One of the most important elements to any competitive solicitation is the delivery of submissions. For most solicitations, submissions will be rejected if they aren’t delivered as per the applicable instructions.
All solicitations will include instructions on how to deliver submissions. Following these instructions explicitly is extremely important, as how a submission is delivered and by what date and time is usually a mandatory requirement. Using the wrong delivery mechanism or arriving at the closing location late will cause the Province to reject the submission. Once your submission is rejected, it will not be evaluated and you will lose the opportunity to participate in the process.
Reason for Strict Delivery Compliance
Rejecting a submission because it didn’t follow the delivery instructions can seem harsh. Arriving late – even one minute late – or using the wrong delivery mechanism (e.g. email, when email submissions were not permitted) seem like minor problems. Most solicitations include mandatory delivery requirements and failing to comply with that mandatory requirement means that the Province will not consider your submission any further.
Delivery instructions are included in the mandatory requirements to allow the evaluation process to begin. If submissions could be received at any time, the Province could not be sure that another submission wouldn’t arrive after all others have been evaluated. This could cause countless delays, and quickly become unviable for timely delivery the goods, services or construction being purchased, not to mention being unfair to those vendors that responded in accordance with the rules of the solicitation.
The Province has the flexibility to choose a delivery method(s) that is appropriate for its business need. What one government office accepts may differ considerably from what another does. Vendors should carefully review the solicitation document to clearly understand the delivery options available; do not assume that the options allowed in another or a previous solicitation are the same for the solicitation you are considering.
Many solicitation templates allow the government buyer to choose between three options – hard copy delivery, eBid through BC Bid, and email. The government buyer has full discretion to choose only one, two or all three of these options.
If more than one option applies to the solicitation you are responding to, select only one method; the process can get confusing if the same vendor submits their submission in multiple formats, as the Province may have difficulty in determining which is the full and complete submission.
If you deliver your submission and then discover that you need to make a change to it, this is allowed if the update arrives at the delivery location before the closing date and time. Be very clear on how you want the update to be applied so that the Province can understand what makes up your full submission. For example, you could state that the update is additional information to your original submission, or that it replaces specific sections of or the entire submission. You can even withdraw your entire submission, and replace it with another submission, if you wish.
Hard Copy Delivery
If hard copy delivery is a permitted delivery method, vendors will be responsible to print off the required number of copies and to either courier or hand deliver their submission to the location identified in the solicitation document(s). Usually, an electronic version of the submission is also required, as per the solicitation instructions.
The advantages to hard copy delivery are:
- The submission looks exactly as you intend; and
- Issues with corrupted files are eliminated (with the exception of the electronic copy, if requested).
Disadvantages with hard copy delivery include:
- The cost to copy and deliver the submission; and
- The time needed to deliver the submission, particularly if you are located far from the closing location.
If delivering in hard copy, it is not recommended to use Canada Post. Most of the Province’s offices have their mail redirected to a central location, regardless of the address on the package, before being forwarded to the specific office. This may cause a delay that results in a late submission. A courier or hand delivery may provide you with the evidence that the bid was delivered on time.
eBid through BC Bid
Some solicitations posted on BC Bid will allow for eBids. Vendors will require an account before submitting an eBid, at a cost of $150 per year for unlimited ability to eBid (where permitted). Information on how to set up this account can be found here.
If you intend to submit an eBid, be sure to set up your eBid account well in advance of the solicitation closing date. It may take a few days before your account is ready for use.
The advantages to eBidding include:
- A secure mechanism to deliver electronic submissions;
- The ability to submit one (subject to the data upload limitations of BC Bid) or multiple electronic files for a single solicitation;
- Automatic confirmation that the submission has been appropriately received; and
- No need to consider the additional time that delivery may take if you are located far from the closing location.
Disadvantages of eBidding are:
- Annual cost and time to set up an eBid account;
- Potential for printed versions of your submission to look differently than intended;
- Possibility of sending corrupted files;
- Reliance on the speed and accessibility of an internet connection when sending submissions; and
- If multiple files are sent for a single submission, the office receiving the file may not know the intended order of these files.
If you are submitting your proposal through an eBid and your submission contains multiple files, you should incorporate a naming convention that will make the order of the documents obvious to the evaluators. When downloading files from BC Bid, they are automatically alphabetized, irrespective of the order in which the files were uploaded.
Some solicitations will allow for email submissions. Although email is used every day by millions, many things can happen that would result in a late or rejected email. If a solicitation allows for email submissions, read the Guidelines for Vendors for Submissions Via Email to be sure you fully understand the risks involved.
Using email for your submission has the advantages of being familiar, easy and quick. However, email is more unreliable than many people realize, and issues can occur that may impact when – or even if – your email is received. Most of the risks associated with email do not exist with eBidding.
There are occasions where submissions may be made orally, particularly when the solicitation is impacting Aboriginal peoples. The Aboriginal Procurement and Contract Management Guidelines includes guidance (section 4.1.2.b) to government buyers on what to consider and how to structure oral submissions; however, these are guidelines only, and the Province is free to select this or other methods for receiving submissions to these solicitations.
For more information on the submission process, refer to section 5.4 of Responding to Government RFPs: A Proponent Guide to the Revised Request for Proposals (RFP) Corporate Template for the Government of British Columbia.