The Province sometimes needs to update an open solicitation, to answer vendor questions, to provide new relevant information, or to make amendments to the solicitation document. To help ensure the fairness and transparency of this process, vendors are kept informed by written addenda that are usually posted on BC Bid with the solicitation, or sent to invited vendors for those opportunities not posted.
While assessing solicitation requirements and writing submissions to a government opportunity, vendors may have questions, need more information, or seek clarification to ensure that they fully understand what is needed and what should be included.
Most solicitations spell out a process for asking these questions and how the Province will respond. Vendors are required to submit their questions in writing to the government contact listed in the solicitation and the answers are generally provided as an addendum to the solicitation opportunity.
Maintaining Fairness and Transparency
The primary reasons for written questions and answers in the competitive process are fairness and transparency. The Province needs to design its solicitation process to inform vendors as a group so that all information is shared at the same time rather than individually.
To illustrate the issue, imagine that you are planning to compete in a specific opportunity and you find out that one of your competitors has spoken directly with the buyer. The solicitation made no mention that this was a possible option for vendors. You likely would want to know what was said, where you can get that information, and how you can arrange for your own private conversation with the buyer. Even if you are given the same information and your own meeting, your competition had that information before you did. Ultimately, you may feel that your competitor has an unfair advantage over you, or that the buyer has a preferred vendor already in mind.
To avoid these situations, most solicitations require questions to be provided in writing. Answers to these questions are then usually issued in addenda, which are either posted on BC Bid with the opportunity or sent to the pre-qualified or selected vendors if there is no posting (Refer to Opportunities That May Not Be Posted on BC Bid for more information about when opportunities are restricted to certain vendors rather than posted on BC Bid.). This ensures that all interested vendors have access to the exact same information at the same time.
Addenda are More Than Just Questions and Answers
Addenda are very useful to answer vendor questions, but they can also be used when the Province has additional information or a change to the solicitation.
Impact of Addenda to the Solicitation
When an addendum is issued, it becomes part of the relevant solicitation, along with the original documents and other addenda. Addenda may include additional information to help vendors better understand the requirements, or may change the original documents or a previous addendum.
The information contained in the addenda may have a significant impact on what a vendor decides to include in their submission. It’s imperative, then, for all interested vendors to keep up-to-date on any addenda released for an opportunity of interest.
How to Keep Informed of Addenda
Vendors are responsible to check the solicitation posting for any addenda that may be posted. If the solicitation is posted on BC Bid, usually vendors are not informed that additional information has been released. To assist with this process, vendors can sign up for an e-Notification service, where an email is sent whenever something is posted or updated that fits the vendor’s profile. More information on this functionality can be found at Email Service Registration.
If the solicitation is not posted to BC Bid, any addenda will be sent directly to the pre-qualified or selected vendors. If you have been selected to participate in an opportunity not posted on BC Bid, be sure that your contact information is up-to-date, so that you don’t miss receiving these addenda. The Province is not responsible to maintain vendor contact information. Refer to Opportunities That May Not Be Posted on BC Bid for more information about opportunities that are restricted to certain vendors rather than posted on BC Bid.
More information about solicitation amendments can be found in section 3.5 of Responding to Government RFPs: A Proponent Guide to the Revised Request for Proposals (RFP) Corporate Template for the Government of British Columbia.