Assurances by purchasing agencies to minimize the likelihood of protests include, but are not limited to:
Develop specifications and solicitation requirements in an objective manner.
Ensure solicitations do not include conflicting language, provisions, requirements or specifications and that there are no confusing directions.
Have multiple procurement team and agency subject matter experts review the solicitation for gaps, conflicting language, objectivity and process realism.
Make sure all procurement project/evaluation team members read and sign conflict of interest and confidentiality statements.
Confirm all procurement project/evaluation team members are aware that they must not communicate with potential suppliers, but direct all supplier-initiated communication to the procurement’s single-point-of-contact.
Follow the procurement processes and obligations stated in the solicitation.
Ensure that the solicitation fully defines responsibilities of both parties. If a supplier is able to fully identify their costs associated with a given project, they will generally be more willing to provide the agency with a better proposal or bid. If suppliers are uncertain as to future costs, they will add a cushion to their price to account for that uncertainty.
Actively communicate with suppliers during the solicitation process on specification issues. Utilize a pre-bid conference for developing awareness of both supplier concerns and specification deficiencies. Make sure all supplier questions are submitted in writing and/or at a pre-bid conference. Respond to all supplier questions and communication in writing. Telephonic responses should not be included, as there is no objective record of the communication.
Be aware that the main objective of most suppliers is to participate in a fair and open process. Ensure that your actions and words communicate this to suppliers.
Strive to resolve all concerns before contract award. Inform suppliers that they must raise all relevant concerns regarding specifications or bid/proposal requirements before the date and time specified in the IFB document, or in the case of an RFP, before negotiations are complete. Advise suppliers that if they fail to do so, subsequent protests based upon those issues will not be allowed.
Thoroughly review all issues raised by suppliers with customers and procurement team members. Attempt to accommodate those concerns where feasible. If changes in the solicitation are necessary as a result of that review, publish an amendment for all potential suppliers.
If the agency cannot accommodate the concerns of a supplier, inform that supplier as early as feasible in the solicitation process and do so in a positive and proactive manner.
Be timely in response to potential suppliers. Provide suppliers with sufficient time to put together a bid/proposal that will meet the agency’s IT business needs.
Provide all suppliers with the same information. Treat them with courtesy and respect and encourage them to submit their best possible bid/proposal.
Document all conversations or interactions with suppliers during the solicitation process. This documentation will prove invaluable if a supplier protests a contract award based on a misunderstanding during the solicitation.
For assistance, contact: SCMinfo@vita.virginia.gov.