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VA to Reassess Contract, Proposals for Nationwide RTLS Deployments

In a decision regarding a protest filed by IBM, the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office requested that the Department of Veterans Affairs reconsider vendor proposals, based on specific changes to its assessment procedures.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 09, 2012The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is evaluating its next move this week, after the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office (GAO)—a congressional investigative and arbitration agency—sustained a protest from IBM regarding a multimillion contract for real-time location system (RTLS) technology at VA hospitals. In June 2012, the VA's Veterans Health Administration (VHA) division announced that it had awarded an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to Hewlett Packard's HP Enterprise Services division for an RTLS solution (see RFID News Roundup: Veterans Affairs Awards $543 Million RTLS Contract to HP to Cover All VA Hospitals, Clinics). The contract includes a five-year ordering period from the date of the award, with a maximum total value of $543 million. IBM had been one of five vendors that did not win the contract.

VA intends to employ RFID tags to track equipment and supplies at 21 of its Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISNs), which comprise a total of 152 medical centers and 1,400 ancillary facilities. Typically, a VISN consists of five to 11 medical centers, as well as dozens of clinics. The VA estimates that for each VISN, a typical installation would include approximately 27,000 active tags and 107,000 passive tags. By the end of five years, the agency expects to have the RTLS solution installed across all 21 VISNs, with more than 5 million assets tagged and being tracked.

With its decision to uphold IBM's protest, the GAO asked the VA to re-evaluate the proposals from vendors, including HP and IBM. In addition, it recommended that, "if necessary or advisable," the VA should reopen the competition to enable vendors to make any necessary changes to their proposals.

The VA will comply with the GAO's decision and recommendation, says Kimberly Brayley, the director of the agency's RTLS Project Management Office, who indicates that her department is still working out the exact details of that response.

In nearly all sustained protest cases, according to Ralph White, the GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, the parties agree to accept his organization's recommendation.

IBM filed a protest with the GAO on June 25, challenging the VA's choice to award the contract to Hewlett-Packard. The VA subsequently ordered all work stopped on the project until the GAO made its decision. On Oct. 3, the GAO issued that decision, stating that "the VA had made several prejudicial errors in its evaluation of the offerors' proposals. Those errors led to a source selection decision that GAO found was unreasonable since it relied on the erroneous evaluation conclusions to support the award decision."

USER COMMENTS

Chris Hook 2012-10-10 10:34:38 AM
The Process... Clearly we are seeking due process at work here, driving towards a sense of openness and responsibility for expenditure of [potentially significant] taxpayers dollars. At the end of the day, as one who has driven the development of our industry over 2+ decades, I passionately want to see this ambitious contract fulfilled and for the eventual awardee(s) to be spectacularly successful in deployment projects, for the benefit of our industry and AIDC technology adoption. There are many significant and noteworthy pointers in the VA's RTLS solicitation.

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