Pre-Award & Solicitation
Pre-Award and Solicitation involves the activities involved in finding the best available service provider to address requirements.
The Pre-Award and Solicitation phase begins by:
- Choosing an appropriate procurement method
- Creating the solicitation documents
- Advertising the solicitation
- Receiving and evaluating responses
- Selecting and notifying the successful and unsuccessful proponents
Before advertising a specific contract opportunity, it may be necessary or useful to gather information from the service provider community. This information could be used to determine if the goods or services required are available in the community, to assess the level of community interest, and/or a later procurement approach. A contract does not necessarily follow the completion of one of these processes.
The following methods can be used to gather information:
- Request for Information (RFI)
- Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI)
- Request for Qualifications (RFQ)
Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI)
Responding to an RFI or RFEI does not pre-qualify a service provider and does not influence their chances of being the successful service provider on any subsequent opportunity.
The ministry may opt to proceed with a Request for Information or Request for Expressions of Interest. These approaches may be used to:
- Gather information on service provider products and services
- Determine if expertise or technology is already available in the service provider community
- Collect information to plan a fair and cost-effective solicitation process
- Assist in the definition of requirements for future solicitation documents
Request for Qualifications (RFQ)
- There is significant interest for a specific contract opportunity to pre-qualify suppliers who will then compete for the opportunity
- There is an opportunity to establish a pre-qualification list of service providers for future use
When a service requirement arises, a procurement method is selected in order to award the contract. Procurement is the acquisition by any means, including purchase, rental, lease, or conditional sale of goods, services or construction. It includes solicitations and also the direct award of contracts. The method selected depends on the situation.
A solicitation is the process used to invite service providers to submit offers to the ministry. The most common methods include:
- Pre-Qualification List
- Corporate Supply Arrangement (CSA)
- Invitations to Tender (ITT)
- Invitations to Quote (ITQ)
- Requests for Proposals (RFP)
- Short Form Request for Proposals (SRFP)
- Direct Award
- Notice of Intent (NOI)
Preparation of solicitation documents requires a great deal of effort on the part of Contract Managers and procurement staff. Service providers invest significant efforts in creating proposals or responses. If these methods do not seem to fit the needs of the opportunity, it may be possible to create a unique method for the situation. Contact the Procurement and Contract Management Branch for assistance.
The ministry is committed to improving its contracting practices and, as such, encourages ministry staff to look for appropriate opportunities to advertise contracting opportunities where direct award exemptions do not apply.
BC Bid Resources explains government practices and supplements the information in this section.
Service providers who have successfully responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) may be added to a pre-qualified list for providing the types of services defined within the RFQ (CPPM 6.3.2.a.13-17). When a contracting opportunity for this type of service later arises, the ministry can use the method outlined in the original RFQ to select a service provider from the pre-qualification list, this streamlines the procurement and contract award process.
- A Pre-qualified List may also be a Source List or an Eligibility List
- Multi-year lists must be advertised annually to allow for the addition of new service providers. See: New West Partnership Trade Agreement
Corporate Supply Arrangement (CSA)
A Corporate Supply Arrangement (CSA) is a global contract established by the B.C. Government for the use of all of ministries and other public sectors organizations, such as school districts, universities, colleges, hospitals and Crown corporations.
- Where a Corporate Supply Arrangement is in place, the ministry must use the Corporate Supply Arrangement and not establish another contract for the same goods or services. See: CPPM 6.3.2.a
- Advertising and publications
- Courier services
- Office Products
- Recording and Transcription Services
- Temporary Help Services
- Vehicle Rentals
Corporate Supply Arrangements are established through competitive requests for pricing or qualifications from suppliers and offer benefits due to the bulk nature of the arrangement. Benefits may include discounted pricing, enhanced insurance, or enhanced service standards. Card holders can also pay for purchases through a Purchase Card. CPPM 6.3.2.a outlines Corporate Supply Arrangement use.
Invitation to Tender (ITT)
Invitation to Quote (ITQ)
Request for Proposals (RFP)
- Request for Proposals are a formal process used when criteria other than price are also a consideration
- The ministry advertises an opportunity to submit written action plans or concepts outlining how and at what price they would provide a service or complete a specific project
- RFPs may be used when the ministry wants to review and consider implementing different and new solutions to a problem, project or business process
- The RFP document the ministry issues provides details for submitting proposals, describes how proposals will be evaluated, states the terms and conditions for proposal acceptance and contract award, and identifies where to send questions
- It can be useful to have service providers submit electronic copies of their proposals, so that it is possible to cut and paste the appropriate information from their proposal into the contract
- Proposals submitted in response to an RFP are evaluated using the Mandatory and Desirable Criteria outlined in the solicitation
- Price is only one of the evaluation criteria, the lowest price is not always a defining factor for award
- A simplified two-page RFP is available, which may be reviewed for use for contracts under $250,000 before deciding to use the long form
- Additional information on RFPs is available in BC Bid Resources, which explains government practices and supplements the information in this section
Short Form Request for Proposals (SRFP)
The Short-Form Request for Proposal Template is used when the contract to be awarded has a value of less than $250,000, except where an assessment of the procurement exposure profile indicates that the conventional form RFP should be used.
Although the SRFP has many advantages, including reducing the time required for proponents to draft their proposals and government staff to review the proposals, it isn't suitable for all competitive procurement processes. If you're unsure, see when to use the SRFP to determine if the SRFP is the correct solicitation template to use.
SRFPs can be posted on BC Bid® as a “Short-Form Request for Proposals” or they can be directed to selected proponents directly if the total value (including all options to renew) will be less than $75,000.
The contract must be awarded to the proponent whose proposal meets all of the mandatory proposal requirements and achieves the highest overall rating of all evaluation criteria specified in the solicitation documents.
The Ministry Guide to the Short-Form Request for Proposal Process is a step-by-step guide to use with the template above.
In order to be fair, open and transparent, where contracts do not meet an exceptional condition, contracts should be competed to the extent that it is cost effective. A direct award is the process of awarding a contract to a service provider without undertaking a competitive process.
The direct award of a contract is allowed without a competitive process where one of the following exceptional conditions applies, as outlined in CPPM 6.3.3.a:
- The contract is with another government organization
- The ministry can strictly prove that only one contractor is qualified or available to provide the goods, services or construction, or is capable of engaging in a disposal opportunity
- An unforeseeable emergency exists, and the goods, services or construction could not be obtained in time by means of a competitive process. A competitive process would interfere with a ministry's ability to maintain security or order, or to protect human, animal or plant life or health
- The acquisition is of a confidential or privileged nature, and disclosure through an open bidding process could reasonably be expected to compromise government confidentiality, cause economic disruption or be contrary to the public interest
The ministry must post a Notice of Intent when direct awarding a contract over $50,000 if the ministry believes only one service provider is available, but this can’t be strictly proven.
Unless the conditions for a direct award apply, opportunities for contracts with an estimated value of $75,000 or more must be advertised on BC Bid®. Alternative processes may be used, including but not limited to:
- Distributed to all service providers on a Pre-Qualification List
- Advertised in a national newspaper (e.g., The Globe and Mail)
Notice of Intent (NOI)
A Notice of Intent is a contracting method that informs the marketplace through BC Bid® of the ministry’s intent to direct award a contract to a specific service provider without undertaking a competitive process.
The posting describes the:
- Services to be performed
- Term of the contract
- Aggregate dollar value
- Rationale why the ministry has chosen to contract via this method
- Opportunity to object
The notice offers service providers the opportunity to object to the direct award and provide evidence to indicate they are capable of providing the services.
The notice and response process is used as proof that only one service provider was able to provide services when direct awarding a service contract of $50,000 or more. The presence of only one qualified or available service provider is one of the exceptional policy conditions under CPPM 6.3.3.a.
The process outlines a method for the Evaluation Committee to determine if the objection is valid or not according to the objector’s capabilities to also provide the services. If an objection is found to have merit, the ministry initiates a separate competitive process to award the contract.
When to use an NOI
A contract valued at over $10,000 for goods and $50,000 for services and construction is to be directly awarded on the basis that there is only one service provider qualified or available to provide the good, service or construction.
When not to use an NOI
A contract can't be awaded when:
- It's known that more than one service provider would be able to provide the same goods or services. In this situation, a full competitive process should be completed unless a direct award exemption applies
- The situation meets the exceptional conditions of the direct award requirements outlined in CPPM 6.3.3a, such as when contracting with another government agency or in an unforeseen emergency
- An openly advertised application or assessment process has been used to select a service provider, such as but not limited to those used in:
- Child care operating funds
- Autism agreements
- Foster care agreements
Ministry staff should write solicitations on approved procurement templates. Links to procurement templates are found on the MCFD Intranet site (iConnect) under Procurement Templates.
Ministry Action to Solicitation Documents Preparation
- Use ministry – specific templates where available (e.g. Notice of Intent)
- Where ministry specific templates are not available, use the BC Bid Resources Solicitation Templates;
- Do not make changes to templates. Changes can only be made by the ministry’s legal counsel and government’s Risk Management Branch
- Clearly define the work required
- Explain work with a level of detail that enables the service provider to clearly and accurately estimate the cost to provide the service
- Include supplemental information (e.g. reports, maps, summaries) to support the work requirements
- Provide an estimate of the contract budget, where appropriate. This enables service providers to better understand the extent of the work required and the ministry’s budget limitations
- Outline how proposals or bids will be evaluated. This allows the service provider to target their response to what the ministry needs to know, saving time for both the proposal writer and the evaluator
- Provide a contact person who is knowledgeable in the program and service requirements and can answer targeted questions
- Ensure that the information the service provider is asked to provide in their proposal or bid clearly links to the selection criteria
Ministry Actions to Option to Renew
- When using the option to renew, include it in all solicitation documents and capture this information in the final contract clause (typically in the contract cover page or Schedule A – Services and Deliverables)
- State the initial term of the contract and how many times the contract may be renewed, up to a maximum of five additional years
- When estimating the value of the contract in a Notice of Intent (NOI) or solicitation document, include the value of the optional renewals
- For more information, see Amend, Modify, or Renew the Contract
The ministry provides ongoing support to service providers in responding to solicitations. Procurement and contract management staff who provide this support are culturally sensitive and are willing, able and prepared to help all service organizations, as needed.
Service providers may wish to consider the following points when preparing responses to solicitations. Responses should:
- Be presented in a simple and clear format
- Ensure that all the mandatory requirements have been reviewed and met. If one mandatory is missed, the proposal will be removed from further consideration
- Ensure responses to the desirable requirements are accurate and complete
- Avoid cross‐references whenever possible, as it can be difficult for evaluators to frequently jump between sections
- Number the pages, preferably with one numbering series
- Keep related topics together. Be specific as to where additional information can be found when referring to an attachment
- Include a contact person to whom questions can be directed
Evaluators can only evaluate what is outlined in the proposal, so the information included in the proposal should be as complete as possible.
Please note that evaluators cannot use prior knowledge of the service provider when evaluating proposals.
More information on format can be found in the specific solicitation document.
Ministry Actions to Support Service Providers to Respond to Solicitations
- Direct service providers to existing support materials, such as The Guide to Responding to Government RFPs, which is found at BC Bid® under Downloadable guides
- Clearly outline how the solicitation will be evaluated, so service providers can focus their responses on critical information (see ministry actions to developing evaluation criteria)
- Use methods, such as workshops and/or proponent meetings, to work with potential proponents to help them better understand the solicitation process and exactly what is expected from an offer
- Find different ways to relay the information, such as:
- Clearly explaining written material
- Using diagrams or video clips
- Sharing stories or providing previous examples
- Providing clear and thorough feedback in a Bidder Debriefing
Evaluation criteria are used to qualify and select service providers. Establishing clear criteria is key to both writing and reviewing meaningful proposals and to selecting the right service provider.
Criteria commonly include:
- Mandatory requirements
- Desirable requirements
- Evaluation criteria
Ministry staff may request that service providers outline the approach they intend to use to deliver the services, and may consider a service provider’s commitment to improving services, working collaboratively with the ministry, and their commitment to the community.
Accreditation as Evaluation Criteria
The ministry is committed to maximizing the quality of the services delivered. Accreditation indicates that the accredited organization has achieved an appropriate level of organizational competence and that it has appropriate mechanisms in place to continually improve the quality of its service delivery. Accreditation standards may be used in solicitation evaluation criteria; however, they should not be used as mandatory criteria to exclude potential service providers. For more information, see Accreditation.
Ministry Actions to Establishing Evaluation Criteria
- Set criteria that can be measured
- If experience or specialized knowledge of the clients or services is preferred, clearly indicate how the ministry will evaluate this and how the service provider can demonstrate it
- Determine which requirements are mandatory and which are desirable
- Keep mandatory requirements to a minimum
- Ensure mandatory requirements will not unintentionally exclude potential service providers who would have been able to provide excellent service
- Consider the service provider’s abilities and expertise
- Where applicable, also consider their suitability to provide services to clients. For example, if the service requested is for children in care, the service provider must understand and respect the statutory guardianship obligations
- For service providers providing client-based services, refer to the applicable program, policy and procedures manuals for specific program requirements
- Outline if and how Reference Checks will be used
- An option is to consider using interviews;
- Outline in the solicitation documents how proposals and/or bids will be evaluated. Define the scoring matrix of criteria and include it in the solicitation documents
- Clearly link evaluation criteria to the information that service providers are asked to include in their proposals
A committee evaluates each service provider’s response to the solicitation. The evaluation committee uses the criteria and scoring that were identified in the solicitation. Scoring and rationale are recorded and kept in the solicitation file. The selection must be fair, consistent and objective.
Members of the evaluation committee should evaluate themselves for conflicts of interest when all of the offers and proposals have been received. For more information, see Conflict of Interest in Procurement.
The first step in evaluating a proposal or quote is to make sure that it meets all mandatory requirements. Any proposal or quote that fails to meet the mandatory requirements is rejected without further evaluation. To evaluate the individual proposals, a scoring system is used based on the mandatory and desirable criteria outlined in the solicitation to ensure the proposal has met these requirements. The scoring system is set up and recorded on a rating guide before any proposals are reviewed. Once all of the proposals have been scored, price is then considered, and the highest scoring proposal will be identified and selected.
An important step in the contract planning phase is setting criteria to select a service provider. The process of selection must be fair, consistent and transparent. Only criteria outlined in the procurement documents may be used to evaluate proposals.
Whether a service provider is selected based on a proposal or awarded the contract directly, the process of determining the selection criteria and qualifying the service provider still applies. Both the service provider and the ministry need to be committed to a partnership in planning, monitoring and problem solving.
There are many different ways to structure the evaluation committee. Objectivity, consultation, and key stakeholders should be considered when choosing the members.
The committee should be made up of three or more members and have someone acting as the facilitator/chair. A ministry staff member must be on the committee, but it is also possible to include non‑ministry staff, such as clients, members of professional organizations, community partners, or members of the contracting community as long as there is not a conflict of interest. If external/non government participants are participating on evaluation committees this form is to be signed before work begins: MCFD Terms of Participation – Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest template/form (access for ministry staff only).
The evaluation committee should assess themselves for Conflict of Interest in Procurement both when the committee is established and again when all of the proposals have been accepted by the ministry.
As per CPPM section 6.3.3.b1, the ministry must ensure due diligence in selecting a service provider. This may take the form of a reference check.
Reference checks may include:
- Credit and background checks
- Business reference checks
Ministry staff should state the requirement for a reference check in the solicitation document as part of the evaluation process and document the results as part of the solicitation records. The Ministry Guide to the Request for Proposals Process provides further information on reference checks.
Based on the reference check provided, if the lead service provider fares poorly, then the ministry has the right to check the references of the service provider with the next highest ranking. This process continues until a successful proponent is confirmed.
Contracts of $10 million or greater require a pre-qualification process with an internal performance reference check. See: CPPM 6.3.3.b(1)
This involves a review by a qualifications review committee of the service provider’s performance on all contracts of $1 million or greater that the service provider holds or has held with the Province in the three years prior to the closing date of the pre-qualification process. This review is not limited to the contracting ministry, but spans all provincial contracts.
The committee may disqualify a service provider from proceeding to the next stage in the solicitation process for failing the internal performance reference check. Service providers disqualified for failing the internal performance reference check may request, by writing to the committee, a review by the Office of the Comptroller General of their disqualification.
See the Reference Check Review Guidelines for further information.
An official file is created for each procurement process. Common documents to include in the file include, but are not limited to:
- The proposals
- Completed scoring guides
- Reference check questions
- Correspondence and responses
- Negotiation information
- Documentation supporting the award decision
Other conditions or circumstances that influenced the decision should be noted in the file, if they are not already explained by the scoring guides. See the Guide to the Request for Proposals Process.
Carefully document the final decision and how that decision was made. This includes making notes about how each proposal either met, or did not meet, the evaluation criteria. Any service providers who submitted a proposal may request a debriefing. The documentation of the evaluation will enable the procurement team to provide specific and detailed feedback.