Good afternoon, my name is Gina Kessler, retired Procurement & Contracts Director for El Paso County. Over 25 years procurement/contracts experience – initially in the private sector with Texas Instruments, buyer of electronics components for the HARM missile – DOD contract – top secret security level – my first experience in dealing with the federal government applications and registrations. Went to work for El Paso County in 1990 as a buyer, became supervisor, then director. Experience with solicitations at the local government level – I helped develop and maintain the policies and procedures for soliciting for goods and services for all the County departments. I understand the process and that’s what I hope to convey to you to assist you in doing business with the State of Colorado and/or any other local government – city, county, school district, utility, water district …
Before there were any official policies & procedures, goods and services were purchased by the government by whatever means were available. Relatives, business associates, elected officials all profited. In the 1970’s, courts realized that there needed to be rules, so the American Bar Association wrote the Model Procurement Code. The code was adopted by all the states with the exception of Louisiana. Colorado: Title 24 of the CRS. Even in the 1980’s, purchasing rules were still not quite understood. In Oklahoma, County commissioners awarded contracts based on the percentage of “commission” they received. They actually thought that was why they were called commissioners. Many of them went to jail because it wasn’t a good enough defense. From that time, Procurement Law has been refined and updated to include methods of solicitation, types of contracts, protest procedures and debriefing obligations. But even to this date, there are contracting officers, personnel, as well as elected officials who don’t understand and/or follow the rules … you read about these cases in the newspaper … but it’s breaking the law and they are prosecuted and punished accordingly if they are caught.
The State of Colorado adopted its Procurement Laws under Title 24 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Most cities and counties have also adopted it in some form … approved by their respective councils and commissions. All government agencies, including school districts and utilities, water districts, have purchasing policies and procedures. But State and local opportunities don’t start in the contracting offices. It’s important that you understand the operations of the agency.
End users include: Department of Transportation (engineering, vehicles, equipment, road and bridge materials) Facilities Management (janitorial services, building maintenance, HVAC, architects and engineers as well as construction management/general contractors for new building construction, office furniture) Parks (landscaping services and materials, equipment, vehicles, master planning for trails and open space) Airports (building/runway maintenance; food services) Golf Courses (course and greens maintenance, vehicles, equipment, food services)
End users include: In El Paso County, the County is responsible for jails. All persons arrested are brought to its facility – the Criminal Justice Center on East Las Vegas. One of the largest budgets in the County for vehicles, inmate medical and food services, clothing, laundry, video visitation, information technology for records keeping. Cities and counties have fire and police departments. There are Coroners with facility, vehicle and medical requirements. City and County Parking Garages are designed and built in all communities. Health & Human Services (child care facilities, training for citizens, technology requirements) Administrative Support departments (Finance, Legal, Purchasing, Information Technologies). Contracts must be solicited and maintained for office furniture, copiers, fax machines, office supplies Professional Services: Auditors, lawyers, computer/technology support, consultants in many areas
You all know what agencies are in your community – City, County, school districts, utilities Contact them – they are listed in the telephone book, online you can visit their websites. Set up a meeting with an end user to see what their requirements are, what the upcoming projects are. Keep in mind that the state and most local governments have a procurement code that states that any employee (not just procurement or contract personnel) is not allowed to accept gifts (sometimes states an amount or small item that’s acceptable). In talking with them, determine if your capabilities meet the requirements or you should team with another vendor for the solicitation. Talk to them about the dollar thresholds – minor purchases, major purchases, formal solicitations. Do they pay with a credit card? Do you accept credit cards for payment?
In private business: YOU CAN DO ANYTHING THAT THE LAW DOES NOT PROHIBIT. In public sector: YOU CAN ONLY WHAT THE LAW SPECIFICALLY ALLOWS. In private purchasing: If you want to buy a truck, you can go buy a truck anyway you can to get the lowest price, as long as you don’t steal it or get it in some way that can be proven to be illegal. You can price shop, pit vendors against each other, accept perks that might be associated with doing business with a vendor. In public purchasing: There must be open, fair competition according to the State Statutes (Title 24, Article 103) methods of source selection: Competitive sealed bidding, competitive sealed proposals, small purchases, sole source procurement and emergency procurements. Every vendor must be given a fair opportunity to submit his/her best and final offer based on the same specifications given to all the vendors and submitted by a specific date and time. The bids/proposals cannot be opened until that date and time.
It’s important that you understand the types of solicitations. Can ask for written quotes at any level. Must follow a formal process where their dollar threshold demands. Invitation for Bids typically outlines the specifications and requirements and has a Bid Form you must use in responding to the IFB. It must be submitted by the date and time requested and usually has a Public Bid Opening where the prices, delivery and warranty information are announced to attendees. Don’t leave blanks on a Bid Form – it implies it was missed or ignored. Use N/A – better response. Request for Proposals is more involved. Must more information is required and is evaluated prior to looking at the fee proposal. No public opening and may take several months. Request for Quotes: Less formal Informal quotes: Telephone / fax bids
It takes time, energy and money to respond to a formal solicitation. Once you determine you are capable of providing the goods/services requested, ask yourself … Do you have: Enough time to respond? When is the response due (date/time)? Administrative support? Professional supplies? Technical capabilities (Computer, Spell check?) Delivery capabilities (UPS, Fedex, Post Office, Vehicle)?
Read the solicitation to understand the required responses as well as administrative requirements: Number of pages Font Number of copies (original plus copies – based on number of evaluation committee members) Require a Public Copy (without proprietary and/or confidential information) for open records requests Electronic Copy Date and time required – if late, it is non-responsive – you put a lot of time, energy and money into a proposal that won’t even be opened and probably returned.
Your proposal is going to reflect your business. Executive Summary: *Thank you for the opportunity to respond *Our team is qualified and experienced *Can do the project on time and on (or under) budget *Look forward to an on-going working relationship *Signed by the Owner, President, Top Management Table of Contents: Address each detail in the order requested The evaluation committee members don’t do this on a daily basis. Make it easy to evaluate your information.
Your program approach should be tailored to the requirements of the solicitation. Address issues. For example: Construction issues can be technical, environmental, legal, government related, weather. There are timelines, schedules, reports and inspections. Value Added Services – unique to your business: Developed a Quality Assurance Program Reporting schedule Schedule meetings to update progress Prepare press releases – can do presentations to boards, councils Offer discounts Special equipment to do the job faster, easier, more effectively (Newer model) Key Personnel: Resumes attached, but don’t expect resumes will be read completely. Probably looking for specific qualifications, certifications, licenses. Do a short expose on each of your key personnel associated with the project that states if they’ve worked for the government before, list their accomplishments that are similar to this project. References: List the references in the order that are most similar to the project.
Your fee schedule must be clear and concise. It must be fair and reasonable. The government understands that you need to make a profit and your fee schedule will include costs to cover your labor, equipment and overhead. You’re not going to win every award, but you will know what the awarded amount is and can ask to see the other fee schedules after the award. Change orders are allowed under a contract, but only under specific circumstances.
The contracting office typically reviews all the proposals to see if they are in compliance with the requirements. It looks for the required forms and signatures and if all the information requested has been addressed. The evaluation committee members will read the entire submission and rate them for their program approach, experience and expertise. Rated independently and objectively. Top rated proposals chosen and fee schedules opened. May ask for an interview for clarifications, answer questions, meet the key personnel
When you are awarded a contract – perform as promised It’s your resume for the next project. Schedule a post award conference as soon as possible – relationships are important. Show the agency that it picked the right company and you’re ready to do business.
You are entitled to a debrief if you don’t win the contract. But you have to call and ask. You want to understand where your proposal fell short – Was it: Program approach Qualifications Experience Past Performance Fee Proposal The agency may not be able to show you the evaluation committee notes, but it should be able to tell you where you need to improve in the future.
After hearing what I’ve told you – Do you still want to do business with the government? Is it worth it? All government agencies have a budget. El Paso County does upwards of $70 million in purchases annually, more if there are major projects.
Gina Kessler Procurement Counselor STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT INFORMATION COLORADO PROCUREMENT TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE CENTER
<ul><li>American Bar Association </li></ul><ul><li>Model Procurement Code </li></ul><ul><li>adopted by all states (except LA) </li></ul><ul><li>Policies & Procedures </li></ul><ul><li>still have issues </li></ul>
<ul><li>State of Colorado (C.R.S. Title 24) </li></ul><ul><li>County government (64 counties in CO) </li></ul><ul><li>City government (271 active municipalities) </li></ul><ul><li>School Districts (178) </li></ul><ul><li>Utilities </li></ul>
<ul><li>Know the Agency </li></ul><ul><li>Contact/Visit the End Users </li></ul><ul><li>State your capabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Ask about projects / solicitations </li></ul><ul><li>Understand the dollar thresholds for solicitations </li></ul>
<ul><li>Private vs. Public Procurement </li></ul><ul><li>Private: Can do anything that the law does not prohibit </li></ul><ul><li>Public: Can only do what the law specifically allows </li></ul>
<ul><li>TYPES </li></ul><ul><li>Invitation For Bids (IFB) </li></ul><ul><li>Request For Proposals (RFP) </li></ul><ul><li>Request for Quotes (RFQ) </li></ul><ul><li>Informal Quotes </li></ul>
<ul><li>Preparing a Response </li></ul><ul><li>Time, Energy & Money </li></ul><ul><li>Time to respond </li></ul><ul><li>Administrative Support </li></ul><ul><li>Professional Supplies </li></ul><ul><li>Technical Capabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Delivery Capabilities </li></ul>
<ul><li>Read the Solicitation </li></ul><ul><li>High percentage of responses at the federal level are eliminated due to administrative reasons </li></ul><ul><li>State and local governments may be more forgiving, but don’t count on it </li></ul>
<ul><li>*Professional and Organized </li></ul><ul><li>*Executive Summary </li></ul><ul><li>*Table of Contents </li></ul><ul><li>*Tabulated Sections </li></ul><ul><li>*Only Information Requested </li></ul>
<ul><li>Program Approach </li></ul><ul><li>*Tailored to the requirements </li></ul><ul><li>*Address issues </li></ul><ul><li>*Value Added Services </li></ul><ul><li>*Key Personnel </li></ul><ul><li>*References – Past Experience </li></ul>
<ul><li>Fee Schedule </li></ul><ul><li>*Fair and reasonable </li></ul><ul><li>*Need to make a profit </li></ul><ul><li>*Not going to win every award </li></ul><ul><li>*Don’t underbid in anticipation of change orders </li></ul>
<ul><li>Common Points of Evaluation: </li></ul><ul><li>*Compliance with Requirements </li></ul><ul><li>*Required forms </li></ul><ul><li>*Signatures </li></ul><ul><li>*Program Approach </li></ul><ul><li>*Experience </li></ul><ul><li>*Expertise </li></ul>
<ul><li>Now you’ve won it – Perform as promised </li></ul><ul><li>Post Award Conference – Relationships are important </li></ul><ul><li>Always be available </li></ul>
<ul><li>If you didn’t win, ask for a debriefing. </li></ul><ul><li>Understand where you fell short . </li></ul>
<ul><li>Do You Still Want To Do Business With the Government? </li></ul><ul><li>It takes time, energy and money to do business with the government. </li></ul><ul><li>Is it worth it? </li></ul>