Is it neccessary to conduct discussions with the offeror? Also can a contract be awarded to a vendor who proposal has weaknesses?
First and foremost - what does the solicitation state? Does it allow award without discussions? Does it have any other guidance or information to the offerors on how the organization will evaluation and make the award? The most critical aspect is to follow is what you put into the solicitation. So, provided this is a Best Value competitive procurement using the guidance at FAR part 15, then the answer, on the face of it and not taking into account any added information in the solicitation, the answer is yes, you can award without discussions even if the apparent successful offeror has an identified weakness. Per FAR 15.306(d)(3) At a minimum, the contracting officer must, subject to paragraphs (d)(5) and (e) of this section and 15.307(a), indicate to, or discuss with, each offeror still being considered for award, deficiencies, significant weaknesses, and adverse past performance information to which the offeror has not yet had an opportunity to respond. The contracting officer also is encouraged to discuss other aspects of the offeror’s proposal that could, in the opinion of the contracting officer, be altered or explained to enhance materially the proposal’s potential for award. However, the contracting officer is not required to discuss every area where the proposal could be improved. The scope and extent of discussions are a matter of contracting office judgment.
So, this FAR subsection provides guidance to hold discussions about significant weaknesses, deficiencies etc. If there is a minor weakness and the evaluation team or SSA has assessed the potential risk associated with the weakness and believes the offeror will be successful and offers the best value to the government, then it is permissible to award without discussions, if your solicitation allows it. One aspect to be careful about is the quantity of weaknesses, if there are many, does it create the equivalent of a significant weakness that should be addressed through discussions..