Sunday, June 30, 2013

IRS Credit Card Abuses

The U.S. Treasury Department has released a report showing improper purchases by IRS employees using  federal credit cards. 

Improper purchases:  Included in the list of abuses were purchases for the following:
  • Wine for an expensive luncheon
  • Romance novels, diet pills, steaks, and baby related items ($2,655 by one employee)
  • Renting a popcorn machine ($3,152)
  • Kazoos and bathtub toys for managers meetings ($418)
  • Nerf footballs never used ($119)
The statistics:  
  •  In 2010 and 2011, the IRS spent nearly $108 million on more than 273,000 purchases with credit cards.  
  • There were 327 cases where employees divided purchases to avoid the $3,000 per transaction limit.
  • A total of just 94 employees were responsible for the abuses and none of the employees were disciplined.
More information:  Click here to read more information about the Inspector General's report.

Internal controls:  Agencies with government issued credit cards should have clear internal controls and monitoring to prevent abuses.  Click here to read some of the other blogs I've written on the subject.

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Job Opening: Contract Administrator - Construction

Port of Seattle
  • Position:  Contract Administrator - Construction
  • Location:  Seattle, Washington
  • Closing Date:  Monday, July 8, 2013 at midnight, Pacific Time
  • Salary:  Minimum $62,420 to Midpoint $78,020
  • Job Summary:  Manage the procurement contract process for routine construction contracts at the Port of Seattle Central Procurement Office.  Lead procurement planning, establishing and managing milestones and related procurement schedule.  Advise on procurement objectives and assist in preparation of the technical specifications, division 0 and 1.  Develop procurement objectives in terms of completion, price and construct contract vehicles including pricing arrangements, special conditions, and appropriate evaluation of responsibility criteria.  Prepare solicitation documents, perform detailed analyses of all elements of cost in the bids/proposals, make competitive range determinations, evaluate bid irregularities, and make selection decision.  Conduct pre-proposal and pre-bid conferences with prospective contractors to arrive at clear understanding of what is required.  Award contracts.  Plan and conduct post-award debriefings.   
  • For More Information and to Apply:  Click here.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Keys to Developing Successful Proposals by Businesses

I've seen a lot of proposals submitted by businesses during my career as a contracting manager and now as a consultant.  Some were very effective and communicated a clear message that directly responded to the Request for Proposals (RFP).  They were easy to read and inspired confidence.  Other proposals wandered across the landscape – a hapless collection of paper that read more like a corporate policy manual divorced from the project at hand. 

Suggestions for businesses:  I'd like to offer some suggestions for businesses responding to RFPs on how to craft an effective proposal that gets attention. 

Develop the strategy:  When an RFP is issued, some businesses are tempted to jump right into the process of producing the proposal.  The deadline is looming, so they start writing the proposal immediately without really knowing what they want to say.  Or perhaps more commonly, they don’t do much writing at all.  Instead, they merely collect and collate pages from previous proposals, policy and procedure manuals, mission statements, forms, and websites – and top it off with a nice cover page and a binder – ready (or not ready!) to submit to the public agency.  This approach results in a hodgepodge proposal without a strategic focus.

Good proposal development is not a random, trial-and-error process of slapping words onto paper.  It should be strategic, deliberate, and laser-focused.

Before the first words of a new proposal are written, it is critical for a company to pause, take a deep breath, and step back the immediacy of the proposal deadline.  Here are three strategic actions business should take once an RFP has been advertised.

  1. Read the RFP:  It seems like an obvious first step, but from some of the proposals I’ve read, I’m not sure those companies have looked at the RFP – or if they did, that they actually paid attention to what was asked for.  RFPs reflect the values and objectives of public agencies, so reading the RFP carefully provides insights into what the agency cares about and their expectations.  Pay close attention to the specific words used in the RFP – especially for the scope of work and evaluation criteria.  These sections will give you a good sense of how closely your company’s experiences match with what services the agency is seeking and how it will evaluate proposals.

  1. Assess your chance of success:  Responding to an RFP will cost your company time, money, and focus.  Be deliberate in assessing whether you actually have some chance of being awarded the contract.  Gather your key management and project team to think strategically about the RFP before you decide whether to respond to it.  Here are some questions that should be part of your decision making process:

    1. Project Fit: 

    • Does your company have experience performing this scope of work?
    • Is the scope of work a good fit for your company?
    • Is the work part of your core business?
    • Have you performed projects of this size and complexity before?

    1. Agency Fit:  

    • Have you worked for this agency or type of agency before?
    • If you haven’t worked for the agency, do their decision makers know your company  through contacts you’ve made with them or by reputation?
    • Are you prepared to deal with the administrative requirements of the agency?

    1. Staffing:

    • What personnel would you assign to the project?
    • Does your staff have the right experience for this kind of work?
    • Are they available to work on the project within the project’s schedule?

    1. Competition:

    • Who are your likely competitors?
    • What are your company’s strengths and weaknesses compared to your competitors?
    • What strategies can you use to compensate for your weaknesses?
    • Do any of your competitors have contracts or established relationships with the agency?

    1. Preparation Time:

    • How much time and effort will be involved in developing the proposal?
    • Do you have appropriate staff available to develop the proposal?

  1. Develop your message:  After you’ve decided to propose, but before you begin writing, think conceptually about the big picture.  What unique message do you want to convey throughout your proposal about why your company is the right company for the project?  This is an opportunity for you to not just mechanically respond to evaluation criteria in the RFP, but to proactively influence the evaluators.
Prepare Your Proposal:  Even if you’ve developed an effective strategy, a poorly executed proposal will reduce your chances of success. There are four areas where proposals often fall short: content, structure, writing, and layout. Let’s look at some of the common mistakes in these areas and how you can make your proposal more effective.

1. Tailored Content:  One of the most common weaknesses of proposals I review is they are generic, and very boring to read.  They have the same content the company used in the last proposal – and will use in the next proposal.  Agencies who read such proposals are not convinced that the proposer understands the scope of work, or has even read the RFP.  Though it takes additional effort, companies that research a project and tailor the proposed solutions to the agency’s specific needs generally score higher. 

The same customized approach applies to the cover letter.  A generic cover letter fails demonstrate that you know anything about or care about the agency’s needs.  Even if the agency’s evaluators read nothing but your cover letter, they should still come away with a clear understanding of your strengths, your core message, and why you should be selected.  That core message that you developed in your strategy sessions should then be embedded throughout your proposal.

Though you may be confident that you can perform the work of the project, you must actually demonstrate the relevance of your experience in your proposal.  This requires you to take your experiences and translate them into language that makes sense for the scope of work required.

2. Methodical Structure:  When agency evaluators review proposals, they usually have both the RFP evaluation criteria and your proposal opened up on their desk. You can make this review easier by responding in the same order as the evaluation criteria, repeating the evaluation criteria in your proposal, and making sure you address all of the specifics outlined in each criterion.  This methodical approach will help evaluators see that you are addressing what was requested – and will make sure you don’t forget anything.  If evaluators have to hunt through your proposal to find where you’ve addressed a topic, you may loose points.

RFPs often have many administrative requirements related to proposals.  Pay attention to these details – things like not exceeding a certain number of pages in your proposal and making sure all forms have been completed and submitted.

3. Clear Writing:  A poorly written proposal is ponderous to read, while a well-written proposal is a joy to peruse.  Language should be crisp, clear, and concise – not corporate and unwieldy.  Avoid long and complex sentences that are hard to keep track of, as well as wordy and dense paragraphs that are hard for the eye to follow.  Use an active voice – it’s more direct and easier to read.  In other words, to say it in the non-preferred passive voice: “Active voice should be used, and passive voice should be avoided.”  Don’t repeat your content in multiple places or say the same thing over and over in your proposals – or for that matter, don’t be redundant!  Check your spelling and grammar, and if you don’t have a good technical writer on staff, hire one as an employee or on a contract basis.

4.  Pleasing Layout:  You should make it easy for the agency's evaluators to read your proposal and quickly understand your message. Photos, charts, and graphs can be used effectively to break up text and communicate information.  Well described paragraph headings help readers follow the flow of your proposal.  Use a well-organized table of contents and tabs (with the name of the section on the tab) to help readers maneuver the proposal.  Color, shading, boxes, and other graphic design tools can further enhance the readability of your proposal.  If you don’t have a graphic designer on staff, consider hiring one as an employee or on a contract basis.

Summary:  What makes some proposals stand out while others fall to the bottom of the pile?  Development of your overall strategy and message is just as important as careful production of the content, structure, writing, and layout of a proposal.  Though there are no guarantees, these keys can make your proposals more competitive and increase your company’s chances of being awarded a contract.

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is it Bid Shopping if a Contractor Substitutes for a Higher Priced Subcontractor?

Bid shopping occurs when a contractor bidding a construction project takes a subcontract bid price, and attempts to get another subcontractor to lower their bid price below the original price received by the contractor.

Anti-bid shopping law:  The purpose of Washington state law (RCW 39.30.60) is to discourage bid shopping by requiring the listing with the bid of subcontractors for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work on projects estimated to cost $1 million or more. 

When is substitution not bid shopping?  There was recently an interesting court case in which a subcontractor (ETCO Services, LLC) named with the bid was later substituted by the contractor (Killian Construction Company).  ETCO as the substituted subcontractor filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages against the Killian as the contractor.  But because ETCO had made an error in their bid by not bidding all the work, Killian eventually used a higher priced subcontractor whose price included all the work.  The court ruled that using a higher price for a new subcontractor did not constitute bid shopping.

Paul Cressman, Jr.
More details:  Seattle construction attorney Paul Cressman, Jr., from the law firm of Ahlers Cressman PLLC, recently wrote an excellent summary of this court case on the firm's blog.   
  • Click here to read Mr. Cressman's comments with additional details about this case.   
  • Click here to read the court decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Monday, June 24, 2013

What Happens if a Contractor Can't Provide Evidence of Insurance?

Public works construction bid documents include a variety of provisions, some technically describing the work to be performed and some addressing administrative issues.  One of the administrative requirements relates to requiring the successful bidder to provide evidence of insurance as described in the bid documents.

When should insurance documentation be provided?  Evidence of insurance should be provided by the successful bidder after award, but prior to contract execution (signing of the contract by the agency after the contractor has signed it).  As soon as the contractor and public agency execute or sign the contract, the public agency picks up potential liability, and thus it is important to have the evidence of insurance prior to contract execution.

What is acceptable evidence of insurance?  Bid documents must be specific about the type and amounts of insurance required, as well as what constitutes acceptable evidence of insurance.  Bidders can then factor in the cost of providing the appropriate insurance into their bid price.  Acceptable evidence of insurance consists of a certificate of insurance listing the type and amounts of insurance required, and an additional insured endorsement.  The additional insured endorsement is critical in order to protect the public agency.  In the event of a claim, without an additional insured endorsement, the public agency would not have any protection under the contractor's insurance policy.

When a bidder can't provide insurance documentation:  What happens if the bidder that has been awarded the contract is unable to provide acceptable evidence of insurance for the types and in the amounts required in the bidding documents?  One of the conditions for contract execution should be submission of appropriate insurance documentation.  If the awarded contractor is unable to provide the insurance documentation, which should be described as a requirement for contract execution, the public agency could collect from the bidder's bid guaranty.  The bid guaranty ensures that the bidder, if awarded a contract, will enter into a contract with the agency and provide the insurance and bonds required.

A practice to avoid:  I'm aware that there are some public agencies that require all bidders to submit with their bid a form signed by the bidders' insurance broker stating that the broker has read the bid documents, and that if awarded a contract, the contractor would be able to comply with the insurance requirements.  This practice is not necessary, is not a good practice, and may unnecessarily result in non-responsive bids.  If a bidder fails to provide this form with the bid, the bid would be declared non-responsive, resulting in a higher bid price to award to the second low bidder.  By signing the bid form, the bidder should be agreeing to language stating that they have read and understood the bid documents and have incorporated into their bid price all necessary costs, including the cost of the required insurance premiums.  Failure to provide the insurance documentation would result in the public agency collecting from the bidder's bid guaranty.

Limit submissions with the bid:  It is a best practice to limit submissions required with the bid.  Refer to my earlier blog posting on this subject. 

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Job Opening: Spec Writer

City of Seattle (Seattle Public Utilities)
  • Position:  Senior Civil Engineer - Spec Writer
  • Location:  Seattle, Washington
  • Closing Date:  July 2, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time
  • Salary:  $43.54 - $50.69 hourly
  • Job Summary:  The individual in this position will prepare contract documents for bidding on the construction of municipal infrastructure, including utilities (water, wastewater and drainage), roads and facilities using both traditional Design-Bid-Build and Alternative Public Works Contracting methods.  Job responsibilities include, but are not limited to, developing construction cost estimates, identifying bid items for contractor payment, and creating bid proposals for competitive bidding.   
  • For More Information and to Apply:  Click here.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Increased Use of Building Information Technology (BIM)

Technology is clearly changing how we live and work.  One of the significant trends involves the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is 3-D modeling software used in the design of construction projects.

More and more contractors and designers are increasing their use of BIM.
Benefits of BIM:  Here are some of the benefits of BIM:
  • Clash detection:  Identification of clashes in design before conflicts become costly issues during construction
  • Jobs:  Creation of new jobs
  • Faster construction:  Speeding up the time it takes to construct projects
  • Productivity:  Increased productivity
  • Cost savings:  Saving money as documents get filed electronically and are accessed in the field with the use of iPads 
More information:  Click here to read more from a May 30, 2013 article on "iPads Supplanting Blueprints Boosts Builder Productivity."
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bidder Responsibility Controversy in Ohio

The Cincinnati City Council recently passed a "responsible bidder" ordinance that requires contractors on public works construction projects to have an apprenticeship program for workers that has graduated at least one apprentice in each of the last five years.  

Impact of ordinance:  Without meeting the apprenticeship and other requirements, a low bidder with a responsive bid would be determined not to be a responsible bidder, and would not be awarded the project.

City and County clash:  The new law has sparked a political conflict between the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  The County's Commissioners voted to suspend up to $3.2 billion of capital sewer upgrade projects for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Great Cincinnati - owned by the County but operated by the City - until the City Council repeals the new bidder responsibility law. 

Will it limit the bidding pool?  Critics of the new ordinance note that the law will limit the bidding pool and eliminate non-union contractors from bidding public works, since many of them will not be able to meet the apprenticeship standard - something that generally only union contractors could comply with.  

Should apprenticeship use be required?  Many public agencies throughout the country have requirements mandating use of apprentices on public works construction projects.  Proponents of such requirements, typically labor unions, argue that there is a need for trained and qualified construction workers in the future as an aging workforce retires.  Opponents of such laws, typically non-union contractors, view efforts to mandate use of apprentices as an attempt by union contractors to limit competition on public projects to only union contractors, since unions typically sponsor most approved apprenticeship training programs.

More information:
  • Click here for a May 22, 2013 article from the Business Courier on the new Cincinnatti law: "County, city quarrel over project bidding requirements," by Chris Wetterich
  • Click here for RCW 39.04.320, Washington state's law requiring use of apprentices on public works of $1 million or more of the state, all school districts, and all institutions of higher education.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Documents Should Be Submitted with a Bid?

Public agencies should limit what documents they require to be submitted for public works construction bids in order to:
  • Avoid non-responsive bids
  • Reduce the risk of bid protests
  • Give bidders the maximum time in which to develop competitive bid prices
What should be submitted with the bid?  The following are the only items that should be required to be submitted with a bid:
  • Bid form:  The actual bid form with the bidder's bid price, contact information, and signature.
  • Bid guaranty:  If required, a bid guaranty, typically in the form of a bid bond.  Other forms of bid guaranties include cashier's checks and certified checks.
  • Required forms:  
    • Federally funded projects:  If the project is federally funded, certain forms may be required to be submitted with the bid.  
    • State requirements:  There are some state laws that require submission of certain forms with a bid.  For example, in the State of Washington, for projects estimated to cost $1 million or more, bidders are required to submit the names of the subcontractors who will perform the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing work.  RCW 39.30.060 
What should not be submitted with the bid?  The following are examples of items that should not be required to be submitted with the bid, but should be requested after bid opening of the low bidder:
  • Bidder responsibility documentation:  If the bidding documents include bidder responsibility criteria, these should be requested of the low bidder after bid opening.  These may address issues such as whether an installer is certified by the manufacturer to install a specific product.
  • Non-Collusion Affidavit:  Combine this form, along with other certifications, into the Bid Form so that the bidder has just one form to sign and submit with their bid.
  • Sample warranties:  Bidding documents should be clear about the expectations of warranties.  If a public agency wants to be sure the bidder will be able to produce an appropriate warranty meeting the specification requirements, submission of the warranty can be made part of bidder responsibility criteria, and requested of the low bidder after bid opening.
  • Samples of materials:  Technical specifications should be clear about what products are approved for installation.  If an agency wants to actually see a sample of the materials to ensure it will meet the specification, this should be requested after bid opening and be part of the bidder responsibility evaluation process.
  • Installation methods:  Specifications should address proper installation methods.  Evaluating the contractor's installation methods, whether before or after award, may be viewed as approving the contractor's means and methods.  In the event an agency approves such methods and there are problems with the installation, the agency may not have any recourse against the contractor.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Job Opening: Buyer

Kitsap County
  • Position:  Buyer
  • Location:  Port Orchard, Washington
  • Closing Date:  Open until filled
  • Salary:  $20.77 - $27.84 hourly
  • Job Summary:  Under the direction of the Purchasing and Records Manager, the incumbent is responsible for all phases of purchasing to include buying and quoting all supplies and equipment over $3,500.  Assist in the preparation and review of all invitations to bid, and process all requests for qualifications and proposals for all County departments and offices.  
  • For More Information and to Apply:  Click here.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Monitoring for Purchasing Card Abuse and Fraud

Purchasing cards (also known as procurement cards or P-cards) can be an effective tool for streamlining and decentralizing some purchases, especially in an era of decreased resources.

There are, however, both internal and external risks to purchasing card programs.

Internal risks:  Purchasing card programs should be carefully monitored to ensure that employees are using the cards appropriately:
  • Legitimate agency needs:  Are the charges legitimate purchases for the agency's business needs?
  • No personal use:  Are there controls in place to ensure that the cards are not used by employees to buy goods and services for their personal use?
  • Competition:  Are employees obtaining competitive prices for goods and services purchased with the cards?
  • Dollar thresholds:  Are employees staying within authorized dollar amounts for each transaction and on a per day basis?
  • Loaning of cards:  Are there controls in place to prevent employees from loaning their card to other employees to make purchases?
External risks:   In addition, there are external risks to purchasing cards that include the following:
  • Reporting lost cards:  Do employees with cards know the process for reporting stolen or lost cards?
  • Reviewing transactions for fraud:  Do employees regularly review all transactions for potential fraudulent purchases?  A public agency in Washington recently discovered that someone outside of government had hacked into a purchasing card account, using the card number to make several purchases.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Federal Legislation Introduced to Limit "Bid Shopping"

A member of Congress from New York has introduced a bill designed to reduce bid shopping on federal construction projects over $1 million.   

Naming subcontractors with the bid:  H.R. 1942 would require bidders to list each subcontractor they plan to use for $100,000 or more.  Failure to list such subcontractors would result in the bid being declared non-responsive.  The bill would also establish monetary penalties against the prime contractor for replacing a subcontractor without permission of the government.   

Subcontractors support bill: Click here for a news release from the American Subcontractors Association, Inc. with more information.

Washington state:  Washington state law (RCW 39.30.060) has a provision requiring the listing of subcontractors for electrical, plumbing, and HVAC for any public works project estimated to cost $1 million or more.  It was enacted as an anti-bid shopping law.

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

Monday, June 10, 2013

Convenience, Competition, and Compliance in Selecting Consultants

In procuring professional consultant services for the public sector, there is a natural tension between convenience, competition, and compliance.  

Convenience:  The argument for convenience and picking a firm a public agency is already familiar with may be summarized by the response of a mayor to a recent audit:  "If you're happy with a professional's work, and their pricing is competitive with the industry, you continue to use that professional."  That's the opinion of Mayor Joe DeStefano of Middletown, New York in response to an audit finding issued by the New York State Comptroller's Office about Middletown's procurement practices.

Competition:  The audit criticized Middletown for not soliciting competitive proposals from five of the eight professional service providers covered by the audit, totaling $164,613.   The audit noted that the city had used the same law firm for 17 years for assisting with labor and labor contract law issues without going through a competitive solicitation process, or justifying the firm as a sole source.  In the city's response to the audit, they wrote that the law firm's "years of experience make them far more efficient than breaking in a new firm."  While that may be true to a certain extent, the best practices in public procurement dictates that the selection process be transparent and that other firms be offered the opportunity to compete.  In addition, somewhat ironically, the audit noted that the city did not have a written contract with the law firm to provide the services. 

Compliance:  Many public agencies have either state or local laws or policies that require a competitive process in selecting consultants.  In selecting consultants, it is important for agencies to comply with the applicable laws and policies.  In the case of Middleton, the auditor criticized the city for not having adequate procurement policies in place to ensure services are procured at the most favorable terms and without favoritism:
The City uses a decentralized purchasing system in which department heads are responsible for procuring goods and services for their respective departments.  The City's procurement policy is not comprehensive enough to ensure that individual departments procure goods and services at the best price possible.  For example, the policy does not provide guidance on using request for proposals for obtaining professional services, evaluating proposals, and determining if purchases are emergency in nature or if a vendor is a sole source for a specific procurement.
Decentralized procurement processes without strong guidelines and policies can often lead to a wide variety of inconsistent practices within an agency.

Lessons Learned:  In selecting consultants, it is important to balance the competing interests of convenience, competition, and compliance.  
  1. State laws:  Does your agency have adopted procurement policies that are consistent with applicable state laws and your current practices?  
  2. Federal requirements:  When you receive federal funding, are your procurement policies consistent with federal grant requirements?
  3. Competition:  Are your agency's procurement policies comprehensive in describing the competitive selection process for obtaining consultant services?
  4. Knowledge of employees:  Do your agency's employee's understand the applicable procurement process, and are they regularly provided with training on the procurement policies?
  5. Standard RFP:  Does your agency have a template RFP that is consistent with the required process?
  6. Evaluation criteria:  Do your agency's RFPs contain appropriate evaluation criteria for ensuring competition for services?
  7. Sole source:  Does your agency have a process for justifying and documenting sole source procurements?
  8. What is most important?  Are your procurement selection decisions based on compliance and competition, or does the convenience of selecting the same firm trump compliance and competition?
More information:
  • Click here for reading the audit finding and the city's response to it. 
  • Click here for a summary news article on the audit from the Times Herald-Record.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Washington Construction Law - 20th Annual Training Seminar

Washington Construction Law

When:  September 11-12, 2013 (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Where:  Seattle, Washington (exact location to be determined)

Agenda and Speakers:
  • New Developments in Washington Construction Law (Paul R. Cressman, Jr.)
  • Washington State Public Works Competitive Bidding and Bid Protests (Arnold R. Hedeen)
  • ABCs of Construction Contracting: Creating a Contract You Can Live With (Alan Bornstein)
  • Integrated Project Delivery (Scott R. Sleight)
  • A View from the State (Karin L. Nyrop)
  • Permitting and Environmental Considerations (James M. Lynch)
  • Construction Changes/Differing Site Conditions (John P. Ahlers)
  • What Happens When Someone in the Chain Goes Bankrupt? (Jerry N. Stehlik)
  • Discovery Issues in Construction Claims (Andrew L. Greene and Brendan J. Peters)
  • Federal Construction Law - New Developments (Bruce P. Babbitt)
  • Claims Against Design Professionals (Stanton P. Beck)
  • Key State Tax Considerations for Construction Projects (George C. Mastrodonato)
  • Ethical Considerations for Construction Lawyers (John A. Strait)
  • Insurance in the Construction Industry (J. William Ashbaugh)
  • Lien and Bond Claims: Dealing with Sureties (Alexander A. Friedrich and Kerry Lawrence)
  • Construction Mediation (Henry C. Jameson)
  • $550 - Government employees
  • $650 - Single registration
  • Other fees for different categories 
Information and registration:  Click here.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Job Opening: Contractor Payments Lead

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU)
  • Position:  Contractor Payments Lead (Associate Civil Engineering Specialist) (up to two positions available)
  • Location:  Seattle, Washington
  • Closing Date:  Tuesday, June 18, 2013, by 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time
  • Salary:  $33.12 to $38.56 hourly
  • Job Summary: This technical position works closely with the following groups to ensure timely processing of payments to contractors: Construction Engineering, Project Management, Accounting, and Purchasing and Contracting Services.  
  • For More Information and to Apply:  Click here.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Who Should and Should Not Be on Proposal Evaluation Committees?

Consultants and service providers for government contracts are often selected based on either a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Qualifications (RFQ), in which qualifications and experience are scored by an evaluation committee based on published criteria in the RFP or RFQ.  

Who should not be on the evaluation committee?  In order to avoid a potential conflict of interest in the event of a protest of the selection process, generally it is best to not include the agency's attorneys or procurement/purchasing/contracting staff as voting members of an evaluation committee.  These are the individuals who are most likely to be involved in any protest or appeal of the process.  If they have also served as voting members of the evaluation committee, their independence of judgment may be compromised, and the transparency and fairness of the selection process put at risk.  

Who should be on the evaluation committee?  Evaluation committee members may include the project manager, representatives of the user department, other departments most affected by the project, other internal stakeholders, and external stakeholders not employed by the public agency.  It is generally the best practice that agency employees constitute a majority of the members of the evaluation committee.  

Technical evaluators:  Sometimes, it is appropriate to include an evaluator to help the committee understand and review technical aspects of the proposals received.  These technical evaluators may serve by either advising the committee, or by actually evaluating and rating only that portion of the proposal related to their expertise.  If they actually score the proposals, their scores could become the score for all members of the committee for that criterion, or members of the evaluation committee could use their score and explanations to establish their own scores.

What about elected officials?  Agencies should be cautious about including elected officials on an evaluation committee.  In some cases, having one member of a board or council may be appropriate in order to keep that body informed of the process.  The risk, of course, is that the presence of an elected official(s) on the evaluation committee may politicize the selection process in an inappropriate manner.  Refer to my previous blog post on problematic selection practices in Louisiana.

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Should Solicitation Documents be Available to the Public?

Solicitation documents, such as an Invitation to Bid or Request for Proposals, should be available to businesses on the day the advertisement is published in the newspaper, not before and not late on the next day.

Early distribution:  Some public agencies, in an effort to be efficient, may publish the solicitation documents on their website or through other means prior to the advertisement appearing in the newspaper.  This practice provides an advantage of more time to businesses who read the document before the official notice appears in the newspaper.  The risk of this practice is that there may be a protest based on this competitive advantage.

Late distribution:  Other agencies may not have the solicitation documents available on the day the advertisement appears in the newspaper.  Not only is this inconvenient for businesses interested in bidding or proposing on the project, but it may put an agency in violation of state or local laws that require a minimum time period for public solicitation. 

Best practice:  The best practice is to time the public dissemination and distribution of the solicitation documents to the day that the advertisement appears in the newspaper.  Documents should be available on the date of the first advertisement by the time the first readers of the newspaper advertisement (or online website of the newspaper) have access to the advertisement. 

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

Monday, June 3, 2013

Public Contracting News from Around the Nation

Michigan awards contract without competition:  Ravenna Township has awarded a $275,000 library remodel and addition project to a local contractor without competitively bidding the project.  The surprising thing is that under Michigan law, it's perfectly legal to do so according to the  Municipal Townships Association.  They noted that "local [government] units are not required - state and federal may be - to use competitive bidding on any and all projects."  According to the Association, there is a recognition in state law "that it's not always the best use of the public's money to go for the lowest bid."  Click here for an article with more details.

Nebraska considers bid preference law for disabled veterans:  Nebraska legislators are moving forward with a bill that would give businesses owned by disabled veterans a preference in bidding on state contracts.  The business would need to be owned 51 percent by disabled veterans and apply only to those living in Nebraska.  Contractors have argued that the preference law would increase costs of contracts.  Click here for an article with more details.

Pennsylvania pursues repeal of state prevailing wage law: A coalition is urging the Pennsylvania General Assembly to repeal the state's 50 year old prevailing wage law.  They argue that it increases costs on public construction projects by as much as 30 percent, and burdens public agencies struggling with restricted budgets.  Supporters of the law, primarily labor unions, argue that the law ensures quality construction.  Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law applies to construction projects over $25,000.  Click here for an article with more details.

Louisiana rejects contracting changes:  A charter review committee for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana's most populated county, has rejected recommending reforms that would remove the discretion of the Parish Council to award contracts based on political influence rather than published evaluation criteria.  Jefferson Parish has a long history of corruption in contract awards that is based on improper political influences rather than best practices in procurement.  I spoke in New Orleans last year at a forum designed to gain momentum for reforms recommended by the Bureau of Governmental ResearchClick here for an article with more details.  Click here for my previous blog posting that describes more about the unique contracting practices of Jefferson Parish.

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