In the Matter of         )
the Appeal of            )
ST IVES, INC.            )      Docket No. GPOBCA 12-93
Jacket No. 331-461       )
Purchase Order 88271     )

For the Appellant:  St. Ives, Inc, 2025 McKinley Street,
Hollywood, Florida , by William L. Dickey, Attorney at Law,
Washington, DC.

For the Government: Kerry L. Miller, Esq., Associate General
Counsel, U.S. Government Printing Office.

Before BERGER, Ad Hoc Chairman.


   By Notice of Appeal filed on June 3, 1993, St. Ives, Inc.
   (Appellant or Contractor), 2025 McKinley Street, Hollywood,
   Florida 33020,  timely appealed the April 6, 1993, final
   decision of Contracting Officer John W. Adams of the U.S.
   Government Printing Office (GPO or Respondent) denying the
   Contractor's  post-award request  for relief  based on an
   assertion of a mistake in its bid under a contract identified
   as Jacket 331-461, Purchase Order 88271.  See Rule 4 File, Tab
   M.1  For

the reasons which follow, the Contracting Officer's decision is
AFFIRMED and the appeal is DENIED.2


   On October 9, 1992, GPO issued an invitation for bid (Jacket
   331-461) for 250,000 copies and a set of film negatives for a
   28-page publication entitled "Air National Guard Planning
   Guide 1993" (Planning Guide).  In response, it received 14
   responsive bids on the extended bid opening date of October
   22, 1992, ranging from the Appellant's low bid of $163,865 to
   a high bid of $290,000.  Rule 4 File, Tab B.  On October 27,
   upon noticing that the Appellant's bid was $30,000 lower than
   the next lowest bid, the Respondent contacted the Appellant,
   pointed out the $30,000 difference, and requested the
   Appellant to review its bid.  Specifically, the Appellant was
   told to review its worksheets to ensure that the bid was "all
   inclusive" and to check the stock and inks to make sure that
   nothing was left out.  Rule 4 File, Tabs C and M.  The
   Appellant responded by facsimile transmission on that same
   date, confirming its bid. The contract was awarded to the
   Appellant on October 28, 1992.
   On October 29, 1992, the Appellant claimed a mistake in its
   bid, asserting that the bid was based on the wrong paper
   stock, JCP (Joint Committee on Printing) L60 instead of JCP
   L61 (hereinafter L60 or L61), the stock required by the
   specifications.  The Appellant, in a November 2, 1992, letter
   to the Respondent, explained that it first requested a price
   quote on L61 stock, but that its paper supplier was not
   familiar with L61, which led both parties to believe that L61
   was a typographical error and that L60 was the intended paper
   stock.  The Contracting Officer concluded that Appellant's
   claimed error did not entitle it to a remedy and denied the
   claim for relief.   The Appellant, by this time aware that it
   could not perform the contract using either paper because of a
   compatibility problem between the paper and the Appellant's
   presses, subcontracted the job, with the Respondent's
   approval, to Gateway Press, Inc., the third lowest bidder, at
   that company's bid price of $193,284.  Rule 4 File, Tab H;
   Harris Affidavit; Adams Declaration; SMRCR.  The Appellant
   seeks rescission or reformation of its contract with
   reimbursement for the difference between its contract price of
   $163,865 and the higher subcontract price.


A. The Appellant

   The Appellant argues that it made a unilateral mistake in its
   bid, that mistake being the assumption that the IFB's
   requirement for L61 paper was a typographical error and that
   L60 paper was the actual requirement.  The Appellant asserts
   that this was a reasonable mistake for it to make because  L60
   stock was the paper stock previously used for the Planning
   Guide and because the IFB did not highlight the fact that L61
   paper had been substituted for L60 paper.  Appellant argues
   that the Government had "actual notice" that Appellant had
   misread the IFB because the Contracting Officer knew or should
   have known that  Appellant's sophisticated web presses could
   not use L61 paper stock.  The Appellant further argues that
   the Respondent's request that it review its bid was
   insufficient to alert it to its misreading of the IFB's paper
   The Appellant further asserts that a mutual mistake was made
   in this case, that mistake being the belief of both parties,
   the Appellant and GPO, that paper stock L61 could run on
   Appellant's presses to meet the requirements of this contract
   when in fact it could not.   (At oral argument Counsel for the
   Appellant stated that the mutual mistake involved the
   assumption that either paper stock, L60 or L61, could run on
   Appellant's presses but, as was subsequently discovered,
   neither could.)  The Appellant believes this mutual mistake
   entitles it to relief.
   The Appellant further asserts that GPO erred in finding
   Appellant to be a responsible bidder because Appellant did not
   possess the equipment necessary to perform the contract using
   L61 paper.
   Based on the foregoing arguments, Appellant, as stated above,
   requests contract rescission or reformation or other
   appropriate relief including reimbursement of the difference
   between its contract price and the price of its subcontract
   with Gateway Press.

B. The Respondent

   The Respondent asserts that Appellant is not entitled to
   relief because the errors it made were errors of judgment
   rather than the type of errors, e.g., arithmetical error,
   misreading specifications, for which mistake-in-bid relief is
   available.  Respondent further asserts that the Contracting
   Officer properly discharged his bid verification duty, and
   that once Appellant verified its bid the Contracting Officer
   had no choice but to accept the bid, thereby giving rise to a
   binding contract.  The Respondent further argues that the
   incompatibility of Appellant's web presses with  L61 paper is
   not a legitimate basis for a claim of mutual mistake.


1.   Did the Appellant make a unilateral mistake in its bid for
which relief is available?  If so, did  the Contracting Officer
know or should he have known of the mistake prior to accepting
the bid?  If so, did the Contracting Officer adequately discharge
his bid verification duty?

2.   Did the parties make a mutual mistake that requires the
rescission or reformation of the contract?

3.   Did the Respondent improperly determine Appellant to be a
responsible bidder?


A. Unilateral Mistake

   The rules governing unilateral mistakes are straightforward.
   One party to a contract who knows or should know that the
   other party has made a mistake in its offer may not sit
   quietly by and take advantage of the other party's error; to
   do so is considered to be improper "overreaching."  Ruggiero
   v. United States, 190 Ct. Cl. 327, 420 F.2d 709 (1970).  To
   prevent this overreaching, federal procurement regulations
   have imposed on contracting officers a bid verification duty,
   so that whenever a contracting officer suspects that a bidder
   has made a mistake in its bid, the contracting officer must
   point out that suspicion and the basis for it.  See, e.g.,
   Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)  14.407-1, 14.407-3(g)
   (1).  The Respondent's mistake in bid rules, which are nearly
   identical to the FAR provisions, require a contracting officer
   who suspects a mistake to advise the bidder of that fact and
   point out, "as appropriate," that  the bid is considerably
   lower than other bids received or the Government's estimate,
   that there are "important or unusual characteristics of the
   specifications,"  that there are "changes in requirements from
   previous purchases of a similar item," or "other data proper
   for disclosure that will put the bidder on notice of the
   suspected mistake." Printing Procurement Regulations, GPO Pub.
   305.3 (Rev. 10-90)(hereinafter PPR), Chap. XI, Sec. 6,  3.(g)
   .  If the bidder responds by alleging a mistake, the bidder is
   given an opportunity to establish by appropriate evidence that
   a  mistake was made and to either withdraw or correct the bid.
   PPR Chap. XI, Sec. 6,  3.  On the other hand, if  the bidder
   verifies that the bid is correct as submitted, in most cases
   the bid  may be accepted for award and the award will result
   in a binding contract.  PPR Chap. XI, Sec. 6,  3.(g)(2) ("[i]
   f the bid is verified, the Contracting Officer shall consider
   the bid as originally submitted"); Peterman, Windham & Yaughn,
   Inc., 56 Comp. Gen. 239 (1977), 77-1 CPD  20.
   When a contractor first asserts a mistake-in-bid claim after
   award of the contract, what must be determined is whether the
   contracting officer, before award, knew or should have known
   of the possibility of an error in the bid.  PPR Chap. XI, Sec.
   6,  4.c. (relief is available if  ". . . the . . . mistake
   made by the contractor was so apparent as to have charged the
   Contracting Officer with notice of probability of mistake");
   Chernick v. United States, 178 Ct. Cl. 498, 372 F.2d 492
   (1967); The Kato Corp., ASBCA 47601, 97-2 BCA  29,130.   If
   the circumstances were such so as to put the contracting
   officer on notice of  a possible mistake in a bid, the
   question becomes whether the contracting officer adequately
   discharged the required bid verification duty.  United States
   v. Hamilton Enters., Inc., 711 F.2d 1038 (Fed. Cir. 1983).  If
   he/she did not, a contract award to the bidder submitting the
   erroneous bid will not give rise to a binding contract
   notwithstanding that the bidder, in response to a verification
   request, verified the bid as correct.  BDF Tesa Corp., GSBCA
   8307, 89-3 BCA  21,925.  In such circumstances, the
   contractor generally will be entitled to rescission or
   reformation, as appropriate,  of  the contract.  It is the
   contractor's burden, however, to establish this entitlement to
   relief by clear and convincing evidence.  PPR Chap. XI, Sec.
   6,  4.c.; Olympic Graphic Sys., GPOBCA 01-92 (September 13,
   1996), slip op., 1996 WL 812957.
   At the outset, it is important to note that relief is not
   available for every mistake that a bidder might make.
   Arithmetical and mathematical errors and misunderstanding or
   misinterpreting the specifications typically provide a basis
   for relief under the mistake rules; relief is not available,
   however, for mistakes in judgment.  Ruggiero v. United States,
   supra; Aydin Corp. v. United States, 229 Ct. Cl. 309, 669 F.2d
   681 (1982); Handy Tool & Mfg. Co., Inc., 60 Comp. Gen. 189
   (1981), 81-1 CPD  27; R.P. Richards Constr. Co.; PW Constr.,
   Inc., B-274859.2; B-274859.3, Jan. 22, 1997, 97-1 CPD  39;
   Olympic Graphic Sys., supra.  Thus,  a contractor will not be
   entitled to mistake-in-bid relief in all cases involving an
   inadequate verification request; the mistake made must be one
   cognizable under the mistake rules.  Therefore, the Board
   first must consider the Respondent's argument that the only
   error the Appellant made was essentially an error in business
   judgment, the type of error for which mistake-in-bid relief is
   not available.
   According to the Respondent, the Appellant's error was three-
   fold:  (1) Appellant assumed, without seeking clarification
   from the Contracting Officer, that because L60 paper had been
   used in the past, L61 paper specified in the IFB was a
   typographical error; (2) Appellant did not subscribe to the
   relevant publication that describes all JCP paper stocks,
   including L61, even though the information provided by the
   publication is essential to Appellant's business; and (3)
   Appellant submitted its bid without first determining if the
   specified paper would run on its presses.   The

Respondent considers these matters as involving business judgment
rather than misunderstanding specifications.
   The Board does not agree with the Respondent on this issue.
   While Appellant clearly exercised some judgment based on its
   experience and knowledge as to what the paper stock
   specification provision actually meant, that does not make the
   error one of business judgment rather than one of
   specification misinterpretation.  Experienced Government
   contractors do not read specifications  in a vacuum, but can
   be expected to bring to that exercise their knowledge and
   general understanding of Government requirements and make
   judgments about what the specifications require in light of
   that knowledge and understanding.  See generally Centre Mfg.
   Co., Inc., ASBCA 10854, 66-1 BCA  5613; Grand Central
   Aircraft Co., ASBCA 5128, 59-2 BCA  2352.  The exercise of
   that judgment in the interpretation of a specification cannot,
   when the judgment is erroneous, simply be labeled as business
   judgment when a contractor seeks mistake-in-bid relief.  To
   hold otherwise obviously would eliminate the
   misunderstanding/misinterpretation of specifications basis for
   mistake-in-bid relief.  Moreover, Appellant's failure to seek
   clarification from the Contracting Officer and to obtain an
   available publication describing the different paper stocks
   available does not, in the Board's view, establish the nature
   of the mistake as either one of business judgment or one of
   misreading a specification-it simply bears on the avoidability
   of the mistake.
   A useful distinction suggested by the cases in this area is
   whether the mistake involves:  (1) the quantity or nature of
   the work; or (2) the effort required to perform the work.  See
   John Cibinic, Jr. & Ralph C. Nash, Jr., Administration of
   Government Contracts 3d ed. 332 (The George Washington
   University, 1995) (hereinafter Nash & Cibinic,
   Administration).  A mistake involving the former is regarded
   as a misinterpretation of specifications, while a mistake
   concerning the latter is viewed as a matter of business
   judgment.  Thus, an experienced contractor's failure to read
   more than four of the 98 pages of specifications before
   submitting a bid, leading to a misjudgment of what would be
   required to meet the specifications (Liebherr Crane Corp. v.
   United States, 810 F.2d 1153 (Fed. Cir. 1987)), a company's
   error in determining the nature and cost of materials
   necessary to perform (Aydin Corp. v. United States, supra),
   and a company's failure to obtain supplier quotes before
   computing its bid price (Handy Tool & Mfg. Co., Inc., supra)
   were held to involve business judgment, while  interpretations
   of specifications as calling for less work than they actually
   did (Walter Straga, ASBCA 26134, 83-2 BCA  16,611; BCM Corp.
   v. United States, 2 Cl. Ct. 602 (1983)) were held to involve
   the kind of mistake for which relief could be granted.
   In light of this distinction, it seems clear that the
   Appellant's asserted error involves the nature of the work,
   not the effort to perform it.  What is at issue is not, for
   example, the Contractor's judgment as to the amount or type of
   labor or equipment needed to properly perform the job, but the
   nature of the final product, that is, the particular kind of
   paper stock on which the publication was to be printed.
   Errors in understanding or interpreting what the contract
   specifications require as a deliverable end product are
   exactly what is encompassed by the mistake-in-bid rules.  BCM
   Corp. v. United States, supra; Wico, Inc., EBCA 125-6-80, 80-2
   BCA  14,790.  The Board concludes that the Appellant's error
   is not one of business judgment, but one that is cognizable
   under the mistake-in-bid rules.
   Resolution of Appellant's unilateral mistake in bid claim
   depends, therefore, on whether the Contracting Officer
   adequately discharged his bid verification duty.  It is not
   disputed that the Contracting Officer was on notice of a
   possible mistake in Appellant's bid.  That notice resulted
   from the $30,000 price disparity between Appellant's bid and
   the next lowest bid, and led to the Respondent's request to
   the Contractor that it review its bid.  In making that
   request, the Respondent pointed out to the Appellant the
   precise basis-the $30,000 bid price differential-for its
   suspicion of error in the bid.  Rule 4 File, Tabs C and M.
   The Appellant reviewed its bid and verified it, and the
   contract award followed.
   The Appellant asserts that the verification process was
   fatally flawed because the Respondent did not place Appellant
   on notice of Appellant's actual error-misunderstanding what
   paper was required in performing the contract.  There is no
   requirement, however, that the Respondent have done so.  As
   set forth above, a contracting officer's duty is to alert a
   bidder to a possible bid mistake when one is suspected and to
   the basis for the contracting officer's belief that a mistake
   might have been made; there is no duty to divine exactly what
   error a bidder might have made and to point out that precise
   error in the verification request.  Thus, the verification
   request cannot be considered faulty because it did not
   highlight for Appellant the actual basis for Appellant's
   error; it is faulty only if the contracting officer knew or
   should have known of that basis or any other particular basis
   for the possible error in Appellant's bid apart from what was
   brought to the Appellant's attention-the dollar differential
   between Appellant's bid and the next lowest bid, along with
   the request to check stock and inks, etc., to ensure that
   nothing was left out.
   The Board finds no flaw in the verification request.  First,
   there is no factual basis in the record for a conclusion that
   the Contracting Officer knew or should have known of any
   particular reason for the possible error in Appellant's bid.
   While Appellant asserts that the Contracting Officer knew or
   should have known that the specified paper stock could not be
   run on Appellant's presses, the Contracting Officer denies
   this, R.R. Brf., Adams Declaration (see infra p. 16), and in
   any event it is not apparent why such knowledge, if it did
   exist, should have led to further knowledge or suspicion that
   the Appellant had decided to ignore the specifications and
   base its bid on using paper other than that called for by the
   specifications.  In fact, Appellant itself concedes that the
   Contracting Officer was not aware of the actual error made.
   Complaint,  23 ("The true nature of the mistake  . . . was
   not readily apparent to . . . the Contracting Officer . . .");
   Rule 4 File, Tab H (". . . the Contracting Officer was no more
   aware than the Contractor that this particular mistake had
   been made").
   Second, the Board does not agree that the verification request
   should have included specific reference to the paper stock
   requirement.  Appellant, relying on Chap. XI, Sec. 6,  3.(g)
   of the PPR (quoted above), asserts that the specifications had
   an "unusual characteristic" and represented a "change from
   previous similar purchases," Complaint,  14, because L61 was
   a new paper stock with specifications not widely circulated to
   the public and because L60 stock had been previously specified
   for similar jobs, thereby requiring Respondent to direct
   Appellant to the L61 specification requirement when requesting
   verification. The regulations require information about
   unusual or changed specifications to be provided to "assure
   that the bidder will be put on notice of a mistake suspected
   by the Contracting Officer. . . ."  PPR, Chap. XI, Sec. 6, 
   3.(g)(1).  Since the contracting officer's duty is to place
   bidders on notice of a suspected mistake and, when a
   particular mistake is suspected, of that particular mistake,
   Structural Finishing, Inc., ASBCA 26647, 84-2 BCA  17303;
   Ames Color-File Corp., B-185873, Mar. 26, 1976, 76-1 CPD  199
   (denying relief  in another GPO procurement to a bidder whose
   bid was some 33 percent lower than the next lowest bid but who
   confirmed the bid after being informed of the discrepancy and
   requested to review the specifications and who then after
   award asserted a mistake based on using less expensive paper
   than required by the specifications); Andy Elec. Co.,
   B-194610.2, Aug. 10, 1981, 81-2 CPD  111; Atlas Builders,
   Inc., B-186959, Aug. 30, 1976, 76-2 CPD  204; Porta-Kamp Mfg.
   Co., Inc., 54 Comp. Gen. 545 (1974), 74-2 CPD  393, in the
   Board's view the regulatory language does not require unusual
   or changed specification information to be provided as part of
   every verification request when such a specification exists,
   but means simply that the information should be provided when
   the contracting officer suspects or should suspect that the
   possible mistake arose from a failure to understand or
   appreciate the requirements of the unusual or changed
   specification provision.
   The Appellant has not explained exactly what the "unusual
   characteristic" of the L61 paper stock is that should have led
   the Contracting Officer to suspect a mistake in connection
   with the L61 requirement.  The record also establishes that
   while the L61 specification was relatively new, it was not
   scarce or unavailable.  It was included in Amendment No. 2 to
   No. 9 of the Government Paper Specification Standards issued
   by the JCP (R. R. Brf., Atch. 1); the Amendment was issued on
   June 1,  1992, and was distributed by the Respondent to
   subscribers by August 14, 1992, and was available to the
   public by subscription until April 29, 1993.  R. R.Brf.,
   Cameron Declaration.  It is also apparent from the record that
   the Appellant is an experienced GPO contractor with a
   satisfactory performance record, R.R. Brf., Adams Declaration
   (St. Ives . . . has been successfully performing large GPO
   contracts for many years"), and therefore one about whom the
   Contracting Officer had no reason to suspect would not be
   familiar with, or at least aware of,  the most recent
   specifications. Thus, although there is no dispute in the
   record concerning the actual unfamiliarity of the Appellant
   and its paper buyer with the specification, the record does
   not establish that the Contracting Officer knew or should have
   known of this unfamiliarity such that he should have tied the
   suspected error in the

Appellant's bid to the paper specification even if, as the
Appellant asserts, this was the first time the Respondent
specified L61 paper3 for the type of publication involved in this
   Accordingly, the Board concludes that the Contracting Officer
   did not suspect and should not have suspected that the
   Appellant's bid was based on the use of an incorrect paper
   stock, and that the verification request was legally adequate.
   This conclusion does not quite end our inquiry into the
   unilateral mistake issue.  Although Respondent asserts that
   once bid verification is received the Contracting Officer need
   make no further inquiries and that generally the only
   appropriate course of action is to make award, R.Brf. at. 9,
   that is not precisely the rule.  The Comptroller General has
   held that a contracting officer who suspects that a mistake
   has been made notwithstanding receipt of verification from the
   bidder has a duty to pursue the matter further with the bidder
   before accepting the bid5, William M. Young & Co., B- 188374,
   Apr. 18, 1977, 77-1 CPD  271,  and ultimately should reject
   the bid if it is clear that a mistake has been made.  See,
   e.g., American Independent Corp., B-258126; B-258126.2, Jan.
   18, 1995 (unpub.); Tratoros Constr., Inc., B-254600, Jan. 4,
   1994, 94-1 CPD    1; TLC Financial Group, B-237384, Jan. 26,
   1990, 90-1 CPD  116 (a contracting officer may not accept an
   obviously erroneous bid).  In this regard, both the FAR
   (14.407-3(g)(5)) and the PPR (Chapt. XI, Sec. 6,  3(g)(4))
   provide that where a bidder fails to furnish evidence in
   support of a suspected mistake, the contracting officer shall
   reject, rather than accept, the bid where the amount of the
   bid is so far out of line with other bids or there are other
   clear indications of error such that acceptance of the bid
   would be unfair to the bidder or to other bona fide bidders.
   See, e.g., R.P. Richards Constr. Co., B- 260543, June 21,
   1995, 95-1 CPD  280, recon. denied, B-260543.2, Aug. 23,
   1995, 95-2 CPD  80.  Clearly erroneous bids subject to
   rejection under these provisions include those based on
   misinterpretations of solicitation requirements.  Orbas &
   Assocs., B-255276, Feb. 23, 1994, 94-1 CPD  139; Martin
   Contracting,  B-241229.2, Feb. 6, 1991, 91-1 CPD  121.
   Appellant cannot prevail here, however, because the record
   does not establish that the Contracting Officer had any reason
   to believe, upon receipt of the Appellant's verification, that
   there was a mistake in the Appellant's bid.  While the
   Appellant's bid was $30,000 lower than the next lowest bid and
   no other bid was that much below the next lowest responsive
   bid, this procurement produced a wide swing in bid prices with
   a difference between the eighth and ninth lowest bid exceeding
   $26,000. Rule 4 File, Tab B.  Moreover, while the  Appellant's
   price  ($655.58/m) was below  the 1991 contract price
   ($770/m), Rule 4 File, Tab D, the 1992 contract called for a
   25 percent greater quantity and the Appellant itself notes
   that it has "price advantages inherent in use of [its]
   sophisticated web-fed versus competitors sheet feed presses."
   Rule 4 File, Tab H.  In addition, the Contracting Officer knew
   St. Ives to be an experienced, well-established GPO printing
   contractor.  R.R. Brf., Adams Declaration.  Under the
   circumstances, the Board does not view the Appellant's bid as
   so out of line with the other bids or the $30,000 difference
   between the Appellant's bid and the next lowest bid as so
   clearly indicative of error despite the verification such that
   the Contracting Officer should not have accepted the
   Appellant's bid.

 B. Mutual Mistake

   The rules governing mutual mistake are also simple.  As
   relevant here, a contractor will be entitled to relief if both
   the contractor and the government, at the time of the contract
   award, made a mistake as to a basic assumption upon which the
   contract is based, the assumption had a material effect upon
   contract performance, and the contractor did not assume the
   risk of the mistake.  Dairyland Power Co-op. v. United States,
   16 F.3d 1197 (Fed. Cir. 1994); National Presto Ind., Inc. v.
   United States, 338 F.2d 99 (Ct. Cl. 1964), cert. denied, 380
   U.S. 962 (1965); Morris v. United States, 33 Fed. Cl. 733
   (1995); Bath Iron Works Corp., ASBCA 44617, 45232, 97-2 BCA 
   29,073.  It is not enough that both parties make a mistake;
   both parties must make the same mistake.  Natus Corp. v.
   United States, 371 F.2d 450 (Ct. Cl. 1967).  If there is clear
   and convincing evidence that a mutual mistake was made, the
   contract may be rescinded or reformed.  PPR, Chap. XI, Sec. 6,
    4.c.     Appellant argues that a mutual mistake was made
   here in that both it and the Respondent incorrectly believed
   that the specified paper stock, L61, could run on Appellant's
   presses.  According to the Appellant, the L61 paper is
   manufactured for sheet-fed presses and cannot be used on its
   web-fed presses.  Appellant "submits that neither the
   Contracting Officer nor St Ives at the time of award . . .
   knew in fact that JCP L61 paper would not run on St Ives' web
   fed presses.  This was a mutual mistake of fact . . . ." App.
   Brf. at 7.  The Respondent's position is that the Contracting
   Officer had no knowledge that St. Ives lacked sheet-fed
   presses or that the L61 paper was not available for web
   The Board is not persuaded that there was a mutual mistake
   here.  Preliminarily, the Board notes that the Appellant's
   factual assertions in support of its mutual mistake theory-to
   the effect that the Contracting Officer did not know that L61
   (or even L60) paper would not work on Appellant's web-fed
   presses-are inconsistent with its other factual assertions
   that the Contracting Officer knew or should have known that
   Appellant had web-fed pressses and that L61 paper would not
   work on those presses.  Complaint at 2-3; App. Brf. at 6;
   Report of Oral Argument at 3.  More importantly, the record
   does not establish that the Respondent made a mistake that is
   encompassed by the mutual mistake concept.
   First, there is no persuasive evidence that the Contracting
   Officer made the mistake alleged by the Appellant.  The
   Contracting Officer states that he did not know that L61 paper
   was a sheet-fed paper and did not know that the Appellant did
   not have sheet-fed presses.   He explains:
It is not a standard practice for Contracting Officers to inquire
of large, well-established printing contractors whether they have
web or sheet-fed presses.  If a Contracting Officer receives a
bid from a contractor, like St. Ives, that has been successfully
performing large GPO contracts for many years, there is no need
to conduct an inquiry to determine whether they have a certain
type of press.  It is the contractor's obligation to ascertain
their equipment needs and to decide whether their equipment can
produce the product. . . .  I did not know at the time of
contract award that St. Ives lacked sheet-fed presses. . . .

Similarly, at the time of award, I did not have any knowledge
that L61 paper was only available in sheet-fed form.  Since all
paper is manufactured on rolls at the factory, and the paper is
then cut down into sheets, there is no such thing as a paper
which cannot be manufactured in a form usable by web presses.
The paper specifications do not limit the use of L61 to sheet-fed

R.R.Brf., Adams Declaration.  The Board ascertains from this
statement that the Contracting Officer did not make it his
business to know about the particular types of presses used by
GPO contractors, including St. Ives, and did not know or have any
reason to know whether there would be a compatibility problem
between St. Ives' equipment and any particular paper stock. There
is no evidence in the record that rebuts this declaration.
Although Appellant asserts that GPO's "on-file information on St
Ives reflected it only had web presses that would not run the
sheet fed only L61 paper," no evidence that this information
exists, or that if it exists the Contracting Officer knew about
it, has been introduced.  Moreover, even if the Contracting
Officer knew from such on-file information that St. Ives had only
web-fed presses, that would not establish, in light of the
Contracting Officer's declaration, that the Contracting Officer
had assumed anything with respect to the compatibility of those
presses with the specified paper stock.  In addition, while a
preaward survey on Appellant  found satisfactory such things as
Appellant's plant facilities and equipment and ability to meet
the schedule, Rule 4 File, Tab E, it appears that this was a
limited survey rather than the more detailed "full" survey
utilized when a bidder's responsibility cannot be readily
determined from available information.  PPR, Chap. 1, Sec. 5, 
5.  Nothing in the record establishes that this limited preaward
survey led the Contracting Officer to make any assumptions about
what equipment the Appellant had, how the equipment operated, or
whether any particular paper would or would not work with the
equipment.  In short, the Board finds nothing in the record that
establishes the validity of the Appellant's assertion that the
Contracting Officer knew of the Appellant's particular presses
and assumed that the specified L61 paper could be run on those
   Second, even if Appellant's factual assertions were borne out
   by the record, as a legal matter the Board could not find that
   a mutual mistake was made that would provide a basis for
   As set forth above, for a contractor to get relief there must
   be a mutual mistake of a basic assumption.  As explained in
   Nash & Cibinic, Administration at 323, that basic assumption
   must be "a significant part of the bargaining process."  For
   example, in the leading case in this area, a mutual mistake
   was found to exist when it was discovered that a certain
   production method which was the subject of preaward discussion
   and which the contractor had agreed to use would not work.
   The court held that the parties had "reasonably labored . . .
   under a mutual mistake as to a most material set of facts."
   National Presto Indus., Inc., v. United States, supra, at 108.
   The basic assumption about which the parties were mistaken was
   that the agreed upon production method was feasible.  See also
   Air Compressor Prods., Inc., ASBCA 40015, 91-2 BCA  23,957
   (where both parties mistakenly believed a particular
   compressor model would satisfy requirements) and Management &
   Training Corp. v. General Servs. Admin., GSBCA 11182, 93-2 BCA
    25,814 (where the parties were unaware of the true cost of
   utilities in government buildings).  As the Federal Circuit
   stated in reviewing cases in this area:
. . . where courts have reformed a contract, the parties
recognize the existence of a fact about which they could
negotiate, they mutually form a belief concerning that fact, but
their belief is erroneous.  In those cases the court may reform
the contract to bring the parties' agreement in  accord with the
true state of  the facts.

. . . . .

Other cases in which courts have permitted reformation . . .
similarly show that the parties had an erroneous belief
concerning a fact whose existence the parties recognized and
about which they could reach agreement. See,  e.g., Southwest
Welding &  Mfg. Co. v. United States, 373 F.2d 982,  179 Ct. Cl.
39  (1967) (the parties mistakenly believed the price of steel
was lower than it actually  was); Walsh v. United States, 102 F.
Supp. 589, 121 Ct. Cl. 546 (1952) (the parties erroneously
believed the minimum wage rate was a certain amount, even though
it had increased earlier); Aluminum Co. of America  v. Essex
Group, Inc., 499 F. Supp. 53 (W.D.Pa. 1980) (the parties
erroneously believed that the Wholesale Price Index would
accurately represent on labor production costs for the purpose of
a contractual escalation clause).
. . . . .

Atlas Corp. v. United States, 895 F.2d 745, 750-1 (Fed. Cir.
1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 811 (1990).
   Here, there was no mutual error concerning anything that was
   part of the bargaining process or about which the parties
   could reach agreement.  Stated another way, the alleged
   mistake, unlike in the cases cited above, does not directly
   involve a specific performance requirement or another
   contract term or condition.  There is no mistake here about
   what is to be produced or the  terms and conditions under
   which production, delivery, and contractor compensation are to
   occur.  Rather, the mistake involves Appellant's initial
   misunderstanding of the specifications and its ultimate
   judgment about its ability to meet the specifications with its
   own equipment.  Clearly, the Respondent did not know of the
   misinterpretation and, as set forth above, had no common
   understanding with Appellant that Appellant could meet
   specification requirements by using any specific type of
   equipment.  These circumstances do not permit the conclusion
   that a mutual mistake was made here that would entitle the
   Appellant to relief.  See Natus Corp. v. United States, supra,
   where the court held that a contractor, who sought mutual
   mistake relief when the production method it chose did not
   work, was not entitled to such relief because there was
   nothing "mutual" about the mistake-the contractor had
   unilaterally chosen the production approach, with the
   Government "at no time expressing any views as to how
   production should proceed." 371 F.2d at 14.

C. Responsibility

   The Appellant's assertion that the Respondent erroneously
   found it to be a responsible bidder is not a matter for
   resolution by this Board.  Bidder responsibility is a preaward
   matter and as such is not within the Board's jurisdiction.
   Rose Printing, Inc., GPO BCA 32-95 (December 16, 1996), slip
   op., 1996 WL 812880; Big Red Enters., GPO BCA 07-93 (August
   30, 1996), slip op., 1996 WL 812960.


   Considering the record as a whole, the Board finds and
   concludes that: (1) Appellant has not established by clear and
   convincing evidence that it is entitled to unilateral mistake-
   in-bid relief;  (2) Appellant and the Respondent did not make
   a mutual mistake entitling the Appellant to any relief; and
   (3) the Board is without jurisdiction to consider the
   Appellant's challenge to the Respondent's  determination that
   Appellant was a responsible bidder.  Therefore, the
   Contracting Officer's final decision denying relief is
   AFFIRMED and the appeal is DENIED.

It is so Ordered.

January 5, 1998                  RONALD BERGER
                        Ad Hoc Chairman
                        GPO Board of Contract Appeals


    1    The Contracting Officer's appeal file, assembled
    pursuant to Rule 4 of the Board's Rules of Practice and
    Procedure, dated September 17, 1984, was delivered to the
    Board on July 2, 1993.   It will be referred to hereafter as
    the Rule 4 File, with an appropriate Tab letter also
    indicated. The Rule 4 File consists of 13 documents
    identified as Tab A through Tab M.

    2    The Board's decision is based on: ( a) the Appellant's
    Notice of Appeal dated April 27, 1993; (b) the Rule 4 File;
    (c) the Appellant's Complaint dated July 2, 1993; (d) the
    Respondent's Answer dated August 5, 1993; (e) Appellant's
    Submission of Materials Requested in Order to Close the
    Record dated October 8, 1993 (hereinafter SMRCR); ( f) the
    Respondent's Notice of Filing dated October 15, 1997; (g) the
    Respondent's Brief dated November 8,  1993 (hereinafter R.
    Brf.); (h) the Brief of Appellant, St Ives Inc dated November
    8, 1993 (hereinafter App. Brf.); (i) Report of Presubmission
    Telephone Conference dated November 29, 1993; (j) the
    Appellant's Reply Brief and Completion of the Record dated
    January 14, 1994 (hereinafter App. R. Brf.), and accompanying
    Affidavits of Jeffrey R. Harris and Ernest E. Engle; (k) the
    Respondent's Reply Brief dated January 14, 1994 (hereinafter
    R. R. Brf.), and accompanying Declarations of Phyllis J.
    Kent, James Cameron, John Adams, and Sylvia S. Subt; and (l)
    Report of Oral Argument dated July 7, 1994.  (Oral argument
    was heard on May 24, 1994, and was not transcribed.  A
    hearing was not held in this case, the appellant having
    waived a hearing pursuant to Board Rules 8 and 11.)

    3   The prior solicitation for the Planning Guide, Jacket No.
    300-761, issued on September 9, 1991, did not identify a
    specific JCP code for the required paper, but Appellant
    states that "JCP L60 had traditionally be[en] used."  App.
    Brf. at 5.

    4    Indeed, the amount of the disparity between Appellant's
    bid and the next lowest bid would suggest that the suspected
    error was not tied to the intended use of L60 paper instead
    of L61.  According to Appellant, the cost of  L60 paper
    needed for performing this contract was $78,386, while the
    cost for L60 paper would have been $124,740, a difference of
    $46,354. SMRCR.  It seems reasonable that a bid based on L60
    instead of L61 paper therefore likely would be understated by
    considerably more than the $30,000 that alerted the
    Contracting Officer to the mistake possibility here.

    5    See L. Washington & Assocs., Inc., B-276556 et al., June
    26, 1997, 97-1 CPD  229, for an example of multiple
    verification requests preceding agency decisions as to
    whether to accept a bid.