IN THE UNITED STATES CLAIMS COURT No. 90-4010C (Filed: March 10, 1992) _______________________________ ) EPOC ASSOCIATES, ) ) Plaintiff ) THIS OPINION WILL NOT BE ) PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED v. ) STATES CLAIMS COURT ) REPORTER. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ) ) Defendant. ) _______________________________) William L. Dickey, Washington, D.C., attorney for plaintiff. John Warshawsky, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for defendant. OPINION HODGES, Judge. The United States Government Printing Office (GPO) issued an invitation for bids for a five-year contract to print patents and other documents for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Bids were opened on November 28, 1990, and plaintiff (EPCO) was the apparent low bidder. Thereafter, GPO notified EPCO that a quantity error had been made. The solicitation was cancelled. EPCO moved for a temporary restraining order before this court on December 12, 1990. This motion was denied. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on December 20, 1990, requesting reinstatement of the cancelled solicitation, direction for award to be made under the reinstated solicitation to plaintiff, and other relief as appropriate. Defendant moved for summary judgment on May 15, 1991. For the reasons stated below, and on the record of oral argument August 14, 1991, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted. FACTS GPO issued an invitation for bids on October 9, 1990. Section 2 of the invitation for bids included the following language with regard to quantity: "Approximately 400 Dedications, Disclaimers, Adverse Decisions, and Special Certificates, requiring approximately 150 copies of each may be ordered per year." (Emphasis supplied). Section 3 provided that the lowest bid would be determined by applying the Schedule of Prices to the "units of production which are the estimated requirements to produce the first year's production under this contract." Units of production for Dedications, Disclaimers, Adverse Decision, and Special Certificates were listed in Section 3 at Subsection III(a) as "360." This was a mistake. GPO actually needed 360 units times 150 copies per unit, a total of 54,000 units actually needed. EPCO submitted a bid of $6 per leaf for the 360 units mistakenly listed, while the second lowest bidder (Xerox) bid $.0155 per leaf for the same item. The result was that EPCO's bid increased by $321,840 when applied to the correct quantity; Xerox' bid increased by only $831.42. After recomputing the bids based on the correct quantity, GPO found that plaintiff no longer was the low bidder, so the Contracting Officer cancelled the solicitation on November 30, 1990. The Contract Review Board affirmed the Contracting Officer's decision. Thereafter, plaintiff offered to produce the additional quantity at the unit price offered by Xerox. Alternatively, it offered to produce the additional quantity needed for the original bid price for that item (360 unit x $6 per unit = $2,160). These suggestions were not accepted by GPO. Plaintiff applied to this court for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the new resolicitation. This motion was denied on December 19, 1990. ARGUMENTS Defendant states that the "ambiguity" in the invitation for bids was "dramatic" because it resulted in the second lowest bidder becoming the lowest, when the bid prices were applied to correct government requirements. It resulted in a disparity of more than $321,000 between the increased bid amounts for the units in error. Plaintiff asserts that the 360-leaf number was not an ambiguity at all, but "all uniform basis upon which the parties could bid." Plaintiff points out also that its bid for 360 units at $6 per unit is de minimis $2,160 in relation to its total low bid of $2,856,785.67. This is a case in which both parties seem right. Measured by the 54,000 page requirement, plaintiff's bid at $6 per page increases dramatically; measured by the advertised 360 pages, $6 per page is only $2,160 - indeed a de minimis amount of less than one- tenth of one percent of the total bid price. Coupled with plaintiff's offer of meeting Xerox' price of $.0155, or producing all 54,000 units for EPCO's mistaken bid of $2,160, one wonders how plaintiff could have been more reasonable. DECISION Plaintiff's arguments do have the sound of logic and reason, so it is important to review the regulations. GPO is not subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), but its own procurement regulations are substantially similar to FAR § 14.404-1, Cancellation of invitations after opening. GPO Printing Procurement Regulation ch. XI, Section 2, Cancellation of Invitation After Opening, reads in part as follows: 1. Procedure. The following applies to cancellation after bid opening. a. Preservation of the integrity of the competitive bid system and prevention of unnecessary exposure of bid prices dictate that...award must be made to that responsible bidder who submitted the lowest responsive bid, unless there is a compelling reason to reject all bids and cancel the invitation... b. IFBs may be cancelled after opening but prior to award and all bids rejected, only where such action is clearly in the best interest of the Government...The following are examples of an IFB after opening. (i) Inadequate, ambiguous, or otherwise deficient specifications were cited in the IFB. When one contractor bids $6 per page and another contractor bids $.0155 for the same item, one might suspect an ambiguity. However, plaintiff explains this as "only a different bidding approach" and not an ambiguity in the number 360. Plaintiff points out that numbers inherently are not ambiguous, though they can be wrong. While number in themselves perhaps cannot be ambiguous, their use in context may be. Section 2 of the invitation for bids clearly states: "Approximately 400 Dedications, Disclaimers, Adverse Decision, and Special Certificates, requiring approximately 150 copies of each may be ordered per year." (Emphasis supplied). This is 60,000 copies per year, and this is a correct approximation. It is in Section 3, Determination of Award, that the error occurs. It reads: III. DEDICATIONS, DISCLAIMERS, ADVERSE DECISIONS, AND SPECIAL CERTIFICATES: (A) 360 An ambiguity exists in Sections 2 and 3. Confusion apparently resulted from this ambiguity, though admittedly the disparity could be explained by bidding strategies. Defendant is persuasive in its arguments against the alternatives to resolicitation offered by EPCO. These include lack of authority, prejudice to other bidders, and integrity of the bid process. We have reviewed arguments of plaintiff and defendant with regard to the alternatives, and determined that the Contracting Officer had good reason not to use them. The issue narrows therefore to whether the Contracting Officer had a "compelling reason" to cancel the solicitation after bid opening. The Claims Court has found a Contracting Officer's decision to cancel a solicitation to be discretionary and '"extremely broad. A determination concerning the unreasonableness of prices bid is a matter of administrative discretion which should not be questioned...[without] a showing of fraud or bad faith." Caddell Constr. Co. v. United States, 7 Cl. Ct. 236, 241 (1985). Plaintiff's counsel has acknowledged that the Government had no actual knowledge of the error prior to the bid opening. He makes no allegations of fraud or bad faith. Plaintiff's case rests on its belief that the Contracting Officer acted irrationally or unreasonably. The Court of Claims has held that "where the Government alleges a reasonable basis for cancelling the solicitation...it is clear that plaintiffs must do more than assert what amounts to mere naked charges of arbitrary and capricious action in order to obtain a trial." American General Leasing, Inc. v. United States, 218 Ct. Cl. 367, 375 (1978). Our review of the record suggest that the Contracting Officer and those who reviewed his decision understood the gravity of that decision. They realized that it was a serious determination which may be made only for compelling reasons in the Government's best interest. While this process caused hardship for EPCO on this single bid, we cannot say it was illegal. Viewed in the perspective of government procurement policies across the board, perhaps plaintiff will see the Contracting Officer's decision as understandable, if not reasonable. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated herein, and on the record of oral argument August 14, 1991, defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. The Clerk will dismiss plaintiff's complaint. No costs.