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We find the agencys best-value determination to be unreasonable because it is relies, in part, on a determination that is inadequately documented. B-413682.2, B-413682.3: Mar 29, 2017)In addition to the evaluation and discussions errors addressed above, Mevacon and Encanto argue that the Corps best‑value tradeoff decision was flawed because it relied solely on adjectival ratings and did not articulate a reasonable basis for the selection of Infinites higher-rated, higher-priced proposal. The evaluation also included a breakdown of the percentage of effort in each mission area to be performed by each prime contractor, subcontractor, and joint venture partner. The protester maintains that the agency unreasonably concluded that CI and UCS (along with two other offerors) were equivalent based solely on the firms adjectival ratings and did not perform a detailed critical analysis of the comparative merits of the proposals. Adjectival or point score evaluation ratings are merely guides to intelligent decision making.

For the reasons discussed below, we agree and sustain the protest. The essence of an agencys evaluation is reflected in the evaluation record--the underlying merits of particular strengths and the proposal as a whole--rather than a comparison of the adjectival ratings. After receipt of final proposal revisions, the proposals included in the competitive range were rated as follows: Finally, the protester argues that the price/past performance tradeoff between Valdezs proposal and its own was inconsistent with the solicitation because both proposals received performance confidence ratings of substantial confidence. Those detailed strengths and weaknesses, along with the ranking of the proposals was carried forward into the agencys source selection decision. Metis Solutions, LLC, et al., B‑411173.2 et al., July 20, 2015, 2015 CPD 221 at 13.

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Here, as noted, the evaluators identified specific strengths and weaknesses in the offerors non-cost proposals and past performance information, and also expressly ranked the proposals, and those findings were incorporated into the agencys source selection decision. In addition, the record contains no explanation of why, although the agency expressly ranked the proposals under the non-cost evaluation factors, it nonetheless found them equivalent. In this regard, Heartland characterizes the RFP as providing that price would only be given a major consideration if the vendors quotations were considered equal under the non-price factors, and asserts that its modestly higher price should have been of minor importance since Heartlands quotation was rated higher than Aces with regard to past performance and technical/management approach. Where, as here, a solicitation provides for a best-value award and identifies the factors for which tradeoffs will be made, a procuring agency must make its source selection decision consistent with those solicitation provisions. See, e.g., Bella Vista Landscaping, Inc., B-291310, Dec. The extent of required tradeoffs is governed by the test of rationality and consistency with the evaluation criteria.

(Heartland Technology Group, LLC B-412402.2: Sep 29, 2016) Best-Value Determination Lastly, Arcadis challenges the agencys best-value determination, arguing that the SSAs selection decision is flawed because it is based on a flawed evaluation. We agree with the protester and find that, based on the errors we have identified in the agencys evaluation of proposals, we are unable to conclude that the agencys best-value determination was reasonable.

Additionally, we sustain the protest because the record does not demonstrate that the agency performed an adequate price/technical tradeoff or considered Arcadis lowest price in the evaluation.

Notwithstanding these facts, the record shows that the agencys conclusion that four of these proposals were equivalent under the non-cost evaluation factors was based entirely on the adjectival ratings assigned, rather than on a detailed comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of the four proposals. Best Temporaries, Inc., B‑255677.3, May 13, 1994, 94-1 CPD 308 at 3.

Here, as discussed above, the agencys source selection decision document contains an extensive comparison of the evaluated strengths and weaknesses in both vendors quotations. Finally, the agency considered Heartlands ,683,612 price premium, and concluded that, even though the technical/management and past performance factors were substantially more important than price, Heartlands price was beyond substantially more than Aces price.NOVA Corp., B-408046, B-408046.2, June 4, 2013, 2013 CPD 127 at 5; see West Coast General Corp., B-411916.2, Dec. The agency's source selection decision first compared Man Tech's proposal to that of The Buffalo Group. The agency stated that "[t]he Buffalo Group was evaluated as [a]dequate," for each of the eight objectives. Given the lack of meaningful comparison of the proposals, along with the lack of an explanation regarding why Man Tech's significantly higher technically rated proposal was not worth the price premium, we find the agency's source selection decision to be unreasonable and sustain the protest on this basis. B-415497: Jan 18, 2018) Best-Value Tradeoff Analysis Finally, Supr TEK contends that DISA conducted an unreasonable best-value tradeoff analysis by failing to recognize the value of its lower price and lack of weaknesses and deficiencies in its quotation. In this regard, Supr TEK maintains that it was unreasonable for DISA to select CPTs higher-rated quotation at a 44 percent price premium. Supr TEK also maintains that the agency failed to give more than a cursory consideration of the merits of Supr TEKs proposal against CPTs proposal.14, 2015, 2015 CPD 392 at 12 (finding source selection not reasonable where award determination was based entirely on a comparison of total technical scores and general and administrative rates as a proxy for price). However, a tradeoff analysis that fails to furnish any explanation as to why a higher-rated proposal does not in fact offer technical advantages or why those technical advantages are not worth a price premium does not satisfy the requirement for a documented tradeoff rationale, particularly where, as here, price is secondary to technical considerations under the RFP's evaluation scheme. Where, as here, a procurement conducted pursuant to FAR subpart 8.4 provides for issuance of a task order on a best-value basis, it is the function of the source selection authority to perform a price/technical tradeoff, that is, to determine whether one quotations technical superiority is worth its higher price. While agency selection officials may rely on reports and analyses prepared by others, the ultimate selection decision must reflect the selection officials independent judgment. The SSA recognized that Supr TEKs quotation received acceptable ratings and acknowledged the .9 million (44.5 percent) price differential, but concluded that the benefits of CPTs quotation merited the price premium. Although Supr TEK may disagree with the agencys tradeoff decision, the protester has not demonstrated that the agencys judgment was unreasonable or inadequately document.One Largo Metro LLC, et al., B-404896 et al., June 20, 2011, 2011 CPD 128 at 14. Under the most important factor, the technical/management evaluation factor, the agency evaluated The Buffalo Group proposal as adequate for six of the elements and described one strength that was assigned to that firm under the third element. Instead the source selection authority found a "considerable distinction between technical proposals," but provided no substantive analysis for its determination that "the additional strengths provided by Man Tech's proposal [did] not warrant paying a significant premium." AR, Exh. Such a general statement falls far short of the requirement to justify cost/technical tradeoff decisions, especially in the presence of significant qualitative differences between the two proposals.