GAO denies protest of joint venturing rules under OASIS

Monday - 1/6/2014, 8:48am EST

The General Services Administration won round two of the fight over its prerequisites for joint ventures under the One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) request for proposals.

The Government Accountability Office on Friday denied the protest by Aljucar, Anvil-Incus & Co. over what the company said are requirements for joint ventures under the unrestricted portion of OASIS that unduly restricts competition. OASIS is a multiple award contract for complex professional services that has a ceiling of $60 billion over potentially 10 years.

GAO found GSA's determination to restrict joint ventures only to those firms who have proven experience and performance under an existing contracting team arrangement was "rational and can withstand logical scrutiny."

This is the second time GSA prevailed in a protest by Aljucar, Anvil-Incus (AAI) concerning the terms and conditions for joint ventures. In September, GSA's bid protest official also denied the company's claims.

"The current GAO ruling seems contrary to certain executive guidance back to 2009 from the White House and Office of Management and Budget over standards to be considered in increasing competitiveness. Neither I nor the attorneys we've engaged see that those standards were expressly applied by the agency or GAO in determining the adequacy of the market research cited," said Rudy Sutherland, the head of practice for Aljucar, Anvil-Incus & Co., in an email statement.

"It also seems to be directed to a non-sequitur in regard to the proper scope of traditional competitiveness inquiry that the allowable 'discretion' ought not cover." Sutherland said. Aljucar, Anvil-Incus plans to continue the fight by filing a request for reconsideration with GAO, and, if necessary, a protest with the Court of Federal Claims.

"Besides subcontracting, joint venturing is the only way in which small and mid- tier firms can compete with the bigs — so we must press on," he said.

GAO's decision may push AAI to the Court of Federal Claims as the agency's attorneys say a major piece of the company's argument misses a key point.

GAO says in the case AAI was basing its argument on, Valor Construction, it ruled, "the determination of a contracting agency's needs, including the selection of evaluation criteria, is primarily within the agency's discretion, and we will not object to the use of particular evaluation criteria so long as they reasonably relate to the agency's needs in choosing a contractor that will best serve the government's interests."

Additionally, GAO found "the relevant experience requirement here reflects the agency's interest in the performance of the joint venture as an established and experienced team. Although AAI disagrees with the agency's judgment in this regard, this disagreement does not show that the solicitation's experience requirement for joint ventures is unduly restrictive of competition."

GSA released the RFP for the unrestricted portion and the small business portion of OASIS July 31 and bids were due in early November.

As GSA is reviewing bids, agencies are starting to commit to using the contract. The Air Force in December signed a memorandum of understanding with GSA where it pledged to obligate at least $500 million through OASIS in the first 18 months after GSA awards vendors a spot on the contracts, which it intends to do early in calendar year 2014.

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