Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ensuring No Conflict of Interest for Consultant Evaluation Committee Members

One of the issues that can cause challenges, protests, and a lack of public confidence in the evaluation of proposals and qualifications on RFPs and RFQs occurs when a member of the evaluation committee has a conflict of interest with one or more of the proposers.

Subjective nature of evaluation process:  The evaluation process for selecting consultants and service providers based on RFPs or RFQs is, by its nature, more subjective than making selection decisions on bids where an award is based on price only.

Types of conflicts of interest:  Conflicts of interest can occur in the following situations:
  • An evaluator has a financial or personal relationship with one of the proposers.  
  • A member of the evaluator's immediate family has a financial or personal relationship with one of the proposers.
  • There is an appearance or perception of a conflict of interest for an evaluator or member of the evaluator's immediate family, which, even if not real, may be just as damaging or problematic to the process, the project, and the reputation of the evaluator.
Require evaluators to sign statement:  My practice has been to require members of the evaluation committee to sign a Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Statement before they are given the proposals to review. 

Here's language on the conflict of interest that I've included in the statement:
I understand and agree that I do not have a conflict of interest of a financial, relational, or other nature with any of the firms or key personnel of any of the firms I will be evaluating, and that there is no perception or appearance of such a conflict of interest that could arise.  I further agree that no member of my immediate family has any such conflict of interest.  "Immediate family" means a spouse or domestic partner, child, child of a spouse or domestic partner, sibling, sibling of a domestic partner, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, a person for whom I am a legal guardian, or a person claimed as a dependent on my most recently filed federal income tax return.  The firms who have submitted proposals for this project are: [list firms here]
Practical steps:
  • Code of Ethics:  Review your agency's code of ethics governing behavior of employees involved in procurement and contracting.  If you don't have such a code, develop one.
  • Conflict of Interest Statement:  Ensure that evaluators of proposals and qualifications sign a Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Statement before they are provided with proposals and qualifications to review and score.  If there is a conflict of interest, or an apparent conflict of interest, they should be replaced on the evaluation committee with another member who does not have a conflict of interest.
  • Training:  Provide regular training for your agency's personnel on the importance of ethics in public procurement and contracting.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2012 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

1 comment:

Shelley Temkin said...

Thanks Mike for your sound advice. One solution to overcoming “perceived impropriety” is conducting the pre-bid conference via webinar using Green Proposals’ free services. That “Rush” to say hello or say whatever, either before or after an in- person meeting. can be understood by others as an inappropriate “meeting”. I have been involved in RFPs where this alone brought about a protest and caused the RFP to be re-issued. It’s a good idea to eliminate as many as possible, often unavoidable, pitfalls and utilize pre-bid conference specific webinars for a more efficient and effective overall experience.