My question is why do we conduct a technical analysis on each work element instead of just evaluating only the total cost of the proposal? The contractor has submitted a lump sum proposal on a FFP task order. Because it is Lump sum the contractor is 100% responsible for meeting all of the requirements identified in the contract. We even have gone as far has having discussions with the LPTA contractor on each work element. In my opinion if the PCO is going to hold discussions then all contractors must be included not just the lowest proposal contractor. Bottom line we should only be looking at the total cost of the proposal, without holding discussions an if the contractor is found to be responsible and has no derogatory information, then the government should award.
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It seems that you have two questions.
First question: “why do we conduct a technical analysis on each work element instead of just evaluating only the total cost of the proposal? Cost analysis requires the review and evaluation of any separate cost elements and profit or fee in an offeror’s or contractor’s proposal to determine a fair and reasonable price. Technical analysis often supports this process (See FAR 15.404-1).
The second part of this question is more complex in my opinion. When conducting a technical analysis of an LPTA proposal the government may in fact only evaluate the lowest priced offeror. If that offeror is “technically acceptable” award is made. This of course assumes that the appropriate FAR provision notifying all oferrors that the government plans to make award without discussions, but that of course the government deserves the right to do so was in the solicitation. (See FAR 52.215-1 when using FAR Part 15 or the provision FAR 52.212-2 when using FAR Part12 which allows insertion of a description of government evaluation method.) Based on your description of the situation, it seems that award without discussions was indeed contemplated.
However, you have also described a situation where the technical acceptability of the lowest priced offeror could not be determined without additional information. In this the situation the path forward becomes more a little more complicated if only one proposal is being reviewed and discussed. To determine the appropriate path forward we need to review FAR 15.306, Exchanges with offerors after receipt of proposals. Two types of communication exchanges are allowed: clarifications and award without discussions and communications with offerors before establishment of the competitive range. FAR 15.306 defines clarifications as limited exchanges that may occur when award without discussions is contemplated. Examples of limited exchanges include information to clarify past performance ratings and to resolve minor clerical errors. Communications are exchanges between the Government and offerors, that happen after proposals are received which will help the the CO establish a competitive range. Communications may be held to assist the government in understanding the proposal, which of course in theory could also help determine if the lowest price proposal is technically acceptable. However, communications shall not be used to cure proposal deficiencies or material omissions, materially alter the technical or cost elements of the proposal, or otherwise revise the proposal that was originally submitted.
If the exchanges you describe fall within the definition of clarifications or communications, then there is no need to have discussions with all contractors. However, if the contractor has provided information that has materially altered any of the technical or cost elements of the proposal, these exchanges meet the definition of negotiations.
Negotiations are defined at FAR 15.306(d) and are exchanges of information between the government and the contractor that ultimately allow an offeror to revise its proposal based on the content of the negotiation discussion. If revisions are anticipate, or have been accepted, the appropriate course of action would be to establish a competitive range after reviewing all proposals received and then enter in to individual negotiations with all companies whose proposals qualify them to be included in the competitive range.