Monday, May 20, 2013

The Envelope Please: Opening the Right Bid

All bids have been received.  The clock shows that it is past the bid submission deadline.  You gather up the bids and take them to the room where you will open them.  One by one, you open the envelopes, pull out the bids, and read them.

The wrong envelope:  But suddenly you realize that the bid you have just pulled out of an envelope isn't for the project you're opening bids for.  In fact, it isn't even for any of the projects you're opening bids for now, but for a project with a bid submission deadline next week.

Assumptions:  Let's assume the follow circumstances:
  • You stop short of reading the wrong bid
  • You don't notice or look at the bid price
  • You don't reveal the name of the bidder
  • The room is full of contractors and agency employees
What should you do?   Under the circumstances, it is best to be as honest and transparent as possible.
  • Tell the story:  Describe factually to the assembled audience what has just occurred, including the fact that you did not see the bid price. 
  • State your intent:  Tell the audience that the bid will be opened and read after the actual bid submission deadline.
  • Re-seal envelope:  With the audience as witnesses, put the bid back into the envelope and re-seal it immediately with tape.
  • Write it down:  Document in writing what has just occurred, with the document signed by at least agency employees who were present.  If you're able to get one or two contractors to sign it as well, that would be helpful.  In the event of a challenge or protest, this documentation will be helpful in defending your agency's action to consider the bid that was opened early.
Lessons learned:  Here are a couple of lessons learned from this scenario:
  • Require project name on bid envelope:  Have language in your Instructions to Bidders requiring that the bidder write the project and bidder name on the bid envelope.
  • Check that project name is on bid envelope:  Staff receiving the bids should ensure the project and bidder name are on each envelope as they are submitted.
  • Separate bids received by project:  Train staff who receive bids to keep the bids separate by project.
  • Check that bids are for the correct project:  Before bids are released to be read, the person who received them should go through the envelopes one by one to make sure they are for the correct project.
  • Double-check bid envelopes before reading:  Before beginning to open bids, the bid reader should double check the bid envelopes to ensure they are for the correct project.
Truth is stranger than fiction:  These type of situations actually occur, and point out the importance of carefully managing the bid receipt and opening process.  Obviously, the facts of your situation may be different and may call for you to change how you respond.

Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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