Bid protests of HHS office space contract sustained

Tuesday - 7/5/2011, 7:28pm EDT

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has sustained protests from three losing bidders over a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contract for new office space.

One Largo Metro, Metroview Development Holdings, and King Farm Associates had all filed complaints to GAO after the General Services Administration (GSA) awarded the HHS contract to Fishers Lane/JBG. The protestors said that GSA failed to take proper consideration of the criteria it specifically outlined back in 2008, when it first received the proposals.

In March 2010, GSA awarded Fishers Lane/JBG a 15-year lease for up to 935,401 square feet of office space in suburban Maryland. It was the largest lease award made by GSA in 2011.

Fishers Lane/JBG offered to renovate the building that currently contains the majority of the HHS staff impacted by the lease, while the other four contractors submitted proposals to construct completely new buildings, the GAO report said.

The report also said GSA told its top four bidders that it would award the contract to the company who could project the "best value" price while capitalizing on location, building characteristics and past performance and key personnel.

GSA, the firms say, made the announcement that they would focus their decisions more on location and building factors than price, past performance or personnel.

Focusing their efforts on transportation and nearby amenities, the three losing contractors say GSA overlooked their proposals in favor of Fishers Lane/JBG, whose plan was the most economically priced, but also earned a lower technical score.

The chief complaint amongst the protesting companies is that GSA blindly accounted for the quantity of amenities near the projected building site rather than the quantity and variety of the amenities. GSA also wanted bids to have a "quantity and variety of the following amenities: fitness facilities, postal facilities . . . restaurants, day care centers, fast food establishments, dry cleaners, [banks and ATMs] , convenience shops, card/gift shops, hair salons, automotive service stations, and drug stores," the GAO report said.

The GAO report said that GSA looked favorably on Fishers Lane's estimates for local amenities, even though the company lacked the variety of the other bids. The GSA evaluation, for example, ignores the fact that 7 of the 18 amenities offered by Fishers Lane were automotive service stations. Regarding transportation, the GAO report was less favorable to the protesters.

One Largo complained that the Fishers Lane plan would have workers walk a farther distance, though the GAO found the difference to be negligible, and ruled that Fishers Lane's transportation plan was on par with the others - while still offering the lowest price.

GAO made the recommendation that GSA reevaluate the bids for the HHS office space, given added consideration to the nearby amenities for each site proposal.

If Fishers Lane proposal is not found to reflect the best value to the government after the reevaluation, GAO said GSA should award the lease to the best value offer. GAO also recommends that the protesting firms receive reimbursement for filing and pursuing the protest, as well as attorneys' fees.

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Jory Heckman is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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