Before proposals are submitted to the committee for evaluation, it is normal practice for a representative of the purchasing department to confirm that all required material in relation to each proposal has been received.
For instance, each proposal should be examined to determine if it is properly signed and accompanied by any required proposal security, whether it is apparently complete and generally in order, if not, any omissions must be noted; whether it appears substantially responsive to the RFP documents. If not, any deviations, omissions or variations must be noted; and to the extent that this can be ascertained without specialized expertise, whether it is free of computational errors (any such errors must be noted).
Where this sort of an examination is carried out, it is possible to seek any necessary clarification from each proponent. Since proposals can be lengthy, it is also advantageous to divide up each proposal into the different parts that relate to each area of evaluation.
While clarification of a bid in a tender is rarely desirable, the added complexity of an RFP means that it is far more frequently necessary. RFP proposals tend to be fairly long, particularly where the item being procured involves design and technical submissions.
Very often critical information is scattered, with the result that it can be difficult for the evaluation team to pull the necessary details together.
All communications between a proponent and the municipality (related to the proposal) should be in writing, with a formal record being maintained of everything sent to and received from the proponent concerned.
Ideally, a municipality’s officials would have no informal communications, meetings or other contact of any kind with any proponent or its agents while the evaluation is going on.
However, such a complete ban is often not practical. The same proponent may be bidding for other work and may already be working on some existing contract.
What is most important is that reasonable measures are put in place to thwart any effort by a procurement agent to influence the municipality’s evaluation of proposals or award decisions.
Many municipalities include in their bylaw a strict prohibition against approaches to any councillor or other elected official while proposals are being evaluated, with any such apparent tampering given rise to the possible invalidation of the proposal of the proponent concerned, and the forfeiture of its proposal security.
It is self-evident that from the time of the close of the RFP and until the completion of the contract award process, all proposals, other than those that are for some reason returned to the proponent who submitted them, must be stored safely and securely,
It is wise for the submitted material to be kept under lock and key to prevent material from going missing and to prevent anyone from adding to or subtracting from the material that was submitted by each proponent.
While these requirements are not strictly necessary from a legal perspective, the more care taken by those having custody of the documents, the less there is an opportunity for any unsuccessful proponent to complain later that it has been unfairly treated in some way.
With respect to the guiding principles, the general law for most levels of government in Canada (the federal government departs form this general rule due to rulings by the CITT) is while the identified evaluation criteria in relation to an RFP must be reasonably indicative of the criteria of assessment, they need not be exhaustive.
It is not to delve into the sub-criteria so long as they are reasonably related to those criteria that were expressly identified. The valuation process requires professional judgment, drawing upon the training of the evaluators.
A proper method of scoring must take into account the requirements and expectations of the ordering department within the municipality.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.