TITLE:  AudioCARE Systems, B-283985, January 31, 2000
BNUMBER:  B-283985
DATE:  January 31, 2000
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AudioCARE Systems, B-283985, January 31, 2000

Decision

Matter of: AudioCARE Systems

File: B-283985

Date: January 31, 2000

David Reimer for the protester.

Col. Nicholas P. Retson and Maj. Robert W. Clark, Department of the Army,
for the agency.

Linda C. Glass, Esq., and Paul I. Lieberman, Esq., Office of the General
Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.

DIGEST

Protest that agency did not provide protester a fair opportunity to compete
under simplified acquisition for automated patient appointment reminder
system is denied where, although the agency considered an inappropriate
price comparison, the record shows that the agency evaluated all information
received from the vendors and, with full understanding of the actual
pricing, reasonably determined that the selected system represented the best
value to the government.

DECISION

AudioCARE Systems protests the issuance of delivery order No.
DADA09-99-F-0638 by the Department of the Army to Advanced Scientific Supply
for a Solvetech System automated patient appointment reminder system for the
Great Plains Regional Medical Command under simplified acquisition
procedures. AudioCARE contends that agency did not provide it a fair
opportunity to compete for the order.

We deny the protest.

In an effort to install and standardize its automated patient appointment
reminder system at all of its hospitals, the Great Plains Regional Medical
Command sought quotes for and reviewed the systems supplied by Solvetech and
AudioCARE because at least one of each system was installed at a hospital in
the region. Contracting Officer's Statement at 1. The Solvetech system is
offered by Advanced Scientific under a Defense Personnel Support Center
(DPSC) Decentralized Blanket Purchase Agreement (DBPA). Id. Both vendors
were contacted and requested to provide information on their systems, and
the price to provide the system to six hospitals in the region. The agency
requested a quote from AudioCARE for five complete systems and an upgrade to
the existing AudioCARE system at the Bayne Jones Army Community Hospital at
Ft. Polk. Telephone Hearing, Jan. 21, 2000. Advanced Scientific provided a
listing of Solvetech equipment needed and pricing for six full systems, and
AudioCARE provided an equipment listing and pricing for five full systems
and one upgrade. Agency Report, Tab G. Advanced Scientific's quote for the
Solvetech system for the six locations was $99,925 and AudioCARE's quote was
$95,760.

Because both systems are able to provide the same basic service, price was
the major factor in selecting the system for the Great Plains region.
Contracting Officer's Statement at 1. Maintenance costs and price savings
from having a standard system were all taken into consideration in the price
evaluation. [1] Id. According to the agency, it was decided, in the interest
of "fairness," to consider only those sites that did not currently have a
Solvetech or an AudioCARE system in place in comparing the relative prices.
Id. Considering the price for the five sites where neither equipment was
already being used, Solvetech's price was $85,450 and AudioCARE's price was
$92,160.

Under the technical evaluation, the agency determined that since the
Solvetech system uses Microsoft SQL, which is widely known and used, as its
database management software, Solvetech's quote represented the better
technical value to the government. Agency Report, Tab G. The agency states
that SQL allows Great Plains system personnel to enter into the database and
write their own reports without having to contact the vendor. AudioCARE, on
the other hand, uses a MUMPS system to obtain data, which, according to the
agency, requires extensive expertise in that language in order to extract
ancillary information on the patient demographics and other data mining
operations. The agency concluded that the Solvetech system offered several
advantages in that it allows the system administrator at each site to change
any of the settings for call monitoring, unique reporting requests and any
of the normal system adjustments such as calling schedules. Moreover, the
agency concluded that Solvetech does not have to be called for any changes
made to the system and does not need to be involved in the operation of the
system, but is available to provide assistance or perform maintenance on the
system. With the AudioCARE MUMPS system, the agency states, the user must
rely on the vendor for any new and unique reporting requests. Further, the
agency found that the Solvetech system had been certified to ensure that
patient information would be secure and the AudioCARE system had not yet
been certified. Based on the evaluated prices and the ability of the
Solvetech system to better manipulate the data in the system, Solvetech's
system was determined to be the better buy. In addition, the agency viewed
it as an advantage that award to Advanced Scientific for the Solvetech
system will result in all sites in the Great Plains region having a single,
standardized system. Consequently, on September 18, 1999, the agency issued
a delivery order under the DPSC DBPA to Advanced Scientific for $99,925, the
price for providing the system at the six hospital sites.

The protester argues that the evaluation process heavily favored Solvetech.
The protester also argues that its price was improperly evaluated and given
the emphasis placed on price, it should have received the award at its price
of $95,760. [2]

Where, as here, simplified acquisition procedures are used, contracting
agencies may properly use innovative approaches so as to award contracts in
the manner that is most suitable, efficient and economical in the
circumstances of each acquisition. FAR sect. 13.003(g), (h); Cromartie and
Breakfield, B-279859, July 27, 1998, 98-2 CPD para. 32 at 2. Our Office reviews
allegations of improper agency actions in conducting simplified acquisitions
to ensure that the procurements are conducted consistent with the concern
for fair and equitable competition that is inherent in any federal
procurement. Huntington Valley Indus., B-272321, Sept. 27, 1996, 96-2 CPD para.
126 at 2.

The principal objection raised by the protester is that it quoted a price of
$95,760 for systems for the six sites, which is lower than the delivery
order of $99,925 issued to Advanced Scientific. As explained above, the
agency did not include the cost of a system for the Bayne Jones Army
Community Hospital at Ft. Polk in its price analysis because AudioCARE
already had a system there and was only proposing a system upgrade (priced
at $3,600) to support additional calling volume. The agency states that it
believed it would be unfair for either vendor to have its price for a new
system evaluated for a site that currently has a system from the competing
vendor. The agency also determined that, if AudioCARE had included in its
quotation a price for a full system for Ft. Polk, the resulting total price
for AudioCARE equipment would have been $113,760. Agency Report, Tab G.

In our view, it was inappropriate for the agency, on the one hand, to
request quotes from the vendors for equipment for six locations and to issue
a delivery order based on the prices for all six locations, and, on the
other hand, for price evaluation purposes, to consider prices for only five
locations. Procuring agencies do not have the discretion to announce one
evaluation scheme and then follow another in the actual evaluation.
Technical Support Servs., Inc., B-279665, B-279665.2, July 8, 1998, 98-2 CPD
para. 26 at 3. The record shows that, had the agency compared the quotes based
on the prices proposed for all six locations, as requested by the agency,
then the protester's quote would have been low.

Nonetheless, based on the record here, the selection of the Solvetech system
is unobjectionable. The agency solicited quotes orally, which is allowed
under FAR sect.13.106-1(c), and while vendors were told that price would be the
predominant consideration in the selection decision, vendors were also
advised that other factors, such as life-cycle costs, standardization and
ease of data extraction would also be considered. Telephone Hearing, Jan.
21, 2000. After evaluating price and technical considerations, the agency
reasonably determined that the Solvetech system represented the better
value.

The evaluation of quotations, like the evaluation of proposals, is within
the discretion of the procuring agency, since it is responsible for defining
its needs and the best method of accommodating them, and must bear the
results of a defective evaluation. Orion Research, Inc., B-253786, Oct. 21,
1993, 93-2 CPD para. 242 at 3. Where an agency's technical evaluation is
challenged, our Office will not independently weigh the merits of quotations
or proposals; rather, we will examine the evaluation to ensure that it was
reasonable and consistent with stated evaluation factors. Integrity Private
Sec. Servs., Inc., B-255172, Dec. 17, 1993, 93-2 CPD para. 332 at 3. A
protester's mere disagreement with the agency's conclusions does not render
them unreasonable. Id.

The technical evaluation here was unobjectionable. The agency reviewed the
equipment listings of the systems being offered and concluded that the
Solvetech solution employed a more user-friendly database software and was
certified as being security compliant. The protester generally disagrees
with the agency's conclusion that the protester's software database requires
extensive expertise in MUMPS and maintains that some site managers have an
excellent working knowledge of MUMPS. The protester further contends that
the Solvetech security compliance certification is meaningless. While the
protester disagrees with the agency's findings with respect to the technical
evaluation, the record here shows that throughout the evaluation process,
the agency reasonably believed that the Solvetech system offered several
advantages which made it a technically superior alternative. The protester's
disagreement with this reasoned conclusion does not call it into question.

In performing its evaluation, the agency explicitly recognized that for the
relevant six locations, Advanced Scientific's quote was $99,925, while
AudioCARE's quote was $95,760. Agency Report, Tab G. The agency noted that,
since Ft. Polk had an existing AudioCARE system, it required only an
upgrade, which resulted in AudioCARE's quoted low price. Id. While, as
explained above, the agency's analysis improperly concluded that Solvetech's
quote was low, the record demonstrates that, throughout the evaluation
process, the agency recognized the actual, approximately $4,000, price
advantage associated with the AudioCARE system, but selected the Solvetech
system because of the advantages associated with its software. In our view,
this tradeoff is unobjectionable under the circumstances presented here.

The protester also argues that, because of the agency's overriding desire to
have a single, standardized system, the agency never gave fair consideration
to the AudioCARE system. The record simply does not support the protester in
this regard. The agency sought quotes from AudioCARE and performed a price
and technical evaluation. Moreover, it was clear from the January 21
telephone hearing that the selection decision was accomplished through
careful and thorough consideration of the equipment offered by both vendors.
To the extent the protester speculates that the agency's evaluation was
biased in favor of the Solvetech system, we find no basis to support the
speculation. Government officials are presumed to act in good faith, and we
will not attribute unfair or prejudicial motives to procurement officials on
the basis of inference or supposition. Triton Marine Constr. Corp.,
B-250856, Feb. 23, 1993, 93-1 CPD para. 171 at 6. In addition to producing
credible evidence showing bias, the protester must demonstrate that the
agency bias translated into action that unfairly affected the protester's
competitive position. Id. Here, the record establishes the reasonableness of
the agency evaluation, and there is no basis to infer bias or bad faith.

The protest is denied.

Comptroller General
of the United States

Notes

1. Great Plains currently has three Solvetech systems installed at hospitals
in the region that are not covered by this acquisition.

2. The agency argues that our consideration of this protest is precluded by
10 U.S.C. sect. 2304c(d) (1994), which provides that "[a] protest is not
authorized in connection with the issuance or proposed issuance of a task or
delivery order except for a protest on the ground that the order increases
the scope, period, or maximum value of the contract which the order is
issued." The agency points out that the protester does not argue that the
order increases the scope, period, or maximum value of the contract, or
implements a "downselect" that results in the elimination of one of the
vendors to which a delivery order contract has been issued from
consideration for future orders. However, here the agency was not simply
selecting an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contractor or
BPA holder for issuance of a delivery order; instead, it conducted a
competition between a vendor that was on the DPSC DBPA and one that was not.
Where a competition is held between an ID/IQ contractor (or BPA holder) and
another vendor, we do not believe the statutory bar on protests applies.