U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE BOARD OF CONTRACT APPEALS The Appeal of GRAPHICDATA, INC. Docket No. GPO BCA 28-88 February 9, 1990 MICHAEL F. DiMARIO Administrative Law Judge OPINION This appeal, timely filed by GraphicData, Inc., Fellowship Road and West Park Drive, Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054 (hereinafter "Appellant"), is from the August 24, 1988, final decision of Jack Scott, Contracting Officer (C.O.), U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC (hereinafter "Respondent"), which denied three claims by Appellant for additional compensation under the referenced contract. The decision of the Contracting Officer is affirmed for the reasons set forth hereinbelow. BACKGROUND Respondent, upon requisition of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce, competitively awarded Appellant a certain requirements contract, identified as Program C306-S, Purchase Order No. 72599, dated September 30, 1987, to print, collate, and distribute all United States Government patents submitted to it for production during the term beginning October 1, 1987, and ending September 30, 1990, pursuant to the general terms, conditions, and specifications issued by the Respondent on August 12, 1987, as amended. Sometime shortly after the commencement of work under the contract, Appellant discovered that certain aspects of the requirements were beyond what it had anticipated from the specifications at the time it made its bid. As a consequence, Appellant filed claims for additional compensation. Thereafter, Appellant and Respondent engaged in an extended dialogue concerning the scope of the contract which culminated in an agreement to settle by equitable adjustment all but the three claims identified in the Contracting Officer's final decision letter. Subsequently, Appellant filed its appeal with this Board as to two of the denied claims as follows: 1. Special Handling Production of Certificates of Correction The Certificates of Correction referred to on Page 11 of 29 of the Contract are acknowledged to be regular items of production. However, unlike all other items of production listed on Page 11 of 29, Certificates of Correction require special handling as follows: a. Poor quality and various sized originals which cause handfeeding and production slowdown. b. Mechanical stripping of signature blocks. c. Special collation and packing requirements. d. Different trim size than patents. The additional processes listed above are not adequately covered in the Contract Specifications. Certificates of Correction should have been separated from Patent Production and specifically described as to their own unique characteristics. GraphicData, Inc. claims Certificates of Correction should have been a separately priced contract item. Our claim is an additional 32 production hours per issue chargeable at $24.82 per hour totaling $794.29 per issue. 2. The Handling of Patents Out of Sequence Our claim against this item is: Because the patent originals are supplied out of sequence, they must be produced out of sequence necessitating a very extensive patent filing system. After the patents are produced they are filed in sequence on storage shelves and then removed from those storage shelves for distribution when all patents for a particular issue are finally received, produced and filed. Paragraph 5, Page 13 of 29 of the Contract Specifications details the process by which patent originals will be returned to the Patent and Trademark Office. Specifically, return all originals in sequence. By implication, all patent originals are initially in sequence. Since the Contract Specifications do not even vaguely indicate that patent originals will be supplied out of sequence how is the contractor to know? Because there is no way we could have or should have known, we claim 160 additional production hours per issue chargeable at $24.82 per hour and totaling $3,971.20 per issue. The Government, by way of Answer, denied each of these arguments as follows: 1. The scope of Program C306-S is the production of United States Patents, requiring such operations as making reproducibles, printing, gathering, binding, packing, and distribution. As appellant acknowledges, Certificates of Correction are regular items of production under Program C306- S. Appellant complains that production of Certificates of Correction require "special handling" because of alleged "poor copy and various sized originals which cause handfeeding the production slowdown." Under the contract, when poor quality camera copy for Certificates of Correction are received, the contractor is to proceed in accordance with the fourth paragraph on page 14 of the contract. Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. In addition, the Government's on-site representative is authorized to make whatever changes or improvements are necessary to the camera copy. If such improvements are not possible, the contractor is allowed a special handling charge. See, line items (e), (f), and (g), page 27, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. With regard to appellant's claim about various sized originals, as with any printing job, it is reasonable to expect various sizes of camera copy. Indeed, the contract notes that "camera copy . . . to be reproduced at various focuses." Page 11, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. Appellant also complains of the requirement that it mechanically strip signature blocks on the Certificates of Correction. There is no such requirement in the contract. The contractor may elect to place the image on the finished product using any method it chooses. The appellant was warned in the solicitation that part of the Government furnished material would be "camera copy with a date, to be used with the Certificate of Correction." Page 12, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. Regarding appellant's complaint about the collation and packing requirements, the contract clearly states the approximate number of Certificates of Correction that can be expected in any week. Page 11, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. The contract also spells out the collating and gathering requirements. Page 16, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. The packing instructions can be found on page 17. In addition, packing assembly and distribution requirements are outlined on pages 21, 22, and Exhibit B to the IFB. Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. In addition, although appellant complains about the trim size of the Certificates of Correction, the trim size requirements are explicitly spelled out on page 11 of the IFB, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. Appellant's complaint about the necessity to "handfeed" stems from its decision to "print" using an electrostatic reproduction method. The contract itself does not dictate which printing method should be used. No answer is required to the allegations contained in the remaining portions of this section as such allegations are in the nature of appellant's prayer for relief. To the extent answers may be required, respondent denies that appellant is entitled to the relief for which it has prayed or to relief in any other form. 2. Appellant seeks compensation, claiming that the fact that patent originals are supplied out of sequence increases its costs. Appellant also claims that the IFB "[b]y implication" states that the patents will be furnished in sequence to the contractor. This is clearly not what the contract states. The contract makes no representations that the camera copy for patents will be furnished in numerical sequence. On the contrary, the specifications states that the camera copy will be made available over a five day period. Page 19, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. Specific instructions for the return of camera copy are given on page 13 and 14. The instructions for collating, gathering, and binding are contained on pages 15 and 16. Additionally, instructions as to the handling of late patents are given on pages 19 and 20. See also, Exhibit B to the IFB, Exhibit A, Rule 4 File. All of the above-referenced contract provisions indicate that the camera copy for patents will not be furnished in numerical sequence. No answer is required to the allegations contained in the remaining portions of this section as such allegations are in the nature of appellant's prayer for relief. To the extent answers may be required, respondent denies that appellant is entitled to the relief for which it has prayed or to relief in any other form. All allegations contained in the complaint not specifically admitted are denied. Thereafter, a prehearing conference was held wherein the parties agreed that both issues in dispute were purely questions of contract interpretation, and thus of law, and that no evidentiary hearing was necessary. Each advanced their arguments at the conference and agreed to further illuminate their positions in written submissions to the Board. The written record was settled upon receipt of the submissions. The matter comes now before the Board in this form for decision. DISCUSSION The underlying premise of each of Appellant's claims is identical; i.e., that the specifications were inadequate in the particulars of which it complains to put Appellant on notice of the work to be performed and that upon a theory of the Government's breach of its implied warranty of specifications Appellant is entitled to additional compensation. We disagree with such premise and adopt fully the reasoning of Respondent's Answer and Brief as the Board's own with respect to the averments of Appellant's Complaint and expressly reject the additional arguments advanced by Appellant at the Prehearing Conference and in the post- conference submission. The Board believes that Appellant's claim of inadequacy of the specifications is, in fact, a post-award claim of mistake in bid. The real underpinning of Appellant's first claim revealed in the Prehearing Conference and post-conference submission is that it did not comprehend the specifications to indicate that "Certificates of Correction" would be more than one page and therefore did not plan for the work necessary to collate the Certificates or to position the "camera copy with date" on the last page of each Certificate. The entire basis of this failure in comprehension is Appellant's misreading of the plain language of the "QUANTITY AND NUMBER OF PAGES" provision of the specifications set forth on page 11 thereof, which states in pertinent part: QUANTITY AND NUMBER OF PAGES: The following table shows the approximate number of patents that will be ordered each week for the next three contract years. Oct 87- Oct 88- Oct 89- Sept 88 Sept 89 Sept 90 Utility Patents 1575 1625 1660 Reissue Patents 8 8 8 Plant Patents 4 3 3 Design Patents 95 95 95 Statutory Inv. Regs. (SIRs) 3 4 4 Reexamination Certificates 4 4 4 Certificates of Correction 195 185 190 Each contract year nine or ten orders will consist of approximately 20% fewer utility patents. Patent quantities range from 40 to 275 copies, with an average of 130 copies and from 2 to 16 printed pages, with an average of 9 printed pages. Unusually large patents may contain 450 drawing sheets and nearly the same number of specification pages. Approximately 400 Dedications, Disclaimers, Adverse Decisions, and Special Certificates, requiring 135 copies of each, will be ordered per year. The Government reserves the right to change the number of patents to be printed. Such change(s) in scheduled weekly issue levels shall be within 15 percent plus or minus the anticipated issue quantity. In the Board's judgment the plain meaning of the introductory language of the table clearly indicates that all the categories of publications specified in the table are included within the word "patents" for purposes of the provision, including number of pages. Moreover, since we base this conclusion on the plain meaning of language of the term "patents" as used in the introductory material, we deem the use of the term "patents" elsewhere within the specifications to be of no importance with respect to the interpretation of the "QUANTITY AND NUMBER OF PAGES" provisions. We draw the same conclusion regarding the fact that different trim sizes are specified for certain of these categories of publications. Nor do we find merit in the distinction Appellant makes in its submission respecting the use of "Certificates of Correction" here and "Certificates of Corrections " (emphasis added) elsewhere in the specifications under "TRIM SIZE." We think the distinction is one of typographical error and not of substance respecting quantity. We therefore deny this claim. Turning to the second question, we find no legal validity in Appellant's post-award assertion that the receipt of sequentially ordered patents by the contractor from the Government was implied in the requirements that the contractor collate, gather, and bind the patents in sequential order. Indeed, we are persuaded that such requirements imply a contrary assumption, precisely as the Government argues and documents. Moreover, the Appellant's argument that its production layout plan was based upon a presumption that patents would be received in sequence and was submitted to the Government for its review does nothing to disturb the Board's view on this question since the contract called for the plan to be submitted within 60 days after award. Accordingly, we likewise deny this claim. It is the duty of the Government to treat all bidders fairly. Indeed, the very nature of advertised competitive procurements mandates such action in order that commercial providers of goods and services will be encouraged to compete for the public's business. This requirement places a heavy burden upon contracting officials to strictly adhere to the exact letter of contract language once award has been made. To do otherwise would be patently unfair to the unsuccessful bidders and would discourage future participation in Government solicitations. The downside of this is that an innocent bidder, as here, who might not fully comprehend the provisions of the solicitation will receive the award as low bidder and be economically injured as a result. Absent Government fault contributing to the commission of such error, there is no means of negating such an unfortunate consequence. Therefore, the Board must and does hereby deny the appeal and affirm the Contracting Officer's decision in its entirety. It is so Ordered.