IG criticizes VA use of Gartner's Magic Quadrant

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VA IG report

The Veterans Affairs Department’s use of a widely known industry guide that measures manufacturers may have stymied competition for a $248 million contract, according to recent  report.

VA officials incorrectly used Garnter’s Magic Quadrant market guide by relying too heavily on its gauges, wrote Mark Myers, director of the contract review office at the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

The officials “unnecessarily limited the brand of PCs that could be offered” to three manufacturers while excluding several major government contractors, the IG report concluded. Myers wrote in a report released June 4 that VA officials gave no justification, nor could auditors find any, for using the Magic Quadrant as the sole criterion for evaluation, despite Gartner’s numerous cautions against doing so.

“The Magic Quadrant is intended solely as a research tool and is not meant to be a specific guide to action,” according to Gartner’s Web site.

“Based on our review of Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, what they are based on, and how they are to be used, we concluded that they were used inappropriately in this procurement,” Myers wrote.

The VA issued a solicitation in April 2007 that required a provider of the PCs to be “identified as leader in the latest Magic Quadrant for Global Enterprise Desktop PCs,” according to Myers’ report.

The Magic Quadrant is based on a company’s ability to execute, such as its financial viability and market responsiveness; and its completeness of vision, such as its innovation and how it drives and responds to the market, according to Gartner’s Web site.

The contract team at VA said the results from the Magic Quadrant are considered a good industry resource when researching vendors, Myers wrote. The team added the requirement to the solicitation because it considered the PCs critical to VA’s mission, and the department wanted assurances that a vendor wouldn’t be a startup company without an established reputation, according to the report.

VA could have taken another course, and in doling so,  further open the competition, Myers wrote.

“This could have been accomplished by making an established reputation a rating factor in part of the technical evaluation, rather than unnecessarily limiting acceptable PC manufacturers,” he wrote.

VA awarded a blanket purchase agreement to Dell Marketing Aug. 3. The BPA is three years with an estimated ceiling of $248 million. On Sept. 26, VA ordered more than 38,000 PCs and monitors with a one-year lease for $10.1 million. The order included services estimated at $6 million, the report states.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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