GAO upholds COMMITS protest

A small business that was not chosen to be part of the Commerce Department's Commerce Information Technology Solutions Next Generation (COMMITS NexGen) contract has had its protest upheld.

Government Accountability Office officials ruled that Commerce officials improperly evaluated past performance factors for Mil.

In considering the companies that were bidding for a spot on the multiple-award contract, Commerce officials gave them ratings on a variety of factors and then an overall rating. Officials used a color code, with blue being the best. A rating of green was one step down from blue, yellow meant worse than average and red the worst possible.

Commerce officials rated Mil's past performance awards red, on the grounds that of the five contract awards that Mil had submitted, four were made to entities other than Mil and the fifth was not relevant to the work that companies will perform under COMMITS NexGen, according to GAO's report.

In filing a protest, Mil officials contended that Commerce officials should have awarded the company a neutral rating after deciding that the past performance examples were not suitable, although the company also argues that that determination was mistaken.

GAO officials noted that Mil received high marks in almost every other factor. Its pricing, for one, was significantly lower than many other firms. The company had an overall green ranking among the companies that bid for COMMITS in its size class.

Although the contract is set aside for small businesses, it divides small businesses into three tiers to ensure that larger small businesses don't take work away from the smallest of the small firms. Mil was in the middle tier. Commerce officials gave spots on the contract to 24 such Tier II businesses, all of which rated blue overall.

GAO officials recommended that Commerce officials reconsider Mil's past performance examples. If agency officials still deem them irrelevant, Mil should get a neutral rating instead of a red and have its overall status re-evaluated. If they are instead found to be relevant after all, they should be scored accordingly, the GAO recommended.

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