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    Government Contracting Database

    Adjectival Ratings

    FAR 15.305 governs “proposal evaluation”. This provision states, in pertinent part: “An agency shall evaluate competitive proposals and then assess their relative qualities solely on the factors and subfactors specified in the solicitation. Evaluations may be conducted using any rating method or combination of methods, including color or adjectival ratings, numerical weights, and ordinal rankings. The relative strengths, deficiencies, significant weaknesses, and risks supporting proposal evaluations shall be documented in the contract file.” 

    The GAO has also held that while adjectival ratings and point scores are useful as guides to decision-making, they generally are not controlling, but rather, must be supplemented by documentation of the relative differences between proposals, their weaknesses and risks, and the basis and reasons for the selection decision. (FAR 15.608). Such judgments by their nature are often subjective; nonetheless, the exercise of these judgments in the evaluation of proposals must be reasonable and must bear a rational relationship to the announced criteria upon which competing offers are to be selected. See Bunker Ramo Corp., 56 Comp. Gen. 712 (1977), 77-1 CPD ¶ 427. 

    In addition, the GAO has ruled that to perform a meaningful review of an agency’s selection determination an agency is required to have adequate documentation to support its evaluation of proposals and its selection decision. Biospherics Inc., B-278508.4 et al., Oct. 6, 1998, 98-2 CPD ¶ 96 at 4; Arco Management of Washington, D.C., Inc., B-248653, Sept. 11, 1992, 92-2 CPD ¶ 173 at 3. While adjectival ratings and point scores are useful as guides to decision-making, they generally are not controlling, but rather, must be supported by documentation of the relative differences between proposals, their strengths, weaknesses and risks, and the basis and reasons for the selection decision. Century Envtl. Hygiene, Inc., B-279378, June 5, 1998, 98-1 CPD ¶ 164 at 4; Arco Management of Washington, D.C., Inc., supra, at 3. 

    The GAO has further recognized that point scores and adjectival ratings are only guides to assist source selection officials in evaluating proposals; they do not mandate automatic selection of any particular proposal. Jacobs COGEMA, LLP, supra, at 31; PRC, Inc., B-274698.2, B-274698.3, Jan. 23, 1997, 97-1 CPD 115 at 12; Grey Adver., Inc., B-184825, May 14, 1976, 76-1 CPD 325 at 9. 

    In a more recent case, Matter of: Wackenhut Services, Inc., 2008 CPD P 184, the GAO stated that “Adjectival ratings and point scores, however, are mere tools in the evaluation and selection process and should not be mechanically derived or applied. Rather, it is the agency’s qualitative findings in connection with its evaluation of proposals, in this case, the documented written narratives underlying and justifying the SEB’s findings of particular significant strengths-that govern the reasonableness of an agency’s assessment of offerors’ proposals.” MCR Federal, Inc., B–280969, Dec. 14, 1998, 99–1 CPD para. 8 at 9. 

    Updated: September 6, 2017 

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