A Virginia technology firm that won a multiyear contract worth more than $20 million to provide thousands of computers to county schools has filed an appeal with the Board of Education asking it not to rebid the contract.
In a June 8 ruling, the board ordered school officials to repeat the bidding process after an appeal of the award by the low bidder. The Elkridge firm ISmart contended it should have gotten the job because it submitted the lowest bid. GTSI, the school system's first choice, maintains that ISmart's argument is baseless because school officials evaluated bidders in several areas, and cost wasn't the most important factor.
ISmart's bid was $23.8 million, and GTSI's was $25 million.
"The very basic issue here is how do you buy information technology services," said Stephen M. Ryan, an attorney representing GTSI, based in Chantilly, Va.
"Nobody, not the school board or the governor, would want to stand up in public and say, `We're going to take the low-ball, low-price bidder,'" he said."You may buy toilet paper that way ... but you don't buy services and technology that way."
In addition, Ryan said that before the board's ruling, school officials had signed a contract with GTSI for the first delivery of 4,000 computers this summer and other related services.
If the board elects to go ahead with a second bidding process, GTSI is prepared to appeal to the state Board of Education.
School officials had planned to have the first computers in classrooms this summer, but said that rebidding the project would delay the equipment's arrival until October or November at the earliest.
The contract at issue is for an initiative called Technology Refresh. Under the bid guidelines, 12,000 new computers would be leased to county schools over a three-year period and replaced every three years.
In its filing with the board Thursday, GTSI rejects ISmart's argument that the low bidder must get the contract under state law. In rating the bidders, the company states that technical expertise counted for 60 percent of total points, while price accounted for 40 percent of the score.
Though ISmart had the lowest bid, the committee ranked it last on technical services and next to last in the overall ranking among the four final bidders.