I’m going to discuss the basic procurement methods GSA uses for its construction projects and discuss some of the things we look for when evaluating proposals.
There are two basic procedures for competitive solicitations issued by Federal agencies and GSA in particular. They are Sealed Bidding and Competitive Proposals. I will discuss Sealed Bidding first since that’s the simpler of the two competitive acquisition procedures. Although sealed bidding is the least used method these days.
GSA uses the Sealed Bidding method when the award can be based on price and discussions with bidders aren’t necessary. In plain terms that means the specifications are straight forward and precise and can be performed by any competent responsible contractor and the only “variable” is the price. GSA issues an Invitation for Bids (IFB) which includes all the terms, conditions, regulations and specifications and drawings describing the specific work and requests a bid price. Sealed Bids are publicly opened revealing everyone’s prices to all other bidders and the public in general. That being said, although IFB’s are based on low price – the Government doesn’t base the award decision on price alone. We perform a pre award survey or responsibility check to determine whether the low bidder is a responsible contractor.
SBA requests information from small business concern (the low bidder) SBA reviews all and makes determination Affirmative - Issues certificate of Competency Negative - Does not issue certificate A Certificate of Competency (COC) is the certificate issued by the Small Business Administration (SBA) stating that the holder is responsible (with respect to all elements of responsibility, including, but not limited to, capability, competency, capacity, credit, integrity, perseverance, tenacity, and limitations on subcontracting) for the purpose of receiving and performing a specific Government contract.
Soliciting Competitive Proposals is the second acquisition procedure and is the more complicated of the two and these days it is the most frequently used procedure by most Federal Agencies. When GSA feels it cannot meet its needs through sealed bidding a decision is made is issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) instead of an Invitation for Bids. RFP’s are used when the Government feels selection of a contractor should not be based on price alone and they are looking for the “Best Value” to the Government and factors other than price are considered important. Whereas under sealed bidding the responsible bidder offering the lowest price is selected, under the competitive proposal procedures the Government may conduct negotiations and have discussions with all offerors and may award to other than the lowest price. There are two basic procurement methods for competitive proposals. Technically acceptable lowest price Trade Off Process
Again I’ll discuss technically acceptable lowest price first since it’s the simpler of the two methods. Technically acceptable lowest price is somewhat a reverse of the sealed bid procedure. It is conducted in two steps. First step - GSA issues the solicitation requesting a technical proposal responding to several specific technical factors and then evaluates each proposal received based on the offeror’s responses to each factor. Just a note that under sealed bidding contractors are called bidders and under competitive proposals they are now called offerors. Each of the proposals is then determined to be technically acceptable or not technically acceptable. Technical proposals are not ranked under this method. It’s either go or no go. You are either technically acceptable or not. Those considered technically acceptable are then requested to submit a price proposal and award is made to the lowest priced technically acceptable offeror. Notice this method refers to lowest price rather than low bid. That is because the Government may negotiate price with each offeror. For example if all prices come in too high rather than cancelling the solicitation as would be required under sealed bidding we can hold discussions with all offerors and request revised price proposals.
The second method is the tricky one. The Trade Off Process. There are many different ways to use this process but basically this method allows the Government a great deal of latitude in selecting a contractor. The Government can make a “trade off” between price and technical factors meaning we can award to other than the lowest price or other than the highest ranked technical proposal. Notice in this method technical proposals are ranked. Obviously the optimum situation for an offeror is to have the highest technically ranked lowest priced proposal. The evaluation process is based solely on the factors in the solicitation. The proposals are not compared to each other. They are ranked individually based on a specific evaluation system that is established for that particular project. This is the method I believe you all want to know about. “What are the important key points to focus on when preparing a proposal.” The solicitation will contain several technical factors tailored to the project at hand and geared towards getting the best value for the Government. Offerors are required to submit detailed responses to each of the technical factors. Here’s a generic sample of an evaluation factor.
The factor asks specifically for certain information: Square footage of building; Dollar size of project; Two pages of Photograghs Provide the information requested. Don’t be too elaborate. Don’t give drawings, sketches, etc. unless they are asked for. The evaluators aren’t going to look through documents they didn’t request and you may have included some valuable information in those extra documents which may or may not be reviewed. Not to say that you shouldn’t add an interesting fact or two that would enhance your proposal. But be brief and place it within the document that was requested. Read the factor carefully. Make sure you include all information that is requested and only information that is requested. Many solicitations request information on Key Personnel - Who will be your Project Manager, your superintendent, etc. And be aware that if you are awarded the project those personnel that were evaluated will be expected to perform that specific function. If you need to substitute a person, you will need to have the replacement person evaluated and accepted by the Government. Again, be sure to include all the information requested for each proposed team member.
Next Past Performance is always considered in a solicitation whether it is an evaluation factor or not. When responding to this item – what we will be looking for is any problems encountered on your previous projects. We expect to receive names, titles and telephone numbers for reliable references who can specifically rate your performance. It should be a person who is willing to discuss your performance with us. Be sure the phone number and all information is current because we will not spend too much time trying to contact people over and over again. Sometimes we include a past performance questionnaire in the solicitation package and request that the offeror has the reference party complete it and mail it directly to us. Even when we do this we will still call the reference to speak to them so having current contact information is important. Of course, we are always allowed to get past performance information from anyone and anywhere we deem necessary. We are not limited to the names you give us. Usually the past performance is related to the same projects listed in the similar experience factor. Note that similar experience and past performance are different factors. Sometimes an offeror may think we are asking for the same thing twice.
We also may ask the offeror to provide additional information concerning their past performance. Many times offerors forget to respond to this part of the past performance factor and only return the questionnaires. Here’s a sample. For each project submitted the offeror shall address the following items in a narrative format: Timeliness, Cost Control, Administration, Quality Product, Business Relations, Safety History, and Continuity of Personnel. Information shall not exceed three (3) typewritten pages per project. Again, be sure to read the solicitation and particularly the factors carefully. COC procedures not applicable – you are not being found non responsible only less responsible.
These are just examples of evaluation factors other may include facators related to a firm’s technical excellence (your techniques, processes); management plan, etc. In most cases the Government states in the solicitation that it intends to hold discussions with offerors but sometimes the initial intention is not to hold discussions so be sure to read the package carefully because if it states the Government does not intend to hold discussions then whatever you proposed may be evaluated “as is”. Thus, when submitting your price proposal, keep in mind that there may not be negotiations. **The solicitation will almost always state the relative importance of the factors such as technical factors are much more important than price or vice vera. Or it may make a statement that the factors are listed in the order of their relative importance….. This way you can make a smart business decision whether you have the expertise to perform the work or not.
You won’t necessarily be eliminated automatically if your responses don’t exactly meet the criteria but that will be reflected in your score and since you don’t know who the other offerors are or what they submitted you would have to make a business decision as to whether you wish to continue. Sometimes the Government makes that decision for you. The evaluation team is allowed to reduce the number of proposals it evaluates for a particular project. What happens is that the evaluators perform an initial evaluation of all the proposals that are submitted and ranks them. Then they establish a competitive range eliminating those proposals that don’t have a reasonable chance of being awarded a contract. The evaluators may further reduce the number of proposals in the competitive range in order to conduct an efficient competition. Meaning they can reduce the number of proposals to include in the competitive range to the most highly rated in order to perform a thorough and complete evaluation within the timeframe allotted. This reduction can only be done if the solicitation made a statement to that effect.
All offerors eliminated will receive a notice stating that their proposal has been eliminated and advised that they may request a debriefing. This is an interview either in person or by phone where the offeror is advised of the rationale for eliminating their proposal and information concerning the evaluation of significant elements of their proposal. The debriefing does not reveal any information about any other offerors proposals or what was better or worse in one proposal or another. Remember proposals are not compared to each other.
PBS hold pre-proposal conferences which are advertised on FBO.gov where they discuss a project before it is posted on fedbizopps. Also, attend any networking events you can. If contracting officers receive no response for sources sought, they don’t set it aside to small biz. CO’s conduct Market Research to determine small business participation. If you are 8a, HUBZone, or SDVOSB, you may get a set-aside and should market yourself to contracting staff. Do not bid on projects you can’t handle. Bid on projects, and when you don’t win a contract, find out why. You are entitled to a debriefing. In every advertisement, there is a POC listed. Ambiguous information in the Offer/Proposal should be directed to the Contracting Officer. Vendors should submit questions in writing to clarify contract requirements. RFI, Request for Information, might be implemented to extend the bid. Technical questions must be submitted in writing. Find a firm that complement your own. A joint venture may benefit you in many ways; if you require bonding or any other resources you do not have. The JV must be formed before the initial bid.
The vendor should just submit the proposal, nothing fancy, no binders, etc. Large black binders clip are fine. Businesses should only submit what is required in the solicitation package and respond to what GSA is asking for. The idea that submitting more is better is not true. A paginated proposal makes it easier for contracting officials to find requested information. Also, vendors should submit multiple copies of offer. The technical evaluation team may need more copies. In some cases, the solicitation requests a lump sum; but when it doesn’t, break it down. This will add validity to the amount you’re bidding because the CO can clearly see how you arrived at that figure. According to the contract, businesses should submit a breakdown of amounts and line items. You may be eligible for any number of programs, such as 8(a) or HUBZone. Meet with the SBA to determine your eligibility.
Submitting A Bid
How to Submit a Proposal
2 Basic Procedures <ul><li>Sealed Bidding </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Invitation for Bids (IFB) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Competitive Proposals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Request for Proposals (RFP) </li></ul></ul>
Sealed Bidding <ul><li>When the award can be based on price </li></ul><ul><li>Award can be made to responsible bidder with lowest price </li></ul><ul><li>Invitation for Bids (IFB) </li></ul><ul><li>Responsibility check </li></ul>
Pre-Award Survey (Responsibility Check) <ul><li>Determines if low bidder has </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Adequate financial resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Satisfactory past performance record </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Necessary facilities & technical skills </li></ul></ul>
Certificate of Competency <ul><li>Contracting officials suspect the low bidder is not a viable firm for the project </li></ul><ul><li>Request determination from the Small Business Administration (SBA) </li></ul><ul><li>SBA either issues or denies </li></ul>
Competitive Proposals <ul><li>More frequently used </li></ul><ul><li>Request for Proposals (RFP) </li></ul><ul><li>Award based on Best Value to the Government </li></ul><ul><li>Two basic types </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technically acceptable lowest price </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trade Off </li></ul></ul>
Technically Accepted Lowest Price <ul><li>Two steps </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical Proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Acceptable or not </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Price Proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lowest price </li></ul></ul></ul>
The Trade Off Process <ul><li>Award may go to other than: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lowest price </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Highest ranked technically </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Technical Proposals are ranked </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation is based on factors </li></ul>
Example of a Factor <ul><li>Experience on similar projects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Over the past ten years </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on how “similar” is defined, (new construction of a building $7,500,000 or greater) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offerors must submit three projects </li></ul></ul>
Past Performance <ul><li>Past Performance is always evaluated </li></ul><ul><li>Reliable references </li></ul><ul><li>The government can get past performance information from anyone </li></ul><ul><li>Similar experience and past performance are two different factors </li></ul>
What is looked for in Past Performance? <ul><li>Timeliness </li></ul><ul><li>Cost Control </li></ul><ul><li>Administration </li></ul><ul><li>Quality Product </li></ul><ul><li>Business Relations </li></ul><ul><li>Safety History </li></ul><ul><li>Qualification of Key Personnel </li></ul>
More on evaluation factors <ul><li>Others may include </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Technical excellence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Management plan </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Relative importance of factors </li></ul>
Elimination from competition <ul><li>Evaluators establish a competitive range based on submittals </li></ul><ul><li>Notice regarding elimination </li></ul><ul><li>Only highest rated proposal will be considered </li></ul><ul><li>Number may further be reduced for efficiency </li></ul>
Debriefing <ul><li>Offeror advised of rationale for eliminating their proposal </li></ul><ul><li>Review of significant elements of their proposal </li></ul><ul><li>No information revealed about any other offerors proposal </li></ul><ul><li>Debriefing may be requested after elimination or after award </li></ul><ul><li>Reasoning is to assist in preparing future proposals </li></ul>
Do <ul><li>Attend pre-proposal conferences </li></ul><ul><li>Respond to Sources Sought Notification </li></ul><ul><li>Update your CCR profile </li></ul><ul><li>Market your firm to PBS staff </li></ul><ul><li>Bid on many projects </li></ul><ul><li>Direct questions to the Contracting Officer </li></ul><ul><li>Form joint ventures </li></ul>
Don’t <ul><li>Submit what is not required </li></ul><ul><li>Provide a lump sum dollar amount </li></ul><ul><li>Assume you’re not eligible for programs </li></ul>