Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Are Bidders "Responsive" or "Responsible"?

I received the following comment last week from a reader in response to my blog entry on "What's a "Responsible Bidder"?  
"Isn't the term 'responsive bidder'?  I've never heard the term 'responsible bidder.'"
Responsive and Responsible - they sound so similar, and it's easy to get them confused.  The concepts, however, are very different.  

Responsive vs. Responsible:  To keep these terms straight, remember that "responsive" always refers to "bids" while "responsible" always refers to "bidders."  

When is a Bid Responsive?  A bid is responsive if the bid meets all of the requirements of the bidding documents or solicitation.  Common issues related to responsiveness include:
  • Was the bid submitted prior to the bid submittal deadline?
  • Was the bid submitted to the correct location?
  • Did the bid include a bid guaranty, such as a bid bond?
  • Was the bid signed by an authorized representative of the bidder?
  • Did the bid include prices on all required items?
  • Was the bid conditioned in any way such that the bid was not for what was requested?
A responsive bid meets all of the requirements of the bidding documents, while a non-responsive bid doesn't.  Making a decision on whether a bid is responsive or non-responsive relates to whether any type of irregularity in the bid gives the bidder a substantial advantage or benefit not enjoyed by other bidders.  Responsiveness determinations are made on a case-by-case basis with significant input from attorneys.

When is Bidder Responsible?  A bidder is responsible if they are capable or qualified to perform the work.  Most public agencies are required to award to the low bidder.  Some agencies have authority to establish criteria that permit an evaluation of the low bidder to determine if they are responsible, qualified, and capable of performing the project.

Bidder Responsibility in Washington State:  In Washington State, public agencies must validate that the low bidder with a responsive bid on a public works project meets certain mandatory bidder responsibility criteria before awarding a public works project.  These criteria are described in RCW 39.04.350.  The state law also permits public agencies to establish relevant supplemental bidder responsibility criteria for public works projects.  These criteria are evaluated prior to award to ensure that the contractor with the low responsive bid is also a responsible bidder.

Keeping the Terms Straight:  Remember that "responsive" always refers to "bids" while "responsible" always refers to "bidders."  

Practical Tip:  Take a look at your bidding documents and make sure that you are using the term "responsive" to apply to bids and "responsible" to apply to bidders.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2011 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC 


RLWard said...

If a RFP has a DBE goal and the goal is not met by the lowest responsible and responsive bidder, on what basis can the bid be rejected? Responsiveness or Responsibility?

Mike Purdy said...

If the solicitation is a bid (not an RFP), and there is a DBE goal (requirement), then failure of the low bidder to meet it would generally be an issue of responsiveness. If, on the other hand, it was only a DBE goal (not a requirement), then failure to meet it could be deemed an issue of responsibility. It really all depends how the Invitation to Bid is set up. You wouldn't typically have an RFP if you were bidding something (that would be reserved for somewhere where price was one of the evaluation criteria, in addition to qualifications). I hope this is helpful.