The GAO sustained a bid protest challenging the award of a General Services Administration (GSA) contract for mini-utility vehicles because the GSA failed to follow required evaluation procedures for procurements covered by the Trade Agreements Act (TAA). Tiger Truck, LLC, B-400685, Jan. 14, 2009, 2009 CPD ¶ 19. When the TAA applies to a procurement, the Government must acquire only US-made or designated country end products, unless offers of such “TAA-compliant” products either are not received or are insufficient to fulfill requirements. The GSA received quotations from three offerors, but only one offeror – the protester – certified that its vehicles were TAA-compliant. The GSA, however, concluded that it could not award the contract to the protester because its quoted prices were “exorbitantly unreasonable.” The GSA therefore awarded the contract to another offeror, even though it did not offer TAA-compliant vehicles. The GAO concluded that this evaluation process was flawed. To begin with, while the protester certified that its vehicles were manufactured in the United States, the GSA determined only that the vehicles – which contained several parts purchased from outside the United States – “may” be TAA-compliant. The GAO stated that the GSA should first have determined whether the protester’s vehicles were TAA-compliant in order to ascertain whether any TAA-compliant products were available. If the GSA had determined that the protester’s vehicles were TAA-compliant, the GAO stated that the other two offerors’ quotations for non-TAA-compliant vehicles should have been eliminated from consideration and the GSA should have evaluated only the protester’s quotation. If, however, the GSA had determined that the protester’s vehicles were not TAA-compliant, the head of the contracting activity would have been required to issue a non-availability determination before the GSA could have selected a quotation for non-TAA-compliant vehicles for award. Instead, the GSA improperly failed to determine whether the protester’s vehicles complied with the TAA and, in addition, made award based on a quotation for non-TAA-compliant vehicles without first obtaining a non-availability determination from the head of the contracting activity. In addition, in response to the GSA’s assertion that the protester was not prejudiced by these errors because it was ineligible for award due to its unreasonable prices, the GAO concluded that the GSA failed to conduct meaningful discussions with the protester regarding its quoted prices. Although the GSA clearly viewed the protester’s prices as a deficiency, and the sole basis for rejecting the quotation, the agency during discussions never raised its concern that the quoted prices were unreasonable. The GAO stated that, had the GSA conducted meaningful discussions, the protester would have had the opportunity to reduce its prices or explain why they were fair and reasonable, which could have resolved the GSA’s pricing concerns and resulted in an award to the protester.
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