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CVC Watch

The Architect of the Capitol’s office has run into a snag in its attempt to award the first major contract for operational-related issues at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Following last month’s selection of the New York-based Restaurant Associates to manage food service operations for the CVC’s 550-seat cafeteria, the Philadelphia-based company ARAMARK filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office challenging various aspects of the AOC’s selection.

Reached on Monday, an official for ARAMARK declined to comment about the specific issues the company had with how the AOC handled the contract award, but according to GAO documents the protest was over “matters related to evaluation of the offerors’ proposed commission rates.”

As the GAO began looking into ARAMARK’s protest, the AOC sent a letter on Feb. 15 to the GAO noting that after an internal review of the process, questions have been raised “regarding the adequacy of AOC’s evaluation of the offerors’ proposals regarding commission dollars.”

The AOC also declined to give any more detail about what specific issues had been raised by its initial review of the award process. A spokeswoman said Monday that “this is an ongoing procurement and our policy is that we do not comment on procurement-sensitive matters.”

But since then, the AOC has advised the three companies that had made competitive offers for the food service contract that further evaluation would be needed before any contract would be awarded (the third company is Guest Services Inc., which has provided dining services in the House since 1997).

The request for proposals for this contract originally hit the street in September 2005, and at the time the AOC was looking for a company to not only run food service operations in the CVC but also to possibly take over dining services on both the House and Senate sides of the Capitol. Currently, food service on the Senate side is run through the AOC’s office, while the House side began using a private hospitality management company to run its dining facilities in the 1980s.

The AOC noted in its letter to the GAO this month that it is reviewing the contract “to ensure fair and impartial competition, and not because AOC has concluded that ARAMARK’s protest would be sustained.”

In light of the effort on the AOC’s part to correct the problem, the AOC asked the GAO to dismiss the protest, which the GAO did last week.

“Where, as here, an agency undertakes corrective actions that may alter the agency’s initial decision that was challenged by a protest, we view the agency’s corrective actions as, in effect, superseding the initial decision,” the GAO noted in its dismissal decision.

The GAO dismissal added that counsel for both ARAMARK and Restaurant Associates have since responded to the AOC’s notice of corrective action but that the GAO would wait until the AOC finished its review before looking into any additional complaints by the involved companies.

At the first CVC progress hearing of the 110th Congress earlier this month, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, noted her concerns about the problems facing the food service contract and promised that her subcommittee would be looking into the matter.

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