The Air Force Space Command is based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette file photo)

Congress’ independent auditing office has dismissed an objection from a Colorado Springs company after it failed to receive a government contract for ambulance services at two Colorado Air Force bases.

Thomas H. Armstrong, general counsel with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, cited an anonymous tip from a former employee that “the contractor had been using expired medical equipment to perform services” as one of several shortcomings that led to a less-than-stellar evaluation of Colorado Springs-based Rocky Mountain Mobile Medical’s performance.

“Based on this documented pattern of performance issues, as well as consideration of the remedial actions taken by the protester,” wrote Armstrong in a Dec. 23 decision, the U.S. Department of the Air Force adequately explained its level of confidence “with respect to protester’s ability to successfully perform the requirements.”

On May 8 , the Air Force issued a request for quotations for ambulance services at Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases near Colorado Springs. The request was intended for small businesses, to last for at least six months, and the rubric for awarding the contract included price, the past performance of the company and capability of meeting the workload.

For the last factor, companies vying for the contract had to address their abilities in staffing and response times.

The Air Force received six price quotes, including from Med Express Ambulance Services Inc., based in Louisiana, and Rocky Mountain, which currently provides services covered in part by the new solicitation. At $4.68 million, Rocky Mountain’s price was $600,000 less than Med Express’. 

However, the Air Force chose Med Express, concluding that “trading up is the best value to the Government” if the quality of the services provided is higher at the more expensive company.

Rocky Mountain protested the award, listing three objections: the Air Force allowed Med Express to exceed page limits, it understated Rocky Mountain’s past performance, and it determined Med Express had “exceptional” performance while performing dissimilar and less complex work.

Armstrong acknowledged that Med Express exceeded the six-page limit for the technical portion of the application, but noted the company had also included an attachment and an introductory letter. Although Rocky Mountain maintained the panel that evaluated the technical component had to consider all pages together, the panel did not see the letter, and therefore did not rely upon the extra pages for its decision.

Rocky Mountain disputed the ratings of its past performance at Schriever and the U.S. Air Force Academy, where it has provided ambulance services for nine years. The company received three quality scores of “satisfactory” and one score of “marginal.” Rocky Mountain alleged the Air Force disregarded positive performance information while placing more emphasis on “a single, negative past performance reference.”

“Rather, the record reflects a pattern of issues on one reference, and a marginal schedule rating on the protester’s second reference,” Armstrong countered. “Similarly, the protester’s contention that the agency did not consider Rocky Mountain’s corrective actions also is not supported by the record.”

While the Air Force’s contract specialist noted the impact of Rocky Mountain’s staffing issues or delays was “never to the point of jeopardizing the mission,” the company's “marginal” rating referred to its inability to deliver a 12-minute response times during 90% of the reporting period.

To the claim that Med Express received “exceptional” and “satisfactory” performance recommendations from its contracts in New Mexico and Louisiana while providing dissimilar ambulance services, the GAO rejected that argument as not being a criterion for evaluating proposals.

“While the protester may be correct that the scopes of work are not identical, that is not the standard for relevance established by the RFQ,” Armstrong explained.

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