GAO Rules Army Corps’ Evaluation of Enviro Project Bid was “Unreasonable and Inconsistent”
In a January 16, 2019 decision made public this past Wednesday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) sustained Bristol Environmental Remediation Services, Inc.’s (“Bristol”) bid protest, ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) unfairly rejected Bristol’s proposal for an environmental cleanup and munitions response contract.
Despite presenting the cheapest proposal among the other finalists, the Corps rejected Bristol’s bid based upon five weaknesses – three of which the Corps has already admitted were mistakenly assigned. With respect to the remaining two weaknesses, the GAO noted that one, relating to soil sample methodology, was almost identical to a weakness assigned to a winning proposal and that the other weakness was unreasonably assigned based upon the engineering guidance included in the RFP. The GAO further noted that the five weaknesses identified by the Corps were not identified as significant weaknesses or deficiencies as those terms were defined in the RFP and that each was a comparatively minor concern that did not render the Bristol proposal unacceptable or unawardable.
The GAO stated in its decision that “[i]t is axiomatic that agencies are required to evaluate proposals on a common basis and in accordance with the terms of the RFP; agencies may not properly engage in disparate treatment of offerors in the evaluation of proposals.” The GAO therefore recommended that the Corps reevaluate Bristol’s proposal and reconsider Bristol’s eligibility for contract award. The GAO’s decision also expressly recommended that Bristol be reimbursed its reasonable costs of filing and pursuing its protest, including Bristol’s attorneys’ fees.