Two Recent GAO Bid Protest Decisions Highlight an Important Aspect of Agency Evaluations
Two recent GAO bid protest decisions (both sustained) highlight an important aspect of agency evaluations.
That is, agencies must look beyond mere adjectival ratings, and instead turn to the underlying merits behind those ratings, when making an award decision. GAO's rule statement in both decisions (linked below) is nearly identical and can be summed up as follows:
– evaluation ratings are guides to intelligent decision making
– evaluation of proposals requires a qualitative assessment of proposals against the evaluation scheme
– adjectival ratings (number of strengths) are not dispositive metrics to express a proposal's merit
– selection official must look beyond adjectival ratings to explain technically equivalent proposals
Takeaway: Successful protest grounds are typically rooted in procedural flaws in the evaluation/decision. Because agencies are required to adequately explain/document their decision, GAO may sustain a protest where the agency fails to look beyond adjectival ratings when making an award decision.