GAO again rules in favor of reservation contract protester

The Government Accountability Office for the second time has ruled in favor of Spherix Inc. of Beltsville, Md., in the vendor's protest of the Agriculture Department's award of its $97 million recreation information and reservation service contract to ReserveAmerica of Ballston Spa, N.Y.

Agriculture's Forest Service re-awarded the 10-year National Recreation Reservation System contract in June to ReserveAmerica, a subsidiary of Ticketmaster.

GAO, in a decision last week, again found the Forest Service's award of the recreation services contract to ReserveAmerica to be flawed. In December 2004, GAO sustained Spherix's protest of the first award of the contract to ReserveAmerica.

In its second protest to GAO, Spherix cited Agriculture's failure to conduct adequate discussions, improper evaluations of its offers and failure to justify its choice of the substantially higher cost of ReserveAmerica's proposal, said Spherix spokeswoman Kathy Brailer.

In the latest decision, GAO found different issues with the procurement from the previous ruling, but they resulted in similar recommendations and indicated re-competition, according to an attorney familiar with the decision and who wished to remain unnamed.

GAO will release a redacted version of its decision within the week.

The Forest Service said it was studying the ruling and will determine which course to follow, said agency spokesman Dan Jiron. 'Whatever processes need to be followed we will do it,' he said.

Given a level playing field, Spherix said it offered the better deal. 'Our continued success in competing against ReserveAmerica in state reservation system procurements demonstrates that we provide the best combination of value, technology and experience,' said Spherix CEO Richard Levin. Spherix expects to continue to perform its National Park Service contract while the nationwide services competition continues.

ReserveAmerica anticipates it will prevail with the contract award. "We are confident that we will continue to win the NRRS contact award, as we have since 1997," said Brendan Ross, president of ReserveAmerica.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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