Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do You Know Where Your Bids Are?

Does your public agency have a standard practice of what happens to bids once they've been received, but before they are opened?  

Secure - But Not Too Secure:  Received bids should be stored in a secure location, not accessible to the public.  However, they should not be so secure that your staff forgets about them.  Frequently, I hear of agencies who have opened bids, only to discover later that there were other bids received on time that didn't make it to the bid opening.  

Vacation:  In one case, the contracting manager had secured a bid submitted early in his desk drawer, and went on vacation without telling anyone of the bid.  Only when he returned did the missing bid become an issue.

2 Bids Missing:  In another case recently at the City of Roseville, California, six bids were opened and read.  Within an hour, staff noticed two additional bids that had not been opened.  These were opened, and one of them was the low bidder.  The firm who was announced as the low bidder after the six bids were received filed a  protest arguing they should be awarded the project, or that all bids should be rejected and the project readvertised.  The City of Roseville staff determined that the late reading of the two bids was an immaterial irregularity, and those two bids should be considered.

Do You Know Where Your Bids Are?  Have a standard practice of collecting bids so that this type of situation doesn't arise.  Some agencies are governed by laws that require a public opening and reading of bids, often on the same day as the bid submittal, so if misplaced bids are discovered late, this can cause a problem.  From the perspective of contractors, not reading bids at the time and place announced does not help promote transparency and trust in the bidding process, and can, as in the City of Roseville's case, lead to bid protests.

The Bottom Line:  Have a clear process, with trained staff, of how you receive, store, and open bids.  Please contact me if you would like an assessment of your bid receipt and opening practices, or if you would like a three hour training session on the subject.

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