GSA reopens contract for digital federal forms

Another high-profile contract by the General Services Administration is being evaluated for the third time after the Government Accountability Office ruled the agency erred in evaluating the bidders' proposals and making its source selection decision.

The contract to put federal forms online is being reconsidered by a new technical evaluation team after GAO upheld the protest by the incumbent, Intercon Associates Inc. of Rochester, N.Y. This contract has been in play since 2004.

The goal of the contract is to acquire the services of an automated, electronic system development and support contractor to assist GSA's Forms and Printing Policy Division, according to the October 2005 solicitation the agency released for a second time.

But the solicitation has become entangled in the gauntlet of award, protest, re-evaluate, re-award and protest, much like the procurement to run FedBizOpps.gov. In that case, the Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of two protesters last month, telling GSA to appoint a new source selection board and re-evaluate proposals, again.

GSA has yet to determine what it will do.

But Jim Williams, GSA's commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, said earlier this week after a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event that while he wasn't as familiar with the contract as he should be, he will look into it.

'I want to go back and, if we do it again, make sure we do it well,' he said. 'FedBizOpps is important, and it doesn't look good for GSA if the court says we didn't do it right.'

Like FedBizOpps.gov, the contract for federal forms has been fraught with missteps.

Intercon originally won the federal forms contract in 2004. A losing bidder protested and GSA canceled the award in January 2005, industry sources said. The agency reissued the contract in May 2005, but Intercon protested a month later because GSA put in overly restrictive requirements, GAO said in its protest decision.

In October 2005, GSA revised and released the procurement again, awarding it to Information Analysis Inc. of Fairfax, Va., in June. The contract would be worth $2.3 million over five years.

Intercon protested again and GAO ruled in their favor Aug. 10.

'Intercon protests virtually every evaluated disadvantage relating to its proposal, maintaining that the agency's findings are either unsupported, otherwise erroneous or inconsistent with the terms of the solicitation,' GAO said in its decision. 'We have reviewed the record here and conclude that the evaluation is not adequately supported.'

Auditors found that GSA did not correctly evaluate Intercon's bid for a forms creation tool, file size creation, form wizard, forms filler application, digital-certificate usage and how they scored key personnel.

GAO ruled in GSA's favor on Intercon's complaint about biased personnel on the source selection team.

'[W]e conclude that the protester was prejudiced by the agency's misevaluation of its proposal'that is, in the absence of the agency's errors, it appears that Intercon would have had a substantial chance of receiving award,' GAO said in its decision. 'We recommend that the agency re-evaluate the proposals and make a new source selection decision.'

Industry sources said GSA asked bidders if they were interested in resubmitting their proposals. It is unclear how far the agency will go in its re-evaluation and whether they will require a new round of oral presentations.

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