GAO sustains Rockwell protest

"GAO bid protest decision"

The General Accounting Office upheld a protest by Rockwell Electronic Commerce Corp. over a telecommunications contract because the Social Security Administration did not evaluate all the FTS 2001 costs associated with WorldCom Inc.'s winning bid, according to a Dec. 14 GAO decision released Monday.

Rockwell contended that WorldCom had a price advantage because it did not include the cost of FTS 2001 services in its proposal.

GAO recommended that SSA reopen the competition for network-based services to replace the agency's automatic call distributors (ACD) call answering system, which automatically routes incoming toll-free calls to the appropriate person. GAO also asked SSA to amend the solicitation, request and evaluate revised proposals, and make an award decision consistent with the terms of the request for proposals, which stated that telecommunication costs incurred by the agency outside the price of the contract would be included in the evaluated price.

"The agency's action in failing to evaluate MCI's FTS 2001 costs...resulted in treating the offerors unequally and unfairly under the stated evaluation plan, and the price evaluation and resulting source selection decision are unreasonable and inconsistent with the stated evaluation plan," Anthony Gamboa, GAO acting general counsel, wrote in the decision. Gamboa concluded that if SSA had followed its evaluation criteria, Rockwell would have had a substantial chance of winning the contract.

If a proposed solution other than WorldCom's is selected for award, GAO directed SSA to terminate the previous call answering system contract with WorldCom.

WorldCom and Rockwell representatives were unable to comment in time for this report.

In October 1999, SSA sought to replace its antiquated ACD system, which distributes a call among about 12,000 call center representatives at 38 call centers nationwide. SSA asked vendors for a network-based services solution that would eliminate existing government-based call distribution equipment and would have SSA acquiring call distribution services via the service provider's own network.

The solicitation stated that price would be evaluated based on the total present value price of the initial start-up solution services; recurring services; optional features, items and support services; monthly facilities costs; and FTS 2001 evaluated costs. FTS 2001 costs that were used as part of an offeror's solution would be paid directly by SSA to the FTS 2001 contractor, and the offerors only had to identify FTS 2001 costs unique to their solutions.

The solicitation required all solutions to have an initial interface with the FTS 2001 network. It allowed the solution to use FTS 2001 services but did not require it.

Rockwell proposed using virtual private networks that, after the initial interface with the FTS 2001 network, completely avoided FTS 2001 services. WorldCom proposed using its existing commercial network for its call delivery medium from the FTS 2001 interface to the call center representatives' earpieces.

"Thus, while MCI's proposed solution includes some FTS 2001 services unique to its call delivery solution, Rockwell's VPN solution does not require the use of any FTS 2001 services unique to its call delivery solution," Gamboa said.

WorldCom and Rockwell's proposals received the same technical and past performance ratings, and WorldCom's price was the lowest of all proposals. On Aug. 23, 2000, SSA awarded the contract to WorldCom.

Rockwell then protested to GAO that the price evaluation of WorldCom's proposal and the resulting best-value determination and award to WorldCom were unreasonable and inconsistent with the terms of the request for proposals because SSA did not evaluate all of the FTS 2001 costs associated with WorldCom's proposed solution. Because Rockwell's system did not require use of FTS 2001 services, those services were unique to WorldCom's proposal, the GAO decision said.

However, WorldCom's proposal did not identify specific FTS 2001 costs and in its pricing table, wrote "N/A" for specific FTS 2001 costs.

GAO denied a portion of Rockwell's protest, which claimed that WorldCom's proposal did not meet some specification requirements, because its failure to provide certain details was not required by the contract solicitation.

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