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The record simply does not support Mas-Hamilton's argument that the previous six small purchases show that the agency intends to continue conducting small purchase procurements until its total requirement for combination security locks is satisfied. With regard to the prior procurements, as well as the current RFQ, the record shows that throughout the 27-month period from February 2, 19905 until May 5, 1992—when the agency was conducting its full and open competition for these locks—the DLA inventory manager received numerous, urgent customer requests for mechanical combination security locks. In providing locks in response to these requests, the agency's on-hand lock inventory level was repeatedly reduced to a quantity of only a few locks. Thus, on six occasions, in order to address the depleted stock levels, the agency issued each of the small purchases described by DLA as "emergency filler buys." In our view, the record shows that when each of these small purchase buys was made, DLA was unable to proceed with a fully competitive award since the agency was waiting for NCEL to finish the MIL-L-15596G lock sample testing. 6 Likewise, with respect to the current small purchase RFQ, the agency again explains that it needed locks to satisfy an immediate shortage until the agency could proceed with a fully competitive award under the RFP issued to replace the canceled 1990 RFP. Given the administrative delays encountered in moving forward with a new, unrestricted procurement, as well as the time involved in waiting for the lock sample testing to be completed, we find this explanation persuasive.? When an agency is faced with an urgent need while being simultaneously unable to proceed with a fully competitive award for that item, it may properly use the small purchase procedures as an interim means to procure its needs until a fully competitive award is possible. See Computer Resource Tech. Corp., B-218292, May 16, 1985, 85–1 CPD 1557 (use of small purchase procedures proper where record shows that agency was not in a position to issue a fully competitive solicitation for its critical requirements).8 Here, where the agency is using the small purchase procedures to make short-term, filler buys until a fully competitive award can be completed—and has since issued an unrestricted and fully competitive RFP to procure the remainder of its needs—we find the interim use of the small purchase procedures found in FAR Part 13 to be appropriate.Id.

5 On this date, DLA procurement, inventory, and technical personnel began planning the 1990 RFP. 6 Although the sixth small purchase award was made after the unrestricted RFP was canceled, the record shows that the agency issued this RFQ on March 21-prior to the cancellation of the RFP. ? The record also shows that for the current RFQ, a larger critical need for 369 locks was reduced to a quantity of 337 in order to meet the $25,000 small purchase limitation. DLA explains that it believed that procuring a smaller quantity would preserve the largest maximum quantity for a fully competitive award. As stated above, since DLA was stymied in its ability to procure these locks competitively because locks were failing to meet the applicable specifications, and since there appears to be no intent to circumvent full and open competition, we will not object to DLA's actions. 8 There is no evidence—nor does the protester assert—that the agency's urgent need for these locks resulted from any lack of advance planning on the agency's part. 9 In addition, Mas-Hamilton makes no claim that the agency has improperly used the applicable small purchase procedures. Under these procedures, an agency is only required to solicit quotations from a reasonable number of qualified sources to promote competition to the maximum extent practicable. 10 U.S.C. § 2304(g)(4) (1988); FAR

Continued

Since we find DLA's use of the small purchase procedures appropriate here, we need not consider Mas-Hamilton's contention that DLA was required to use the federal specification as Mas-Hamilton suggests. FAR $ 10.006(a)(2) specifically exempts small purchases from the other requirements in the regulation mandating the use of certain federal specifications. 10 In its comments on the agency report, Mas-Hamilton argues that notwithstanding the small purchase exemption rule found in FAR $ 10.006(a)(2), DLA was nonetheless required to include FF-L-2740 in this solicitation since the agency's security concerns as well as 32 C.F.R. § 159a (1991), “Information Security Program Regulation"-demand such a result. Although 32 C.F.R. § 159a provides that GSA will establish and publish minimum standards, specifications, and supply schedules for security equipment, nothing in these provisions authorizes overriding the FAR $ 10.006(a)(2) exemption for small purchase procurements. Accordingly, since we conclude that this RFQ was properly issued under the small purchase rules, the agency's failure to include FF-L-2740 in this procurement is unobjectionable. 11

The RFQ's Purchase Item Description With respect to Mas-Hamilton's second contention—that the RFQ here improperly restricts competition to the S&G mechanical combination lock by not providing offerors with a list of salient characteristics and by specifying a mechanical rather than electrical lock design—we note that the current small purchase RFQ requests quotations for an S&G lock identified as NSN 5340-00-264-7592, and described as: Lock, Rim [S&G] ([Cage Code Number] 53085) Nicholsville, KY P/N [Part Number] 8560D54DR162 The solicitation also included a “Products Offered” clause which permits firms to offer alternate products. The clause states in relevant part: [A]ny product offered must be either identical to or physically, mechanically, electrically and functionally interchangeable with the product cited in the [item description). In its protest, Mas-Hamilton argues that the RFQ's purchase item description is unduly restrictive since it does not describe the essential characteristics of the

§ 13.106(b). Generally, a solicitation of three vendors is sufficient. See J. Sledge Janitorial Serv., 70 Comp. Gen. 307 (1991), 91-1 CPD 1 225. According to DLA, for each of the above referenced small purchases, at least three vendors were solicited. 10 As for the protester's argument that DLA's failure to include FF-L-2740 in this RFQ is contrary to the policy set forth in the 1992 DOD directives discussed above, we dismiss this ground of protest. Under CICA, see 31 U.S.C. $ 3551 (1988), our Office will not consider protests that an agency failed to follow internally generated rules intended to define or help in defining the agency's needs, and which merely implement executive branch policy rather than any specific statutory authority. See Loral Fairchild Corp.-Recon., B-242957.3, Dec. 9, 1991, 91-2 CPD | 524. 11 As noted above, Mas-Hamilton has filed a protest against the replacement unrestricted RFP raising the issue of whether DLA properly excluded FF-L-2740 from that solicitation.

S&G lock; without such details, Mas-Hamilton—as a prospective offeror of an alternate, electrical combination security lock-contends that it is improperly prevented from competing. As noted above, the purpose of the small purchase procedures is to promote efficiency and economy in contracting and to avoid unnecessary burdens for agencies and contractors. East West Research, Inc., B-239620, Aug. 28, 1990, 90–2 CPD 1169. Accordingly, in using these procedures, a contracting agency is only required to obtain competition to the maximum extent practicable. 10 U.S.C. § 2304(g)(4) (1988); FAR § 13.106(b). In light of this goal, a contracting agency is generally not required to draft a special narrative purchase description setting forth the physical and functional characteristics of relatively simple and common items being acquired through small purchase procedures provided that there is no indication that the use of NSNs and manufacturer's part numbers fails to adequately convey the agency's needs, and that the agency permits offers for alternate products. 12 See East West Research, Inc., B-238234.2; B-239682, Sept. 17, 1990, 90-2 CPD 1 218. Under such circumstances, the use of a manufacturer's part number and NSN as an item description is unobjectionable. East West Research, B-243623, Apr. 29, 1991, 91–1 CPD | 421; East West Research, Inc., B-240360, Oct. 18, 1990, 90-2 CPD || 314. We think the RFQ's purchase description here is adequate. Mas-Hamilton does not argue that vendors are unable to determine the type of lock which the agency is seeking-in fact, the item being procured is a recognized commercial item.13 Since Mas-Hamilton, as well as any other offeror of an alternate product, could have readily obtained any additional details regarding the government's lock requirement using either the specified manufacturer's part number or the lock's NSN, we find that this purchase description is unobjectionable. See The ARO Corp.-Recon., B-225645.2, June 1, 1987, 87-1 CPD 1 548. Mas-Hamilton also argues that because the RFQ's purchase item description specifies a mechanical combination security lock, the solicitation improperly restricts competition under this RFQ to a mechanical lock design. 14 We find this argument without merit.

12 For the same reasons, a contracting agency is also not required to use military and federal specifications in its small purchase procurements. FAR $ 10.006(a)(2); RMS Indus., B-247394, May 19, 1992, 92-1 CPD | 452. 13 The solicitation's identified manufacturer's part number specifically refers to detailed specifications set forth in the S&G catalog where this item is listed. The item description in the solicitation also identifies the lock by its NSN, which corresponds to a publicly available, national catalog system maintained by the General Services Administration and DOD. See 40 U.S.C. § 487(a) (1988). If Mas-Hamilton were truly unable to determine the government's requirements for this lock based on the RFQ's item description or the S&G catalog, it could easily acquire this information by requesting a copy of the lock's NSN item description from the agency. During the course of this protest, our Office contacted the agency's NSN supply center and found that for this lock, the NSN item description sets forth the detailed specifications of MIL-L-15596G. 14 Mas-Hamilton also contends that the specified S&G lock does not meet the agency's minimum security needs since it is a mechanical, rather than electrical, lock. Since a procuring agency is in the best position to know how a solicited item is to be used by the agency, and the agency has primary responsibility for ascertaining its needs and specifying its requirements, our Office will not disturb an agency determination as to the best method for satisfying those needs, absent a showing that this judgment was unreasonable. East West Research, Inc., B-238633, June 13, 1990, 90-1 CPD || 555. Here, Mas-Hamilton has failed to provide any evidence indicating that the selected mechanical lock is inappropriate, and its disagreement with the agency judgment does not constitute such evi

Continued

Where, as here, an agency conducting small purchase procurements determines that a particular manufacturer's part number will meet its minimum needs, the agency need only indicate to offerors that alternate items will be reviewed for technical acceptability. Helitune, Inc., B-243617, July 19, 1991, 91-2 CPD 177. This is precisely what the agency did here. By including an alternate products clause, the agency permitted offers for products which perform the same functional requirements but are based on a different technical design. In this regard, the record shows and the agency admits that while the actual locking mechanism of the protester's lock operates electrically rather than mechanically, the Mas-Hamilton lock may be functionally interchangeable with the specified S&G lock since it operates using the same combination dial process, and since its physical dimensions are identical to those of the S&G lock, thereby allowing for the same replacement mounting and installation. 15 Under these circumstances, we find that the RFQ's item description and alternate products clause does not exclude Mas-Hamilton or any other offerors of electrical locks from the competition. The protest is denied.

B-249065, October 21, 1992
Procuremeni
Contractor Qualification

Organizational conflicts of interest 1 Allegation substantiation II Evidence sufficiency Contention that offeror had an organizational conflict of interest and was ineligible for award because it provided material that led directly, predictably, and without delay to a statement of work is sustained where the agency-over the course of 8 months-used a contractor to write a draft project paper, adopted most of the analysis in its own project paper, and then used the two documents to prepare a statement of work for which the same contractor is now the successful awardee, and where the agency failed to take any action to mitigate the conflict.

Matter of: GIC Agricultural Group

dence. Further, in arguing that an electrical-rather than mechanical—lock should be procured because of the electrical lock's superior security capabilities, Mas-Hamilton is essentially arguing for the use of more restrictive specifications that reflect the electrical lock's higher standard of performance. For example, Mas-Hamilton contends that the agency's minimum needs for an electrical rather than mechanical lock require this solicitation to include FF-L-2740. Our Office will not consider a protest that the procuring agency should use more restrictive specifications to meet its minimum needs. See Trimble Navigation, Ltd., B-247913, July 13, 1992, 92-2 CPD | 17; Cooper Indus., Inc., Crouse-Hinds Molded Prods. Div., B-247909, Mar. 18, 1992, 92-1 CPD 1 292. Accordingly, we dismiss this ground of protest. 15 In a supplemental submission for the record—dated September 16—the agency specifically asserted that “an electromechanical lock does meet and in fact exceeds the agency's needs” for this procurement.

Ronald K. Henry, Esq., Jeffrey A. Stonerock, Esq., and Sue Ann Dilts, Esq., Baker & Botts, for the protester.

Robert A. Mangrum, Esq., and Joan G. Ochs, Esq., Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson, for Chemonics International, an interested party.

Robert Sonenthal, Esq., Agency for International Development, for the agency.

Ralph 0. White, Esq., and Andrew T. Pogany, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.

GIC Agricultural Group (GIC) protests the award of a contract to Chemonics International under request for proposals (RFP) No. India 92-003, issued by the Agency for International Development (AID) for contractor services in support of the Agricultural Commercialization and Enterprise (ACE) project. GIC argues that Chemonics should have been barred from consideration for award based on its earlier involvement in preparing an ACE project paper report, and argues that AID misevaluated Chemonics's proposal and wrongly concluded that Chemonics, not GIC, offered the best value to the government. We sustain the protest.

Background

AID's ACE project is designed to encourage private entrepreneurs to establish agribusiness services and infrastructure in India. In addition to making loans and grants to businesses, the program is also intended to strengthen two key agribusiness support institutions in that area: the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI), a development finance institution; and the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), a trade association located in Bombay. As now configured, the ACE project consists of four activities: (1) providing up to $10 million in small loans to private agribusiness, administered by ICICI, to assist in developing food processing capabilities; (2) providing technical assistance and trade and investment tours for private firms to promote opportunities for processing and distributing Indian farm products; (3) supporting agribusiness lending by ICICI, including efforts to increase ICICI's expertise in making loans in the areas of food processing and food distribution; and (4) supporting agribusiness promotion by MCCI. The ACE project and the technical assistance contract at issue here both have origins in prior AID dealings with Chemonics. On April 30, 1991, AID issued a contract to Chemonics to prepare a project paper report for the ACE project. Chemonics, 2 months later, submitted its project paper, called the “Project Paper Team Report," setting forth 174 pages of detailed analysis explaining the rationale, objectives, and suggested activities for the ACE project. This analysis included findings on the agribusiness sectors in the Indian economy most in

contract its, 2 months lating forth 174 page

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