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RFP Discussions/Clarifications

Frequently Asked Questions

A question was asked in a preproposal meeting regarding how we wanted a quote submitted. This was included in the notes in addendum form. One vendor complied with the response and four others did not. Three acknowledged the addendum and two did not. Are the vendors who did not respond to this minor question non-responsive? Are the vendors who did not acknowledge the addendum nonresponsive? This was a RFP for Temporary Services.

The proposal problems you describe would seem to be ones that are more of form rather than of substance (in the nature of minor irregularities). You are permitted to seek clarifications from offerors who submit proposals, and it would be in the interest of maintaining competition, but if the nature of the communications goes beyond mere clarification and into substantive matters, like addressing technical deficiencies in the product or service being offered, or the price itself, then you are into negotiations. If this is the case, you will need to establish a competitive range before entering negotiations and conduct discussions with all offerors in the competitive range. The competitive range should consist of all offerors who have a reasonable chance of being selected for award. The process is discussed more fully in the Best Practices Procurement Manual (BPPM), Section 4.5.3 - Competitive Range and Section 4.5.4 - Discussions and Clarifications (Requests for Proposals). (Revised: October, 2010)

Do you have any information or samples on RFPs for banking services? The company I work for is looking for information about acquiring banking services, such as depository, disbursement, and other treasury management products.

We do not have any sample RFPs for banking services. However, if you Google: "RFP + Banking" it will give you some links to agencies that have RFPs on the street for banking services. (Revised: October, 2010)

I am helping with the procurement of a software solution. There are only three vendors in the space, each licenses a base product and prebuilt customized tools. One vendor does not provide tools that we identified in our needs assessment. Are we 'okay' selecting the vendor with the lowest price from the remaining two?

You need to issue a competitive Request For Proposals, with your needs identified, and disclosing your proposal evaluation/selection criteria in the RFP. The RFP must tell offerors that you intend to select the lowest price, technically acceptable proposal if that in fact is your intent. The RFP must clearly identify the minimum technical performance requirements for the software and other deliverable items. (Posted: December, 2011)

When specific specifications are listed for capital equipment, should the recipient of an FTA grant use the format of an IFB rather than a RFP?

As a general rule we would say yes, an IFB should be used. There are situations, however, where a two - step process might be best. The first step would have manufacturers submit their equipment/system performance data for review against the agency's performance requirements in the solicitation, with discussions as necessary. Those vendors whose systems meet agency performance requirements as specified in the solicitation (a "go" /"no - go" decision) would then be allowed to submit sealed bids in step two, with award being to the low responsible bidder. (Posted: December, 2011)

Does a recipient of a large grant from the FTA have a responsibility to understand and research the scope of work which they are requesting, prior to advertising a bid? The bid was advertised with multiple mistakes regarding the scope, and the scope is simply unclear; existing equipment which was requested for demolition, did not exist; utilizing existing equipment that did not exist; none of the basic boiler plate FTA regulations were in the original bid; etc.

FTA grantees are expected to accurately describe their requirements in terms of the scope of work, as well as any equipment they will furnish to the contractor for performance of the contract. If there are ambiguities in the scope of work, the grantee must clarify these and furnish an amended scope of work to all bidders, as well as all contract terms and conditions so that the bidders understand what their potential liabilities are under the contract terms and conditions. For example, Buy America requirements are critical and failure to include these in the solicitation and contract would affect the integrity of the bids and make the procurement ineligible for FTA funding. (Posted: December, 2011)

Is a recipient of an FTA grant required to supply a bidder ample time to ask questions regarding an RFP?

Yes. Typically bidders would be given ten days to two weeks to review the IFB/RFP and submit questions by a common cut-off date. The questions would be addressed at the pre bid conference (if one is held) with copies of all questions and answers then mailed to all prospective bidders after the pre bid conference. (Posted: December, 2011)

Is a recipient of an FTA grant required to extend the bid date and extend the time for questions from a bidder if apparent confusion on the scope of the project exists and the scope is still unclear?

The grantee is required to clarify the scope of work so that no ambiguity remains. If this requires several extensions of the due date for bids then the grantee is required to extend the date until all issues are addressed. The grantee cannot arbitrarily stop communications when bidders are expressing confusion. If the grantee does not have the information to clarify the scope of work so as to eliminate the confusion, the procurement should be cancelled and reissued when the required information has been obtained. (Posted: December, 2011)

Is a recipient of an FTA grant required to supply a bidder ample time to prepare documentation for bid?

Yes. Grantees must always allow a reasonable amount of time for bids. What is reasonable would depend on the complexity of the project and the amount of information required by the grantee in the bids or proposals. For a large equipment purchase such as a bus wash facility one would expect at least two weeks following the pre bid conference and the bidders' receipt of all questions regarding the scope of work.

The problems that you have encountered with this procurement should be reported to the grantee's management and to the FTA regional office for their review. The failure to include the proper Buy America requirements in the solicitation is a serious deficiency, which could have affected the outcome of the award, and is one that FTA regional personnel need to review. (Posted: December, 2011)

Is there an industry standard as to the tine allowed for responses to RFPs and also for the time allowed for firms to prepare for interviews?

We would say that the typical industry response time allowed by transit agencies for submission of proposals in response to RFPs is 30 days. A shorter period (e.g., 15 days) would be typical for A&E procurements where the agency is simply requesting qualification statements and not detailed technical proposals.

Concerning interviews, agencies typically allow at least one week for firms to prepare for interviews, and agencies would advise the firms in advance of the specific questions and issues that will be addressed in the interview. (Posted: January, 2015)