Four out of the 20 proposals received for this requirement were found to be Technically Proficient by the panel. Each proposal in this category had a combined score (Approach and Likelihood of Success) greater than 70.
ABC had a very strong approach, receiving the second highest score for that criterion. Proposal Figure 1 was very detailed and informative. Table 1 indicated a great deal of analysis in evaluating the agency requirements and developing actionable strategies to complete the work. The offeror provided visibility of how they intend to manage the project, which included task 1, 2 and 3 and the optional task as well. The high-level use case diagrams on page 8 were a strength. Table 2 sequences the work for optimum schedule compression. The panel found the level of detail to inspire confidence in the proposal. Only two people were proposed as key. A third resource was identified but not considered key because it was indicated as a sample resume. The first person has no experience with the scope of this requirement, either in the SharePoint development area or in document management, content management or any of the related fields. The second person, Fred, has some SharePoint experience, however his experience seems to be more in the area of Architecture and less so in development. Similarly, he has no experience in the areas of content management, document management, workflow management or any of the related fields. In the area of organizational past performance, the two Departmental projects cited are not consistent with the scope or magnitude of this current requirement. The third project is somewhat related in the area of Records Management, however the “records” aspect of this project is not a requirement. No project cited by this offeror identifies any SharePoint development experience and that could prove to be fairly risky.
The TEP found that ESYS approach, from a process perspective, is thorough and complete. They are proposing the right amount of testing. While the offeror proposes to use the IBM Rational Suite, this product family has been recently retired by the agency. As such there is no additional intrinsic value to the agency. The offeror spent too much time in their proposal talking about the benefits of the IBM tool set and not enough time talking about the issues and complexities of the SharePoint development project. The people generally are a good fit in terms of scope and magnitude for this requirement. The panel found that the other big government project is like a good scope match, but only one project seems like a good magnitude fit. The other projects cited by this offeror are not a close match to the work identified in this requirement. The panel assigned some risk to the development team proposed by the offeror, specifically Jones and Jefferson because neither has SharePoint development experience, which is important to this project.
The approach identified by PRO was well-conceived and had the right amount of detail. Figure 1 in the proposal was very good. The SharePoint detail on page 7 was seen as adding significant value to the proposal, especially concerning SharePoint 2010. The PM processes in Section 4.1.1 of the proposal were found to add significant value because they are building upon a SharePoint foundation. CCMS presented an issue because on pages 5 and 19 of the proposal the offeror claims to be in the process of developing the solution but on pages 1 and 8 the offeror claims to be complete with the project. This discrepancy reflected poorly on the internal quality control processes the contractor can bring to bear on the project. The proof of concept they developed for another agency using SharePoint could be a value-adding component to the overall investment. With such a large team, much larger than necessary to successfully complete this requirement, the TEP identifies some risk in terms of lines of communication to successfully meet the requirement.
The panel found the proposal from DD, including the “Role-based Dashboard” to be a significant value-adding component. This was significant because it demonstrates a completeness of approach. The first full paragraph on page 15 of the proposal identifies an issue that demonstrates a significantly high understanding of SharePoint and its capabilities in the 2007 version and the upcoming 2010 version. This offeror has also already developed workarounds and has proposed them to meet the requirement. The panel found this to be a strength of the proposal. The figure on Page 16 is in strong alignment with the requirement. The approach they presented to use a database to track the packages within the workflow. Because of the completeness of the approach, the thoroughness of the discussion concerning SharePoint implementation, and the role-based approach the TEP assigned the maximum score to the approach portion of the review. Each of the projects cited seem to be in very strong alignment with the scope of the requirement. Each of the people identified as key were found to have a very close connection to the scope of this requirement including SharePoint development experience, content management, training, and project management. Their team identified to work on this project seems to have the knowledge and experience to handle this project and application properly. The offeror failed to identify the dollar amount of the projects and this hindered the evaluation of the magnitude portion of the organizational past performance.
In conclusion, there were 20 separate offerors to the Work Assignment Tracking Application. On these, five were found to not have proposed to perform all of the work. Of the remaining 15, 11 were found to not be technically proficient. Four were found to be proficient and the rank order of these offerors is:
In performing the Best Value Analysis for the Work Assignment Tracking project the TEP considered the offerors that were considered to be in the Technically Proficient category. They were:
The Panel next considered the phased costs associated with each offeror and the Independent Government Cost Estimate, which were:
All qualified offers to this requirement were higher than the Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE). Section 2.6 of the Solicitation indicated that the award would be made based on best value given price and non-price factors. Factor weights are:
- 65% – Technical
- 35% – Price
In evaluating price, when comparing it to the IGCE, it is easy to see, for example that the ABC Phase 1 cost is about 150 percent the IGCE (192471.41/ 128000). In weighting the price element, 35 percent of the total score the Panel identified the inverse of the percentage of the offeror’s price to the IGCE. That way the further an offeror’s price was from the IGCE was the lower the number. That formula, in the case of ABC Phase 1 cost, looks like:
1/ (192471.41/ 128000) = 66.5%
Here we are measuring how far they are away from the IGCE as a percentage. The formula can be tweaked if there are some offerors below the IGCE.
The Panel used this formula to evaluate the cost of each phase of the project and the project as a whole (Total Cost).
Finally the Panel generated the Final Score by multiplying the Combined Technical Score by .65. Then the Inverse Total Cost Percentage was multiplied by .35. The output of those to equations was combined to identify the complete offeror score which are indicated below.
This leads to the best value to the government to be:
Even though DD was the highest technical, when the inverse cost percentage was figured in, they came in second to PRO.
Bid protests are an increasing problem.
The bid protest is a tool for corporate war. These companies are all competing with each other for the work of the government. If “company A” wins and “company B” doesn’t, company B can at least file a bid protest and gum up the works for company A. What usually happens in these situations is that the winner carves off some piece of work for the company that filed the protest to do. This is essentially a payoff, and I’m fricking pissed that we, the government, have constructed our acquisition rules to help businesses extort money from other businesses.
We need the capability for companies to protest contract award decisions that the government makes because, let’s face it, the government definitely has a history of cheating in contract awards. As such, we need a process that lets companies that were treated unfairly have a chance to make it right. The problem is that so many companies are abusing the system to do, not what is right, but what is in the best interest of the company, that we have an epidemic.
There is no requirement for a company to have some skin in the game when it comes to filing a protest. There is no filing fee. There is no risk that you will need to pay the other company’s legal costs if you lose. In fact, I would argue that if you are the incumbent and you lose a contract, you should absolutely file a protest. Even if it is found to not have merit, you will still probably get an extra month of billing. If you can gum up the works like the article above, you can gum up the works for a considerable amount of time.
If there was an incumbent contractor and this action was tied up for six months or more, the government would probably need to award what is known as a “bridge” contract to cover any lapse in service. A bridge contract is really the awarding of a contract without competition, also known as a sole source. This means the government picks the winner and pays them to do the work. In this 18F situation, it is new work, so there isn’t an incumbent and we can just have everyone wait in limbo indefinitely.
But here is a typical scenario; the solicitation was published in Fed Biz Opps at: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=07aa12e5b62fffb71332fe6bd8893c52&tab=core&_cview=1.
As the image to the right indicates, three of the losers protested. Each protest was denied. But Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) must keep running. So when these losers filed their protests, they locked up the contract award for some period of time.
Faced with this issue, USCIS can shut down (not an option), they could continue to work under the existing contract (which they probably did) assuming there is still time under the period of performance. Once you start to get outside the period of performance, things break down. And that causes contracting officers to need to award a bridge contract to cover the necessary services until the award is sorted out.
But what do you think happens when you award a bridge contract, especially if you are the incumbent contractor who is going to lose the work? Do you think you will charge the same rates that you did under the regular contract? Hell no. In these situations the company has all the leverage over the government. They helped to create a situation in which the government must deal with a lapse in service.
But then, from the government perspective, how much time should you build into your acquisition plan to accommodate this issue? If you build in six months you will need a year. If you build in a year you will need 18 months. It is just incredibly frustrating.
As with most things, I won’t just leave you with the problem, I will propose a solution. Go back to the IGCE. How much did the base period of performance cost? Companies should be required to put 5 percent or 10 percent of the cost of the base period of performance into escrow in order to file a protest. If the protest is found to have merit, then the funds are returned to the company that filed the protest, even if they ultimately lose the protest. If the protest is found to not have merit, then the funds go to the government.
Alternatively, we could let the company or companies that won the protest work to defend their claim in the government’s award. This would result in them accruing legal costs. Loser pays the other side’s legal fees.
I don’t care what the solution is. I only care about how the government’s process for making contract awards has turned into a mess because companies want to be a bunch of crybabies. I care about how many projects are late before they even get to the starting line because the acquisition process can’t make an award. I care about how much the government is paying in higher costs because we need to award short-term bridge contracts to cover services when an action is tied up in protests.
In This Series:
5 GAO 15-590 http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-590
6 FAR 15.4