Is HHS going to POO???
September 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm #110958
In February 2009, I was approached by NEOGOV to do some consulting work to help them with an RFP from Health and Human Services (HHS) to re-compete the enterprise license with Monster Government Solutions (MGS). I sold the original contract to HHS 5 years earlier. That contract was awarded via the GSA Schedule.
For the HHS opportunity, I helped develop the NEOGOV demo system and tried to convey key selling points around federal hiring to the presenter (not much has changed in the last 12 years except for the introduction of online applications - thank you Mr. Hochstein). While the demo wasn’t perfect, it did go well and the questions asked by HHS were easily answered. All in all, I'd say it was a good day for NEOGOV.
From what I remember there were 4 competitors being evaluated, and of course, USA Staffing was always available (more like lurking) via an Inter-agency agreement (Form 1616) and no competition.
A few weeks after we demoed, we were asked for some clarification on pricing. NEOGOV believed that this request was to get an apples to apples comparison on pricing with the other vendors. We later found out that it was really a “Best and Final Offer” (BAFO) although those words were not part of the clarification request or could be interpreted as such.
After round 1, NEOGOV came up number 2 in Tech and number 1 in Price. However, after the so-called "BAFO", NEOGOV was now number 2 in price and the contract was awarded to team Avue. They apparently had realized that the request for clarification was for a BAFO and took action accordingly.
Team Avue's price was roughly 60% of NEOGOV's over the life of the contract. A substantial savings and it certainly raised some eyebrows. During the debrief, we raised a few issues. Among them was one of price reasonableness. Given there is a lot of information published on the GSA Schedule, we surmised that team Avue cut its price by 80% (or more) to win the business. We figured it to be a red flag, but it wasn't enough to sway the Contracting Officer.
MGS protested the award and for NEOGOV this was good news. If MGS was successful; the belief was that HHS would re-compete the opportunity. There were a couple mistakes during the NEOGOV demo and an issue with USAJOBS integration. Any chance to get a mulligan with an opportunity the size of HHS should be seen as a great thing.
However, there was no mulligan. I'm not sure of the actual language on the decision of the protest, but it was something like: HHS promises to re-evaluate, if MGS agrees to drop the protest. It's a suckers bet akin to Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. MGS laced up the shoes to kick.
For whatever reason, HHS ended up extending the MGS contract for FY 2010. At the time of the extension they probably “intended” to re-compete the opportunity this year. Personally, I thought the re-compete should have happened by now since the new fiscal year is 2 weeks away. Maybe it did already as there are plenty of "innovative" ways to procure something these days; just look at OPM’s TMA contract or HUD’s recent procurement of software using the HUB Zone program (perhaps future topics as they’re both doozies).
Anywho, as of this writing, I'm not sure if it's official, but HHS appears to be giving up on procurement efforts for a commercial ATS and will simply sign a Form 1616 for USA Staffing (“We will assimilate you; resistance is futile”).
This is a mind boggling decision. USA Staffing doesn't even provide Applicant Integration via USAJOBS although they demand private vendors and their agency customers to. USA Staffing requires applicants to log in twice and maintain separate applicant accounts for USAJOBS and USA Staffing. No single sign on.
So in the end, it appears that HHS will go against its promise to re-compete the enterprise license (is there anybody home at MGS?), and just send its money over to Plain Old OPM (POO) and that stinks!!!
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