Monday, November 9, 2009

Protecting Drawings of Secure and Sensitive Facilities

As part of the normal public bidding process, public agencies regularly advertise and often place bidding documents (plans and specifications) online, either on their own websites or on the websites of companies focused on making bidding documents available to the contracting community electronically.

However, agencies should think through the advisability of making some bidding documents, especially plans, available online. It may not be appropriate to put drawings of some facilities online. For example, if the facility to be renovated or built is a secure or critical function facility, or if the disclosure of the detailed drawings could be used inappropriately by some parties to compromise the agency's operations or the public's health and safety, the agency may want to consider alternative methods of advertising and disclosure.

Strategic issues that should be addressed by the public agency include the following:
  • Public Disclosure: Are the documents exempt from public disclosure laws because of the sensitive nature of the material?

  • Distribution of Bidding Documents: How should the bidding documents be distributed to bidders? Should only hard copies be distributed? Should the bidders be required to sign a non-disclosure statement and be required to return the bidding documents after bidding? Should the statement prohibit the bidder from copying the documents and providing them to others?

  • Regulatory Requirements: Are there regulatory requirements that may prohibit the disclosure of certain sensitive information to the general public?
If you agency has facilities for which disclosure of detailed drawings and other information about facilities may compromise the agency's operations or the public's health and safety, it may be advisable to develop a policy and practices around how such documents will and will not be distributed to others outside of your agency.

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