GAO denies second protest of Monster contract

"GAO decision in Symplicity protest case"

The Government Accountability Office has denied the claims of a small business that protested a $27 million award to Monster Government Solutions for operating USAJobs, an online federal employment information system.

Symplicity, an 8(a) small business, had bid $13 million to win the five-year contract, which the Office of Personnel Management awarded to Monster Government Solutions in July. OPM rejected Symplicity’s bid because the agency thought it was too low to complete the required work.

OPM officials held a telephone news briefing Nov. 9 to announce the GAO decision. “It shows that we know how to do our procurement business,” said Ronald Flom, senior procurement executive at OPM.

Flom said the agency had been under a cloud because Symplicity protested a previous OPM award to Monster to operate USAJobs, and GAO upheld that protest. “This to me ends a period of about 30 to 36 months where OPM’s procurement operation has had a cloud over its head for how we’ve conducted business,” he said.

When OPM reopened bidding for USAJobs, Monster won again, and Symplicity protested. But the second time, GAO found that OPM had conducted a proper best-value evaluation and had met its obligations in discussing technical requirements with Symplicity. GAO also concurred with OPM procurement officials who said that Symplicity’s responses in discussions with OPM showed that the company didn’t fully comprehend the agency’s technical requirements.

USAJobs gives job seekers Web-based access to federal job vacancy listings and job announcements, résumé-building tools and links to information about the federal employment process. OPM employees created and maintained the original USAJobs Web site. But in January 2003, OPM sought competitive bids to expand and improve USAJobs.

OPM awarded a 10-year, $62 million contract to Monster Government Solutions. Symplicity protested the award, which GAO upheld on grounds that OPM did not, among other things, properly evaluate vendors’ proposed prices for system integration.

In its Nov. 8 decision denying Symplicity’s second protest and upholding the second award to Monster, GAO wrote that “given the importance of USAJobs as a federal hiring vehicle, we find that OPM’s selection of the lower risk, technically superior offeror at a price premium was reasonable.”

Symplicity cannot appeal GAO’s decision, but it could take its case to the U.S Court of Federal Claims, OPM attorney Alan Miller said.

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