Although not a construction contract, this recent ruling by the Comptroller General on a bid protest upheld the Army's conclusion that a proposal for providing logistic support services was noncompliant for failing to meet two RFP requirements. One of the requirements was to meet minimum required employment hours for the supply and services functional area. In order to arrive at the total hours, a spreadsheet needed to be submitted that showed the individual category subtotals plus the total number of hours. However, the numbers didn't add up.

The RFP specified that the counts be rounded to the hundredth decimal place. A template spreadsheet was provided in the procurement package that utilized the Microsoft Excel formula "=Round(number,num_digits)." Contrary to the RFP, however, the offeror did not input its proposed FTEs rounded to the nearest hundredth decimal or utilize the Excel rounding formula set forth in the RFP. Rather, while the submitted Excel spreadsheet was formatted to display the data to the hundredth decimal, the protester inserted formulas instead of actual FTE figures in the data fields. In so doing, the total hours shown on the spreadsheet did not equal the sum of the subtotals displayed. Only if the full, unrounded values were used did the totals match the sum of the subtotals. When the Army applied the required rounding formula to the submitted spreadsheet, it found the minimum total hours was not reached, and rejected the proposal as noncompliant.

The contractor unsuccessfully argued that the differences were negligible and that the overall proposal clearly represented that the minimum hours requirement would be met. Not good enough, according to the Comptroller General's decision. The RFP provided the specific consequence for an offeror’s failure to comply with the requirement to provide figures rounded to the hundredth decimal place and that the Army would implement a specific Excel rounding formula to evaluate the proposed figures.

The takeaway -- when using spreadsheets, whether being used for preparing a bid or other day-to-day uses, pay attention to how you handle rounding and that the totals shown properly represent the sum of the displayed values. Having Excel display two decimal points is not the same as having Excel round to two decimal points.

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