Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Are Public Works Bids Submitted at the Last Minute?

Why do contractors generally submit their bids to public agencies at the last minute?

Preventing Bid Shopping:  Contractors are receiving bids from subcontractors up until just minutes before the bid submittal deadline.  Subcontractors frequently will not provide their bid amounts to contractors until just before the deadline.  They do this in order to prevent what is known in the industry as "bid shopping" or "bid peddling."  

What is Bid Shopping?  Bid shopping is the practice where a contractor goes to a subcontractor and attempts to get them to beat other subcontractor bid prices they have already received.  Subcontractors do not want their bid shopped or undercut by other bids, and thus they wait until just before the deadline before providing their bid to contractors, making it harder to contractors to shop bids.

Last Minute Bid Preparation:  The practice of bid shopping and late submittal of subcontractor bids doesn't encourage careful development of bid prices by contractors, since they are left with precious few minutes to determine the low subcontractor bids, and whether there are any gaps in the scopes of work that have been bid.  

Bidding Errors:  It is during this last minute frenzied exercise of determining the final bid price that errors can occur.  A contractor who is the low bidder who has an error in their bid may choose to accept the contract award even with the error, or they may ask the public agency to relieve them of liability for their bid by filing a claim of error.

Subcontractors List:  The State of Washington has gone on record to state that bid shopping is against public policy and has adopted RCW 39.30.060 that requires bidders to list with their bid (or within one hour of the bid submittal deadline) the names of subcontractors (or to name themselves) who will perform the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work.  This law applies for public works projects estimated to cost more than $1 million.

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