Government Contracts & Investigations

GAO Reminds Offerors that It’s Important to Substantiate Key Personnel’s Experience

By | January 16, 2020

Putting your best foot, or best personnel, forward seems like “Winning the Contract Award 101.” But a refresher course never hurts. Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision in Deloitte Consulting, LLC (Deloitte), B-416882.4 (January 6, 2020), provided a reminder about the content of a quotation where the solicitation requires submission of a crosswalk, resume, and detailed work history for key personnel.

Deloitte protested the award of a contract and subsequent issuance of a task order by the Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for information technology services for the agency’s integrated budget, acquisition, and planning system. The FDA issued the underlying request for quotations (RFQ), pursuant to FAR subpart 8.4, to vendors holding Federal Supply Schedule contracts under General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule 70.

The solicitation anticipated the award of a single blanket purchase agreement (BPA) with an estimated value of $112 million for a base performance period of 12 months, as well as four 1-year option periods. The award would be made according to three evaluation factors—technical approach, relevant experience, and price—on a best value basis. The technical approach factor included three sub-factors. Of note was the following sub-factor: “technical approach to Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) child application development, modernization, and enhancement (DME) [Statement of Work].” This sub-factor required bidders to provide resumes for key personnel, including an enterprise solutions architect. The enterprise solutions architect, in turn, was required to possess certain qualifications, including “[a]t least 10 years [of] experience in Oracle Enterprise [P]erformance [(EPM)] or OBIEE Oracle [Applications Development Framework (ADF)] or Custom [user interface (UI) (Java, Angular [JavaScript (JS)], Visual Studio, .Net) Applications.”

Ultimately, the FDA received bids from Deloitte and Guidehouse LLP, and Deloitte was initially awarded the BPA. However, after two protests, the agency decided to take corrective action in the form of reopening the procurement. Further, the FDA amended the RFQ and updated the instructions related to key personnel, adding the following: “provide a crosswalk from the experience and skills of the proposed key personnel to the skills, qualifications and minimum years of experience . . . listed in the [RFQ’s] position descriptions . . . . Note from which positions . . . the proposed key personnel obtained the aforementioned skills, qualifications, and minimum years of experience.”

The FDA held an exchange with Deloitte in which it informed Deloitte that its enterprise solutions architect did not meet the minimum qualification of 10 years’ experience in Oracle EPM, OBIEE Framework, or custom UI applications. Deloitte subsequently submitted a revised quotation proposing a different enterprise solutions architect.

However, in reviewing Deloitte’s revised quotation, the technical evaluation team still assessed a weakness related to Deloitte’s enterprise solutions architect. In spite of Deloitte’s statement that its candidate had 25 years of experience, the technical evaluation team found that this key personnel possessed only 8 years of experience with Oracle EPM and OBIEE. According to the technical evaluation team, with which the contracting officer agreed, this weakness increased the risk that Deloitte would be unable to perform, and the contractor officer deemed this a technically unacceptable solution with an overall rating of unsatisfactory.

The contract was awarded to Guidehouse, and, after receiving a brief explanation from the agency, Deloitte filed a protest with the GAO arguing that the FDA was unreasonable in its evaluation and failed to properly account for their proposed enterprise solution architect’s experience, as described in his resume and crosswalk.

According to Deloitte, the proposed enterprise architect’s resume clearly stated that he had over 20 years of experience using technologies that were later acquired by Oracle and rebranded as the software relevant to the solicitation, which the agency failed to credit to the candidate. The FDA countered by arguing that it had actually credited the candidate for the experience in these technologies but it still concluded that the experience did not amount to the requisite minimum 10 years, such that the proposal was technically unacceptable since this was a material requirement.

GAO agreed with the agency, finding that the agency’s evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s terms. While the enterprise solution architect’s resume did state “20+ years of . . . experience [in relevant technologies],” the evaluation team and contracting officer determined that some of the dates listed in the detailed work history overlapped, as the proposed enterprise solutions architect had worked for multiple employers simultaneously. After eliminating duplicative periods of time, the contracting officer determined that the proposed enterprise solutions architect had only 8.25 years of relevant experience. Deloitte’s argument that the candidate satisfied the requirement as the resume indicated 21 years of experience as well as work on 16 Oracle EPM/OBIEE projects was unavailing, particularly as it was unsupported by the detailed work history.

After all, it remains unclear whether the general statements that Deloitte provided relating to its proposed enterprise solutions architect’s experience could be substantiated and actually met the solicitation’s requirements. However, regardless of the statements in the resume, nothing in the crosswalk or detailed work history substantiated the key personnel’s touted experience. This decision serves as a reminder that clarity and consistency in your proposal are vital in order to meet a solicitation’s requirements and win awards.

 

Contact Judith Araujo for more information.