Monday, January 17, 2011

Selecting Consultants from a Roster

Many public agencies maintain rosters from which to select consultants, especially architects and engineers.  The purpose of the rosters is to streamline the selection process for agencies, while still ensuring a process that is fair and transparent to the consultant community.

Individual or Shared Rosters:  There are two basic ways in which rosters are maintained.  Many public agencies manage their own roster and advertise for statements of qualifications to be submitted on a regular basis.  Other public agencies collaborate and belong to rosters shared with other agencies, reducing the expenses involved in maintaining individual rosters, and making it easier for consultants to submit their qualifications.

Shared Rosters:  In the State of Washington, there are two well known joint roster programs.  One is sponsored by the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) and the other by which maintains a Shared Procurement Portal.  The rosters have slightly different operating philosophies, technologies, and expenses.  Check out their websites if you want to learn more about them.

Use of Rosters:  In making selections from a roster, it is important for public agencies to have established policies on how and when the roster will be used.  The following are a couple of issues to consider:
  • Dollar Threshold:  Agencies should decide by policy at what dollar amount it is acceptable to select a consultant from the roster, and when a separate advertisement must occur to solicit qualifications and/or proposals from consultants.
  • Notification to Firms on Roster:  Another important policy decision for public agencies to make in the management of rosters is how many firms should be notified of the consultant opportunity.  Agencies who notify all of the firms on the roster (or the applicable roster category) incur two risks.  First, especially in this market, they may find themselves inundated with submittals from consultants, all of which must then be evaluated.  Second, some very qualified firms may choose not to submit if they know that the notice has been sent to all of the firms on the roster.  Agencies should consider establishing a policy that enables staff to develop a short-list of qualified firms from the roster to solicit for any given need.
Selection of Architects and Engineers:  In the State of Washington, the selection of architects, engineers, landscape architects, and land surveyors is governed by RCW 39.80, which is a qualifications based selection process.  In other words, these professional services must be selected based on which firm is the most qualified, without using price as a selection criterion.  The contract amount is then negotiated with the most qualified firm.  RCW 39.80 requires public agencies to advertise their need for architectural and engineering services, either through an individual advertisement for a project, or through annual advertisement for soliciting qualifications for inclusion on a roster.

Practical Tip:  In developing a consultant roster program, check the state laws that relate to your specific type of agency (city, county, school district, port district, housing authority, etc.), any federal regulations that may apply to grants you receive, and your agency's own internal policies to determine how a roster program might work for your agency.

Training:  I have developed an all day training class on "Developing and Managing RFPs and RFQs" that I've taught a number of times now.  I will be teaching the class Arlington, Washington on February 2, 2011, and again on April 6, 2011 in Lacey, Washington.  For more information and to register, visit the website of Enduris, a public risk management pool, that is sponsoring the training.  The following is a high level outline of the content of the class:
  • Building the Public's Trust
  • Planning the Procurement
  • Standard Provisions and Concepts
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Cost and Price Analysis
  • Advertising Issues
  • Pre-Submission Meeting
  • Receiving and Opening Proposals
  • Evaluation Committee
  • Evaluating Proposals and Qualifications
  • Managing Interviews
  • Recommending Award
  • Contract Negotiations
  • Developing Scopes of Work
Please contact me if you have any questions about the training.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2011 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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