On March 29, 2017 insideARM reported that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) had sustained some of the protests that had previously been filed by those companies not selected in the last Department of Education (ED) RFP for Private Collection Agencies (PCAs). In that article, we reported that the GAO had sustained the protests of 12 firms, denied the protests of 4 firms, and had not made a decision regarding the protests of 3 firms.
We also reported that the GAO had issued a 40+ page decision on the on the protests. However, that document was not made available to the public at that time. It was sent only to attorneys for the protesting companies under a protective order. We reported that it was likely a version of that document would be made available to the public in 7-14 days.
The document has now been released. A copy can be found here.
The RFP, was originally issued on December 11, 2015, and subsequently amended four times. It sought proposals for the award of multiple contracts for the collection of defaulted student loans.
An award was to be made to the responsible offeror or offerors who submitted a proposal that conformed to the solicitation and was determined to be the “most advantageous” to the government. For the purposes of determining which proposals were the most advantageous, the agency was to consider three factors: (1) past performance; (2) management approach; and (3) small business participation. Past performance and management approach were equal in importance, and small business participation was less important than either of the other factors.
ED received 47 timely proposals in response to the RFP. For the purpose of evaluating proposals, the agency constituted a technical evaluation committee (TEC). A separate quality control evaluator (QCE) reviewed the offerors’ quality control plans. A separate small business evaluation committee evaluated and reached consensus ratings for offerors’ small business participation plans.
After the respective evaluation committees concluded their consensus evaluations, the contracting officer, who was also the Source Selection Authority (SSA), reviewed the evaluation results and communicated with the lower-level evaluators regarding their evaluations. In several instances, the SSA disagreed with the ratings assigned by the lower-level evaluators, and adjusted the ratings.
The SSA initially identified 10 proposals as being among the “most advantageous” and thus proceeded to conduct responsibility determinations of those prospective awardees. She subsequently found three of the prospective awardees non-responsible, and therefore ineligible for award. Seven firms were ultimately selected. The GAO site showed a total of 47 protests (many firms filed multiple protests).
As noted in our original story on this matter, the decision is over 40 pages in length. It will take some time to review and digest. The decision provides specific examples of problems with the evaluation process in all areas.
insideARM will report in more detail on this decision in the coming days.