Request for Qualifications
Prior to starting any Request for Qualifications process, ministries should confirm that the goods and/or services needed are not required to be purchased through a central agency (see the Core Policy and Procedures Manual (CPPM) section 6.3.2.a.1), are not already available in the Goods and Services Catalogue, or are not available through a pre-qualification list or standing offer that the ministry already has. Contact the ministry’s Procurement Specialist if unsure what ministry-specific arrangements may already be in place.
The purpose of the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is to develop a list of qualified suppliers that will be used for one or more future competitive solicitations (e.g. RFP, SRFP, ITQ, ITQS) and/or awards amongst the qualified suppliers without a subsequent competition. A contract or purchase order cannot result directly from the RFQ process alone.
RFQs can be used for a two-part process (e.g. RFQ followed by RFP), or to develop an ongoing list that will be used for frequently ordered goods and/or services. RFQs can be used to qualify firms, and/or individuals (see below for more information). Corporate templates for both types of RFQs are available.
Currently, the corporate two-part RFQ template is designed for qualifying organizations, whereas the ongoing RFQ template is designed to qualify individuals. If this doesn’t fit the requirement (i.e. the need is for a two-part process to qualify individuals, or an ongoing list that qualifies organizations), edit the template to suit; assistance from the ministry’s Procurement Specialist or Procurement Services may be helpful to make these edits.
Do not use the two-part template for an ongoing list, or vice versa.
RFQs focus on what the respondents currently have that demonstrate their ability to meet the requirements, such as their experience, facilities, computer systems, functionality of their product, certifications earned, etc. When developing the RFQ, ministries have the discretion to specify what is required to demonstrate sufficient expertise to be on the pre-qualification list. These elements should be clearly described in the RFQ to help vendors to decide whether or not to participate and to ensure that relevant information is included in submissions. However, the requirements should not be unnecessarily restrictive as this may result in no or few respondents being qualified. Only include those requirements that are necessary for the goods and/or services being purchased, and be prepared to respond if a vendor asks why a requirement is included that seems overly restrictive to them.
RFQs usually include mandatory requirements and will include weighted requirements; see Mandatory and Weighted Criteria for more information. Using a lowest price methodology is not suitable for the RFQ process.
RFQs should also include the format of the contract or purchase order that will apply if a qualified supplier is subsequently asked to provide the applicable goods and/or services.
RFQs should describe how a respondent would be included on the list. This could be defined as all respondents who meet mandatory requirements and minimum scores, or as a number of the highest ranked respondents (e.g. the top five scoring).
No matter which type of RFQ is used, be sure to define how changes to qualified suppliers will be managed. Sometimes a qualified supplier may experience a significant change (e.g. a merge with another company, or changes to its key personnel) between the time that they are qualified and the time that a contract or purchase order is executed. Ministries may allow qualified suppliers to make such changes, but should define under what circumstances and using what process. Staff may find it helpful to consult with the ministry’s Procurement Specialist for assistance to describe how the ministry will address such changes. For best results and if applicable, include a requirement for the ministry to approve any changes to key personnel in order to avoid the loss of critical expertise.
RFQs should always be posted on BC Bid for no less than 20 business days (i.e. four weeks), to give all respondents time to develop and submit a quality response. Longer time frames should be considered if the RFQ is complex or lengthy, or if the posting period includes a high-demand vacation period (e.g. July, August or late December).
Typically, RFQs are used for services, but they can also be used for goods. However, if using the RFQ for goods, contact the Procurement Services Branch for assistance, if the overall value of the goods being purchased exceeds $5,000. Refer to How to Buy Goods for more information.
For a two-part process, the RFQ will include a description of what is being purchased, but vendors usually don’t respond directly to that information. How services will be delivered is generally managed in the subsequent solicitation. Pricing is usually not evaluated in the RFQ for a two-part process, as it also will be addressed in the subsequent solicitation.
Only those respondents that are successful in the RFQ process are eligible to participate in the subsequent solicitation. When determining how many respondents to qualify, balance the need for competition against the time and effort required by both respondents and ministry staff. Remember that one or more qualified suppliers may decide to withdraw from the process during the subsequent solicitation.
The RFQ should specify what format the subsequent solicitation is expected to take (i.e. RFP, SRFP, ITQ, ITQS, or another format approved by the Legal Services Branch). Timelines as to when the subsequent solicitation may be issued can be identified, but this information should be general (e.g. “Spring” rather than “April 1st”) as there may be unanticipated delays.
The on-going list enables the ministry to award contracts or purchase orders using processes that are limited to only the qualified suppliers. The RFQ template for an ongoing list describes how to use the list, and. allows for awards without competition amongst the qualified suppliers under specific and limited circumstances (see section 6.1.2 of the template). Different approaches can be built into the RFQ document, but only with the approval of the Legal Services Branch.
It is recommended that any awards made without competition be rotated amongst qualified suppliers to the extent possible, or awarded in order pursuant to a ranked list (if the RFQ set out this process), to avoid any perception of unfairness because one qualified supplier is getting more work or orders than others through these awards. Another strategy is to issue simple solicitations - even for smaller dollar contracts - amongst all the qualified suppliers, to ensure everyone has an opportunity to be awarded work.
Whatever method is used to select qualified suppliers for contracts or purchase orders, be sure that the process is fair, open, and done in accordance with the RFQ document.
Price can be included in RFQs for an ongoing list, but it is not generally required, particularly if awards to qualified suppliers without a subsequent competition are not anticipated. Any pricing information requested can be for information purposes only or may be evaluated.
If price is included in submissions, be sure to consider the implications for future solicitations; for example, a respondent may propose an hourly rate for small contracts but may be willing to work for a lower rate on a larger project. One solution may be to ask for a rate that would apply to any small-dollar awards offered without a subsequent competition, but qualified suppliers will be permitted to offer lower rates or fixed pricing based on lower rates for any solicitations restricted to the pre-qualification list.
If requesting pricing information, the RFQ needs to be clear on how price will impact the evaluation of submissions (e.g. points allocated or for informational purposes only). Whether or not pricing information is requested, the RFQ should also be clear on how prices will impact the awarding of any contract or purchase orders.
RFQs for ongoing lists must identify how long the list will be valid. For lists valid for greater than one year, ministries may also be required to allow additional vendors to apply to become a qualified supplier continuously throughout the term of the list (see CPPM, section 6.3.2.a.16).
RFQs for ongoing lists should identify who will have access to the list. Generally, pre-qualification lists are restricted to the ministry that issued the RFQ, but the RFQ can state that other ministries may use the list. However, remember that the issuing ministry is responsible to ensure that the process described in the RFQ is used when selecting a qualified supplier; if another ministry does not follow this process, the issuing ministry may be required to respond to any resulting vendor complaints.
When deciding whether to qualify organizations, individuals, or a combination, a number of factors should be considered. The RFQ itself should be quite clear on what is being evaluated, to ensure that respondents provide information relevant to what will be evaluated.
If the evaluations will focus on both the respondent organization and one or more individuals, organize the RFQ using sub-sections that clearly define what is being sought for each. Also consider whether or not a respondent who is a single owner/operator with no employees would be acceptable as a qualified supplier. If this type of respondent is acceptable and organizational experience is being evaluated, the RFQ should provide direction to the single owner/operator respondent on what to include for organizational experience (e.g. only their experience since they have been working for themselves, or any experience they personally have regardless of where it was obtained).
Evaluating and qualifying the organization works for RFQs where:
- The list will be used to supply goods, and therefore the evaluation will only focus on the quality of the goods and perhaps the ability for the respondent to meet delivery requirements and/or to provide warranty and servicing work; or
- The list will be used to supply services where:
- the services require various types of experts who may be needed at different points of time,
- the ability to replace resources who are unexpectedly unavailable is desirable,
- established corporate approaches to change management, business continuity planning, access to information, etc. are important to service delivery, and/or
- the services are of a generic nature, and individual expertise is not critical to successful delivery.
Evaluating and qualifying a single individual may be the best approach if:
- a single individual's experience and/or qualifications is critically important to the success of the contract; and
- contract success is highly dependent on specific expertise that is not commonly found; and/or
- a sole owner/operator (e.g. a consultant) could provide all of the services as well as an organization could.
Evaluating and qualifying a team of individuals should be used if:
- the services cannot be delivered by only one individual due to volume of work and/or timelines;
- contract success is highly dependent on expertise in diverse areas that are unlikely to be found in a single individual; and/or
- the ability of the team to work well together is important to evaluate.