Set-Asides

GAO upholds protest

The General Accounting Office last month overturned a Health Care Financing Administration computer contract that was awarded last fall.

Comark Federal Systems Inc. in September protested a blanket purchase agreement award to Sytel Inc. to provide HCFA with 1,960 workstations. Comark argued that HCFA, in its request for quotations, did not include the criteria it would use to properly evaluate bids, leading bidders to believe that the selection would be made on the basis of price. However, HCFA used "best value" to select Sytel, based on a benchmark test that included a larger hard drive and the latest chipset.

"It's like telling vendors to pick a printer for us to consider, and you don't tell the vendors that you're looking for the cheapest possible six-page-per-minute printer or [that] you'll pay more if you can get a better printer," said Daniel Gordon, associate general counsel for procurement law at GAO. "If you don't tell them that, they won't know which one to pick. That's what happened in this case."

"The problem with that was that this award was not supposed to be a best-value award," said Alan Bechara, Comark's vice president. "Secondly, there was a substantial difference between our bid and Sytel's. Ours was lower, and added to this, the capacity for the hard drive was not specified." In a short statement, HCFA said it "intends to comply with GAO's decision."

House passes FAA bill

The House passed the Federal Aviation Administration Research, Engineering and Development Authorization Act of 1997 this month. The bill reauthorizes the FAA program that includes air traffic management and system development projects for fiscal 1998 and 1999. In addition to authorizing $455 million for those fiscal years, the bill directs the FAA to address the Year 2000 issue to ensure systems will work after Dec. 31, 1999.

GSA, CommerceNet begin pilot

The General Services Administration's Electronic Commerce Program Office and the industry association CommerceNet this month officially launched a pilot that will test interoperability between electronic catalogs.

GSA and CommerceNet hope the pilot will make it easier for buyers to find products online by using a standard presentation format. The study phase will be completed this month. The actual pilot test is scheduled to run between April and July.

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