By Bruce Jervis
Federal construction contracts, as well as many other public construction contracts, are frequently procured on a “best value” basis. There is a trade-off between price advantage and technical advantage. This necessitates a detailed technical evaluation and a rating of the proposals. The solicitation stipulates the evaluation factors and the relative weight, or importance, of each factor.
On a recent federal procurement, the solicitation established three key technical evaluation factors and said each carried equal weight. During the evaluation of proposals, however, the agency focused on one of those factors as a “significant discriminator” and used it to choose one contractor over another. This was allowed because a discriminator, although not identified in the solicitation, need not be the most heavily weighted evaluation factor.
This ruling is surprising. If technical evaluation factors are stated to be equal, and no ultimate “discriminator” is identified in the solicitation, shouldn’t the factors actually be treated equally? What is the purpose of stating the relative weights of the evaluation factors if there is a hidden trump card? Does this give agencies the ability to manipulate the selection process and leave contractors in the dark when preparing proposals? Your comments are welcomed.