothing in the offer required the presentation of the necessary certificates or agreements at the time of submission. Thus, Cornerstone has satisfied the requirement that a supplier must provide a certificate or “certificate”[y]”That it was a” channel authorized by the manufacturer on the date of submission of the offer “and that it possessed” the required level of certification / specialization ” [the] Maintain the manufacturer. . . equipment.”[5] See RFP at 4. Based on our review of the file, we determine that the military has evaluated Cornerstone’s proposal in accordance with the terms of the tender. See Reagent World, Inc., above. We therefore do not consider that the professional assessment of the winner’s proposal by the agency is insufficient.

We reject the protest.

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
General Counsel


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