Thursday, February 11, 2010

Should Proposers Be Encouraged to Take Exceptions to RFP?

RFP Language:  I recently came across the following language in a Request for Proposals (RFP) from a public agency:
"Any exception to an item in the solicitation must be clearly set out and fully explained in the proposal as to why the proposer is taking exception.  Be specific as to the reasons for the exception."
The Question:  Should proposers be encouraged to take exceptions to the provisions of an RFP in their proposals? 

Short Answer:  No.  It seems to me that to invite proposers to take exception to the terms of the RFP and the process is not a good contracting practice, and makes it very difficult to fairly compare and evaluate proposals.

Use Same Requirements for All:  Public agencies should be evaluating all firms on the same evaluation criteria and requirements, which are outlined in the RFP.  All firms should be competing on an equal footing, based on the same requirements.  

Handling Objections:  Proposers have the opportunity to raise concerns about the provisions of the RFP prior to the deadline for submission of proposals, and a public agency has the option of issuing an addendum if they agree with the concerns.  In addition, if any of the requirements of the RFP are unacceptable to a prospective proposer, they may choose not to submit a proposal.

Define Business Needs:  An RFP should define the business needs of the public agency, and not permit proposers to define the agency's business needs through exceptions.  If a proposer is unable to meet those business needs, their proposal should receive lower scores in the evaluation process.

Public vs. Private Sectors:  In a private sector RFP, inviting proposers to take exception to provisions may be an acceptable practice since the private sector is not under the same solicitation and selection constraints and procedures as a public agency.  In the public sector, all proposals should be evaluated against the same standards.

What Does Your Agency Do?  Vote in the poll on the right hand side of this blog.  Does your agency encourage proposers to take exceptions to the provisions of Requests for Proposals (RFPs)?


Colleen Janes said...

Mike, always like hearing what you have to say. Our agency encourages exceptions, because we want vendors to come up with the best solution to providing the goods and services. If they take exception, we don't have to accept it; but we want innovative solutions presented. We admit that we don't always know the best way to do something. For a variety of reason, we don't believe the question and answer period is a viable means of vendors proposing innovative solutions.

Mike Purdy said...

Thanks, Colleen, for your comment. Does your "exceptions" language restrict it to innovative solutions related to the scope of work, or is it broad relating the the entire RFP and the selection process? Do you include language that you will evaluate proposals based on the best overall solution? I'd love to see the language that you actually use in your RFPs. Thanks. ==Mike

Colleen Janes said...

It is broad language, and we tell evaluators not to mark down proposals based simply on the fact that exceptions have been listed. Here is the language:

"A Request for Proposal process is different from an Invitation to Bid. The State expects vendors to propose creative, competitive solutions to the agency's stated problem or need, as specified below. Vendors may take exception to any section of the RFP. Exceptions should be clearly stated in Attachment B (Certification of Indemnification and Compliance with Terms and Conditions of RFP) and will be considered during the evaluation process."

Mike Purdy said...

Thanks, Colleen! Have you ever had any protests based on this language? ==Mike

Colleen Janes said...

Not that I'm aware of. I appreciate the language you provided and plan on proposing that our agency work some version of it into our RFP template. This topic has been helpful. Thank you!