Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dealing with Questions at Pre-Bid Meetings

Public agencies frequently schedule pre-bid or pre-proposal meetings prior to the submission deadline to give prospective bidders or proposers the opportunity to find out more about the project, and thus respond more competitively.  

Check Your Solicitation Documents:  Invitations to Bid (ITB) and Requests for Proposals (RFP) generally have (or should have) language in them stating that no verbal communications will change the content of the solicitation.  Only the ITB or the RFP or an addendum issued to amend or supplement the solicitation document are actually binding.

Practical Tips:  So how should public agencies handle questions that are asked and answered at pre-bid or pre-proposal meetings?  Here are a couple of strategies and tips:
  • Verbal Reminder that Verbal Statements Don't Count:  Open the meeting by reminding the attendees that nothing said verbally at the meeting is binding.  Only the ITB or RFP is authoritative.
  • Written Reminder that Verbal Statements Don't Count:  Include a statement on the printed agenda for the meeting cautioning attendees that verbal information communicated at the meeting is not binding.  Here's some suggested language for the agenda of a meeting that also includes a site visit:
This pre-bid meeting and site visit are provided as a courtesy to potential contractors to assist them in becoming familiar with the project site conditions.  Attendees acknowledge and agree that only the Invitation to Bid and any addenda issued may be relied upon by bidders.  No information presented during this pre-bid meeting and site visit shall amend or replace the information in the official procurement documents issued by the public agency, unless explicitly stated in a subsequent written addendum.  Verbal statements made by representatives of the public agency or its representatives during this meeting and site visit, or at any  other time, are for informational purposes only, and are not to be relied upon unless subsequently confirmed in an official written addendum issued by the public agency.
  • Record Questions and Answers:  Assign someone with the responsibility to record all questions asked and the answers provided.  Collect these questions and answers and include them in an informational addendum.  To the extent any of the questions point out issues that need to be changed in the solicitation document, issue an addendum changing the language.
  • Say When You Don't Know the Answer:  If you don't know the answer to a question, don't try to make one up on the spot.  Instead, let the audience know that an answer will be provided in an addendum.
  • Learn From the Questions:  Listen carefully to the questions asked as they can point out potential weaknesses in your solicitation document.  Sometimes, the questions may come outside of the pre-bid or pre-proposal meeting in the form of an e-mail or other written inquiry.  You may want to modify or strengthen your solicitation document based on questions asked by issuing an addendum.
  • Contractors Want Anonymity:  Because contractors and consultants often don't want to verbally ask questions at pre-submittal meetings out of concern of giving away their approach to the project, distribute index cards to the attendees on which they can anonymously pose their questions.  Have appropriate staff at the meeting respond verbally to the questions, and follow-up with written answers in an addendum.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog (© 2010 by Michael E. Purdy)

1 comment:

Shelley Temkin said...

When Green Proposals is utilized to facilitate pre-bid meetings via webinar there are many benefits for both the Public Agency as well as the participating contractors. Besides the obvious of no travel and no time away from the office for contractors, one explicit benefit that’s specific to Public Agencies is how efficiently and effectively we handle questions during the meeting. The use of the chat feature generates a hard copy of all questions that are then easily pasted into an addendum document. There is no need for anyone to take notes and it's just one more aspect of our services that makes the pre-proposal meeting via webinar a solution that everyone can benefit from.