Frequently Asked Questions on Government Procurement
Note: The information on this page and any linked reference page has not yet been updated to reflect changes that may be required by the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (effective July 1, 2017, replacing the Agreement on Internal Trade) and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (expected effective date in September, 2017). This work is ongoing, and will be made available as soon as it is complete. In the meantime, government staff are advised to contact their ministry procurement specialist, Procurement Services Branch, Procurement Governance Office, and/or Legal Services Branch for advice on how to ensure compliance on specific procurement projects.
Following are answers to questions often asked about the Province’s procurement processes related to pre-award and award activities.
- Procurement Framework
- Procurement Risk
- Purchasing Card
- Buying and Maintaining Goods
- Buying Services
- Invitations to Quote for Goods and Services
- Requests for Proposals and Short-form Request for Proposals
- Direct Awards
- Notices of Intent
- Pre-Qualification Lists (Qualified Supplier Lists)
- Information Gathering
Who is responsible for procurement within the Province?
Responsibility for procurement in government is shared between program ministries, the Ministry of Citizens’ Services – Procurement Services Branch (PSB), and the Ministry of Finance – Office of the Comptroller General (OCG).
The Procurement Services Act provides the legal authority for PSB to enter into contracts for goods, services and construction on behalf of ministries. In addition, ministry-specific statutes provide the authority for ministries to contract for services in support of their programs.
With authority provided through the Financial Administration Act (FAA), the OCG, and more specifically the Procurement Governance Office (PGO), is responsible for establishing and directing a strategic governance framework for government procurement and contract management as it relates to the financial management and reporting of expenditures, assets and liabilities, including the development, management and communication of government’s core procurement and contract management policy and procedures.
Regardless of who has the authority to procure, the process of contracting for goods and services must comply with government policy as set out in the Core Policy and Procedures Manual (CPPM), as well as any applicable trade obligations, including but not limited to those arising from the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA), the World Trade Organization – Agreement on Public Procurement (WTO-GPA), the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and any applicable contract law.
Why are there so many rules and guidance provided on government procurement?
Procurement is a complex area of business, involving significant public funds, undertaken by government to meet the needs of the organization and the citizens of BC. Government, as an organization, is comprised of numerous and varying lines of business, diverging priorities and both corporate and ministry-specific needs. As such, the goods, services and construction being procured will vary significantly depending on the project, program or service they are intended to support.
The legislation, policies and procedures, and guidance that apply to government procurement practices are in place to help ensure that:
- Government procurement policy and trade agreements are met as efficiently as possible;
- The Province acquires goods, services and construction in an open and transparent manner;
- Vendors have fair access to information on procurement opportunities, processes and results; and
- The risks associated with procurement practices and decisions are managed through appropriate controls and monitoring.
What actions can be taken to ensure a fair process?
In a competitive process, such as a Request for Proposals, Invitation to Tender, etc., all interested vendors must have access to all relevant information at the same time so that all have an equal opportunity to be successful.
To meet these objectives, ministries should consider the following suggested practices:
- If additional information is required to determine what to buy and/or to plan the competitive process, consider conducting market research rather than speaking to just one potential proponent or bidder (see Market Research and Notifications for ideas on how to do this);
- Post competitive procurement opportunities on BC Bid wherever practical, even for those opportunities below the threshold for posting (see Posting Threshold Guidelines for more information), to ensure that all interested vendors are aware of the opportunity and have the option to participate;
- Release any relevant information that is known to one potential interested vendor (e.g. the incumbent contractor) that may impact others’ submissions;
- Respond to questions only in writing that is posted to BC Bid or sent to invited vendors, so that there is documentation of any communications with vendors (refer to Answering Vendor Questions on the Strategies to Receive Quality Submissions page for more information);
- Ensure that all evaluators are free from any conflicts of interest specific to any vendor who delivers a submission (refer to Standards of Conduct and Relationships with Contractors for more information); and
- Offer debrief sessions to all proponents or respondents to a scored competitive process, so that they can better understand the process and the strengths and weaknesses of their submission (refer to Debriefs for more information).
In addition, remember that preparing a submission may be expensive for a vendor, so when developing the process, it is important to consider the cost of participation in relation to the scope of the business opportunity. If vendors view participation in the process as too costly in relation to the potential contract value, t may choose not to participate. Refer to Select a Solicitation Process and Template Guidelines for more information on the options available.
How do the trade agreements impact the Province’s procurement practices?
The Province is subject to several trade agreements, including but not be limited to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA), and the World Trade Organization – Agreement on Government Procurement (WTO-GPA). Each of these agreements includes obligations on how the Province conducts its procurement practices and selects its contractors. Some of these obligations are reflected in the core policies that all ministries are expected to follow. For example, core policy allows for direct awards without competition under specific circumstances (see the Core Policies and Procedures Manual, section 6.3.3.a.1) which may include some provisions of the trade agreements.
For more information about specific trade agreements and thresholds that impact procurement practice, refer to Trade Agreements or access Guidelines to the Procurement Obligations of Domestic and International Trade Agreements.
How does contract law impact the Province’s procurement practices?
Effective procurement in the public sector requires adherence to the principles of fair, open, and transparent procurement, and obligations imposed by law, while also reflecting business considerations. A completed ministry procurement cycle results in an agreement between the Province and a contractor for the provision of goods, services, or construction in exchange for some form of consideration. This agreement, which most often takes the form of a service contract or a purchase order, is the performance contract and is entered into between the contractor and the Province.
In certain circumstances, when a competitive solicitation process is used to select the best bidder / proponent for the performance contract, another type of contract is created: a bid contract. Where the competitive solicitation process creates a bid contract, the bid contract is often referred to as Contract A, to distinguish the bid contract from the service contract, which is referred to as Contract B. A bid contract, or Contract A, is formed between the Province and all bidders / proponents who submit a compliant submission. A compliant submission is one that has met all mandatory requirements and:
- In the case of awards made to the lowest price, all specifications; or
- In the case of awards made to the highest score, any minimum scores identified.
In such circumstances, common law with respect to contracts applies to both the final form of the agreement and to the competitive process that led up to the agreement. This is an important distinction for government employees to understand as both contracts that result from a competitive process—Contract A and Contract B—create legal obligations to the Province.
Contracts are formed where there is an offer, acceptance of that offer, and consideration. For Contract A, the offer is the solicitation itself, which is accepted when one or more bidders / proponents submit compliant bids or proposals to that offer. For Contract B, the offer is the successful bid or proposal, and acceptance is the final signed contract or purchase order for the specified goods, services or construction. Generally, where a competitive solicitation process creates a bid contract, the purchasing entity is not entitled to accept any proposal that materially departs from the terms set out in the solicitation document, as this may constitute a counter-offer, rather than acceptance of the offer as set out in the solicitation document.
Finally, contract law applies to any contract, regardless of whether it is a written or verbal contract, for the supply of goods, services or construction. If ministry staff do or say anything to create a verbal offer, acceptance of such an offer by a vendor can create a verbal contract on behalf of government, without the protective language found in standard contract templates. For this reason, policy (see CPPM 6.3.3 b.8) explicitly states that ministry staff must not do or say anything to create a verbal contract on behalf of the Province.
For specific legal advice, contact the Legal Services Branch.
What practices may help incorporate fairness into the Province’s procurement processes?
Fair treatment of vendors is an important consideration for ministries from the planning stage of a procurement opportunity through to the post-contract evaluation.
The following are some points for consideration in the procurement process that may help create processes in which all vendors are treated in a fair and unbiased manner:
- In any solicitation process, only one individual should be the contact person. This can be a ministry employee or a contact at Procurement Services Branch (PSB). This person will answer, or arrange to answer, all questions from vendors and may post the questions and answers as addenda to the opportunity if posted on BC Bid. In this way, all parties will receive identical information at the same time.
- Only questions in writing should be accepted and answers should be given in writing to maintain an accurate historical record. If verbal questions are received, the contact person should advise the individual asking to submit their question in writing.
- If one vendor has previously done the required work for the ministry, the ministry should disclose that an incumbent contractor exists. As well, any information that would significantly impact how a bidder / proponent might respond to the opportunity that is known by the incumbent contractor should be disclosed. Fair and consistent disclosure of ministry information related to the procurement process ensures a leveling of the playing field. Contact the ministry’s Procurement Specialist, or PSB is available to provide assistance and advice throughout this process.
- Ministries should endeavour to ensure that the requirements in the solicitation document are not drafted in such a way, or are so specific, that only one vendor would be able to qualify.
What might happen if a vendor feels that the procurement process wasn’t fair?
Ministries are responsible for establishing and managing an accessible and fair process for responding to vendor complaints. Vendors who feel they have not been treated fairly must first raise their concerns with the ministry responsible for the procurement. If the concern cannot be resolved at the ministry level, the complaint may be referred to the Vendor Complaint Review Process (VCRP) managed by the Procurement Governance Office, Office of the Comptroller General. More information can be found at Vendor Relationships and Vendor Complaints.
In addition vendors could raise concerns through the courts or dispute processes established under trade agreements.
For advice on how to can ensure fair treatment of vendors for a specific procurement process, contact the ministry’s Procurement Specialist.
What are some common risk factors and possible mitigation strategies?
Ministries spend about $6.6 billion annually to acquire the goods and services required to deliver their mandated programs. If the procurement process is flawed, the Province may not receive good value for what amounts to a significant expenditure or may find itself involved in costly litigation processes with vendors who believe they have not been treated fairly. In addition, it is important that the cost of the procurement process itself be reasonable given the value and complexity of the procurement opportunity.
The following table presents some potential risks within the procurement process, the possible causes, and options to address these risks:
Ways to Manage Risk
Process does not identify the best good or service
Use a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain information needed to define requirements.
Incorporate the guidance found in the Strategies to Receive Quality Submissions.
Follow the Sufficient Time Posting Guidelines.
Accept the risk as a trade-off for a timely and more streamlined process.
Process does not select the most qualified bidder / proponent
Obtain advice or assistance from the ministry’s Procurement Specialist, or Procurement Service Branch (PSB) to define qualifications and evaluation criteria and to incorporate logical, straight-forward instructions to vendors.
Incorporate the guidance found in the Strategies to Receive Quality Submissions.
Follow the Sufficient Time Posting Guidelines.
Accept the risk as a trade-off for a timely and more streamlined process, or as inherent to the nature of the good or service being procured (e.g. highly specialized so limited market).
Offer debriefs to unsuccessful proponents / respondents.
ITQ process results in the lowest compliant bid being higher than budgeted
Incorporate the guidance found in the Strategies to Receive Quality Submissions.
Where possible, allow equivalent products, as defined in the solicitation.
Accept the risk if the price difference is less than the increased cost of a more rigorous process.
Provide feedback to the vendor if a bid is rejected due to missing the specifications.
Process is not efficient
Where there is uncertainty regarding market interest, use a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) or a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to determine the level of interest from qualified vendors before issuing the solicitation document.
Use an RFQ in conjunction with an Invitation to Quote for Services (ITQS), Request for Proposal (RFP) or Short-form Request for Proposals (SRFP) to ensure all responses will be from qualified vendors.
Accept the risk of extra process to demonstrate a visibly fair process in situations where there is significant competition or opportunity has a high profile.
Only one bidder / proponent / respondent responds to the opportunity
Provide adequate time for vendors to respond to the solicitation documents, as per the guidance found in Sufficient Time Posting Guidelines.
Post solicitations on BC Bid.
Incorporate the guidance found in the Strategies to Receive Quality Submissions.
What can ministries do to minimize procurement risks and achieve best value?
The likelihood of a successful procurement process can be enhanced by:
- Spending sufficient time to adequately plan for the procurement process, that considers all aspects of the procurement lifecycle, including the pre-award, award, manage, and close-out phases.
- Completing a risk matrix as part of the planning process for large and complex procurements. The ministry’s Procurement Specialist and Risk Management Branch and Government Security Office (RMB) can provide assistance with this step.
- Sharing as much information with vendors as possible on the timing, requirements, and expectations of the procurement process. This could include describing the anticipated stages in a multi-stage solicitation process or including the terms and conditions of the intended contract so that vendors know exactly what is involved.
- Post all questions and answers received in relation to a procurement on BC Bid for all vendors to access.
- Using standard government solicitation processes and tools consistently and correctly.
- Not deviating from the procurement process that is documented in the related information gathering, pre-qualification, and solicitation documents.
- Ensuring the performance contract awarded to the successful bidder / proponent reflects the requirements included in the solicitation in a manner that is fair and transparent.
- Requesting advice and assistance from the ministry’s Procurement Specialist with the overall procurement strategy and/or individual steps in the process, as necessary.
Should ministries include environmental considerations in their procurement practices?
Although the Guidelines for Procurement of Environmentally Responsible Products and Services (Green procurement guidelines) do not constitute mandatory policy requirements, this guidance – including suggested wording – has been established to encourage ministries to consider environmentally friendly products and services as part of their purchasing decisions. The objectives of these guidelines are:
- To provide an environmental role model for government procurement by making it a priority to use environmentally responsible products and services, where feasible and cost effective;
- To increase demand for environmentally responsible products and services, which may ultimately enhance their quality and cost competitiveness; and
- To continue to increase government's conservation of resources through the use of more reusable products, and products and services that require less energy and materials to produce or use.
What are solicitation activities?
Solicitation activities are processes where ministries are soliciting quotes or proposals on contracting opportunities that are then evaluated. The standard solicitation processes used by the Province can be viewed on a continuum of increasing complexity that becomes more involved as the complexity of the procurement opportunity increases. The following diagram illustrates this relationship:
Refer to Select a Solicitation Process and Template Guidelines and Prepare Solicitation Documents for more information on the above solicitation processes.
How can ministries choose the best solicitation process and tool for the situation?
Which solicitation processes and tools to choose is dependent on a number of factors:
- The complexity of the requirement;
- The value of the opportunity;
- The availability of vendors;
- The interest of vendors in competing for this opportunity; and
- The risk to the Province if something goes wrong during the pre-award and award processes.
More information can be found in Select a Solicitation Process and Template Guidelines. In addition,the ministry’s procurement specialist or Procurement Services Branch (PSB) can provide advice and assistance tailored to ministry needs.
Where can ministries get advice regarding the release and retention of records that are generated in the procurement process?
General guidance on what can be released upon request can be found in the Release of Information &/or Documents Related to Competitive Procurement Opportunities.
In addition, ministries can contact their procurement specialist who can consult with Freedom of Information and Privacy staff and provide advice regarding the release of procurement records pursuant to the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Alternately, ministries can contact Information Access Operations directly for advice on privacy legislation, maintenance and retention of records related to procurement processes.
What is a Corporate Supply Arrangement (CSA)?
A CSA is any arrangement where a vendor or a government organization has offered to provide goods or services to the ministries and/or other public sector entities for a defined period of time with pre-determined terms and conditions, and at a predetermined price.
There are two main categories of CSAs: external and internal. External CSAs are arrangements established with external vendors, where ministries and/or the broader public sector order the applicable goods and services directly from the CSA vendor. Internal CSAs are arrangements where a branch internal to government is identified as directly supplying the specific goods or services, or coordinating with the vendors for the specific goods or services on behalf of the ministries and/or broader public sector. Refer to the Core Policy and Procedures Manual (CPPM) section 6.3.2.a.1 for a listing of internal CSAs, and the Goods and Services Catalogue for a listing of external CSAs.
Generally, CSAs with external vendors that use the Province's standard format are not contracts. A contract is formed only when an order is issued against the CSA. The Province is under no obligation at any time to actually order from the CSA. However, ministries are required to use these CSAs where one exists that meets their needs (see CPPM 6.3.2.a.1).
Procurement Services Branch (PSB) is responsible for establishing external CSAs for commonly used goods and services.
Why does the Province use Corporate Supply Arrangements (CSAs)?
CSAs are used to aggregate the demand for certain goods and services that can be used to leverage the Province’s buying power. CSAs provide value to government as the pricing is typically lower than a vendor’s “list” pricing or lower than a single user could obtain on their own. CSAs also eliminate the need to conduct many separate competitions for frequently acquired goods and services, and streamline the procurement process for buyers and sellers.
Do ministries need to acquire goods and services through a Corporate Supply Arrangement (CSA) even when a better price is found elsewhere?
Yes. Policy requires that ministries not use any procurement or solicitation instrument (e.g. RFP) to acquire goods or services that are available through a CSA (see CPPM 6.3.2.a.1). CSAs must be used, where one exists that meets the ministry’s needs, to maximize the value achieved through demand aggregation.
Most CSAs are established for use by all ministries, regardless of their location within the province. The best provincial price for all users may not be the lowest price available in a particular region. For example, the price may be very competitive for offices in rural areas but not as competitive to users in urban centres. However, if urban-based users buy outside the CSA, it reduces the ability of the Province to negotiate the best overall prices (because of lower volumes) and may result in an increased total cost to government overall. In addition, goods available through CSAs often include more support than ministries can purchase for the same price outside the CSA, so a comparison based strictly on price is not necessarily valid.
Any concerns or questions with respect to achieving best value through a CSA can be addressed by contacting Procurement Services Branch (PSB).
How is a Corporate Supply Arrangement (CSA) with an external vendor established?
Procurement Services Branch (PSB) uses a Request for Corporate Supply Arrangement (RCSA) to compete an opportunity for a corporate supply arrangement with an external vendor.
PSB will issue an RCSA when:
- There is a recurring need for a particular product or service, however total demand is not known in advance;
- Consolidation of requirements would increase the Province’s ability to negotiate discounts or improve contract terms;
- The Province prefers not to carry an inventory of frequently used items; or
- The procurement is complex and a consistent acquisition opportunity for ministries will help ensure compliance with cross-government policies or standards (e.g., standards for vehicles and multi-functional devices) and will ultimately benefit government.
What’s available through Corporate Supply Arrangements (CSAs)?
How do ministries requisition goods and services available through external Corporate Supply Arrangements (CSAs)?
To acquire goods or services through an external CSA, ministries should contact the CSA vendor directly and provide in writing the details required for orders, as specified for the particular CSA. The vendor will invoice the ministry directly which can be paid by citing the CSA number.
Internal CSAs are accessed directly through the responsible office, as defined in the Core Policy and Procedures Manual, section 6.3.2.a.1. Refer to the responsible office for instructions on how to access the goods and services available.
Ministries are responsible for keeping records of their CSA orders and related documents, as orders placed through a CSA are contractual obligations and therefore must be treated the same as any other form of contract or purchase order.
How do ministries requisition goods valued at over $5,000 that are not available through the distribution centre or Corporate Supply Arrangements (CSAs)?
To requisition goods through Procurement Services Branch (PSB), ministries are to submit a requisition in iProcurement, specifying their requirements in generic terms. Use of brand names is discouraged except where a match with existing equipment is clearly essential. However, brand names can be used to suggest an acceptable line of products, and the request would include "or equivalent."
All requisitions for goods received by PSB will be reviewed to ascertain that the requirement cannot be met through an existing CSA. PSB may need to contact the ordering ministry for clarifications on product specifications, delivery timelines and/or locations, etc. Refer to How to Buy Goods for more information.
When can ministries use the corporate purchasing card?
Ministries may use their corporate purchasing card to directly acquire goods or services valued at less than $5,000, and may use it for goods and services ordered through external CSAs up to the limit established for their card (usually $5,000, but could be up to $10,000 as per core policy CPPM 4.3.19). Detailed information on purchasing cards and purchasing card use is available in the Purchasing Card Manual. Additional information may be found on the Purchase and Travel Card website or through the Purchasing Card Cardholder Information Guide.
Government procurement policy applies to all purchasing transactions, regardless of the method of payment. The corporate purchasing card is simply an instrument that facilitates payment; ministries should still compete the opportunity to the extent reasonable and cost effective, unless a reason for direct award applies (see the Core Policy and Procedures Manual, section 6.3.3.a.1).
Can ministries use the corporate purchasing card for goods and services valued at more than $5,000?
The standard transaction limit for the corporate purchasing card is $5,000. A higher limit (up to $10,000) may be authorized for corporate card holders in special circumstances, such as the limit established for Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development's staff during fire season. Otherwise, requests for goods valued at more than $5,000 must be directed to Procurement Services Branch (PSB).
When can ministries buy goods directly?
Government policy assigns responsibility and authority for acquiring goods valued at greater than $5,000 to Procurement Services Branch (PSB). Consolidation of this activity achieves best value to the Province through demand aggregation.
However, to support operational requirements, policy does allow ministries to directly acquire goods through a pre-existing Corporate Supply Arrangement (CSA).
If a CSA does not exist for the goods needed and the purchase is valued at $5,000 o less, ministries may purchase directly from vendors through the use of purchasing cards. However, ministries should obtain at least three quotes even if using the purchasing card for purchases over $1000.00.
Purchases of goods with a value greater than $5,000 are to be initiated through a requisition to PSB within the Corporate Accounting System (CAS).
Should ministries buy, rent or lease the goods they need?
Renting or leasing equipment is an alternative to purchasing goods outright, and the policy threshold of $5,000 still applies. Ministries have the authority to rent or lease equipment up to $5,000 but any total rental or lease valued at over $5,000 is to be requisitioned through Procurement Services Branch (PSB). A purchase requisition should be completed with the details of the rental or leasing request and forwarded to PSB.
Ministries are responsible for determining the most economical method of acquisition to effectively support government operations. This could be a choice between purchasing and leasing, or a choice between renting and leasing. The ministry's Procurement Specialists or PSB can provide assistance to ministries with this analysis and advice on the best method of acquiring the necessary equipment.
Accounting for a rental transaction, which is considered an operating lease, is different than accounting for a capital lease. Ministries are encouraged to obtain advice from their Procurement Specialist, their Chief Financial Officer, or the Financial Management Branch (FMB) of the Office of the Comptroller General (OCG) on whether they have entered into an operating or a capital lease, and the relevant accounting requirements.
How do ministries acquire a vehicle and arrange for vehicle repairs and maintenance?
Procurement Services Branch (PSB) is responsible for managing the government’s vehicle fleet contract and for coordinating vehicle rentals. Corporate Supply Arrangements (CSAs) for Vehicle Rentals and Vehicle Service Centres are available through the Goods and Services Catalogue. For information on how to access the vehicle supply arrangements or for anything related to vehicles not addressed by the CSAs, ministries should contact their ministry fleet coordinator or PSB.
Additional information is available on the Employee Business Travel Resource Centre.
Are there alternatives to buying?
Yes. Before purchasing new goods, services or construction, confirm if there are feasible alternatives. Examples of these alternatives include, but are not limited to repairing existing assets, obtaining assets that government may have in its inventory of surplus assets, or tapping into services or expertise which may already be available in government.
For example, Workplace Support Services manages the provision of office furniture required to design, deliver, and maintain a client’s workspace. This includes reallocation and redeployment of surplus furniture in support of a furniture cost containment strategy throughout the province. Refer to the Shared Services BC intranet for more information on Workplace Support Services and capital furniture purchases.
How can ministries buy software?
All software must be purchased either from Corporate Software Asset Management (CSAM) via iStore or, in the case of non-CSAM server software (Line of Business), directly from the vendor through an Invitation to Quote managed by the Procurement Services Branch. Refer to the list of CSAM publishers for software available through iStore; anything not on this list is considered Line of Business software.
When is the ability for ministries to contract for services limited?
Ministries generally have authority to contract for services related to relevant program areas, in a manner that complies with applicable government policy. However, sometimes the authority of a ministry to contract in a certain area is limited by legislation or policy. For example, the Core Policy and Procedures Manual (see section 6.3.2.a.1) states that ministries must purchase some goods and services through a central entity and, if services are available through a CSA, ministries must acquire them through that arrangement.
What are the dollar thresholds for competing service contracts?
Policy requires that all service contract opportunities be awarded using a competitive process, except where a Corporate Supply Arrangement or one of the conditions for directly awarding a contract is met (see CPPM sections 6.3.2.a.1 and 6.3.3.a.1).
For potential service contracts valued at or above $75,000, the opportunity must be competed using BC Bid and standard government or Legal Services approved customized solicitation tools (see CPPM 6.3.2.a.4 and 6.3.2.c.4). For potential service contracts valued below $75,000, ministries have the option of posting the opportunity on BC Bid or directing the opportunity to at least three vendors. If directing the opportunity to three or more vendors, ministries can directly call or email these vendors with the details of the opportunity (including how one of the vendors will be selected). Careful notes of the process should be kept to demonstrate the effort undertaken and to support the decision made.
For service contract opportunities valued at less than $25,000, policy recommends a competitive process to the extent reasonable and cost-effective (see CPPM 6.3.2.c.6). Ministries must not split contracts in order to avoid this threshold.
What is a reasonable and cost-effective competitive process for service contracts under $25,000?
A reasonable and cost-effective competitive process is one that supports the principles of fair and open procurement appropriate to the opportunity without creating excessive effort and process for either the ministry or bidders / proponents. This may mean a less formal and less extensive process.
The approach to competing small dollar contracts will be influenced by the nature of the service required, the availability of vendors, and timing. The process could range from obtaining phone quotes from three or more vendors, to issuing a formal Request for Proposals.
Refer to Select a Solicitation Process and Template for guidance on different approaches to awarding contracts. Alternately, contact the ministry's Procurement Specialist or Procurement Services Branch (PSB) for advice on the best approach in your circumstances.”
When should an Invitation to Quote (ITQ) be used?
An ITQ is used when the opportunity can be defined specifically such that the only competing factor is price. ITQs have historically been used to acquire goods. However, where required services can be defined to the extent that price is the only variable, an ITQ for Services can be used. Examples of where this may be possible include security services and equipment maintenance services.
By bidding, the bidder agrees to supply the goods or services exactly as they are described in the ITQ. If a bid does not meet all of the mandatory requirements, specifications, terms and conditions, it is rejected as it is not compliant to the ITQ; the lowest compliant bid is normally awarded the contract. For any concerns with the lowest quote received, such as the bidder's ability to deliver at that price, contact the ministry's Procurement Specialist or Procurement Services Branch (PSB) for assistance.
What can go wrong if an Invitation to Quote (ITQ) is used incorrectly?
Using an ITQ to evaluate on more than price creates a risk to government as the language normally found in Requests for Proposals, which provides for evaluating on more than price, is missing from the ITQ template. The terms and conditions of the ITQ anticipates awarding to the lowest compliant bid only. Therefore, to evaluate on multiple criteria, ministries are required to use the corporate or Legal Services approved Request for Proposals or Short-form Request for Proposals template, as they are designed to evaluate based on multiple criteria.
ITQs can be used to request additional information from bidders, as long as the information is not used to evaluate and score the submissions. This additional information is often requested to confirm that the bidder meets the required specifications, terms and conditions needed to be a compliant bid. All compliant bids are then evaluated solely on price. As an example, if an ITQ is used to solicit quotes on the provision of courier services, the specifications may include the availability of a minimum number of trucks within a defined geographical area, and a process that ensures all direct-delivery staff have criminal records checks with acceptable results.
It is also important to use the ITQ for Services document in conjunction with one of the General Service Agreements (GSA), as the ITQ for Services is designed to build on the terms and conditions included in standard government contracts. Legal Services Branch approval is required to use the ITQ for Services template with any other form of contract, including a modified GSA.
Does an Invitation to Quote (ITQ) create a contractual obligation?
Yes, a Contract A (bid contract) is created between the Province and any vendor who submits a compliant bid to an ITQ. At the end of the solicitation process, a Contract B (performance contract) is established between the Province and the successful bidder.
Is there a standard Invitation to Quote (ITQ) template?
Yes, there are two standard ITQ templates. One ITQ template is used exclusively by Procurement Services to acquire goods on behalf of ministries. A second ITQ template has been developed for use when acquiring services, where the required service can be defined to a point that price is the only variable. The extent of information provided in an ITQ document will be a function of the value and complexity of the contracting opportunity. Contact the ministry’s Procurement Specialist or Procurement Service Branch for assistance with an ITQ for goods, or refer to the ITQ for Services (ITQS) template.
The standard ITQS should include:
- Space for the bidder to provide contact information and a signature;
- reference to which of the General Service Agreements apply, and whether or not schedules E (Privacy), F (Additional Terms) and G (Security) apply;
- A completed Schedule A – Services, including the contract term (with options to renew, if applicable), clear descriptions of all deliverables and milestones, reporting requirements (if any), key personnel (if applicable), and any other elements that the contractor is responsible to provide;
- A clear description of what price is to include, and how the lowest price will be determined;
- A form that bidders complete to indicate the price(s) being offered;
- If applicable, additional information that is required to determine that a bidder is submitting a qualified bid (e.g. certification, names of key personnel, evidence of minimal experience required, etc.);
- A completed Appendix D, identifying all required insurances; and
- A completed Appendix F, if applicable.
For service opportunities valued at less than $75,000, ministries can post the opportunity on BC Bid or direct the opportunity to three or more vendors.
Do ministries have to use the standard Invitation to Quote (ITQ) template when price is the only deciding factor?
This depends on the dollar value of the acquisition. Phone quotes or other forms of comparison shopping may be used to acquire goods valued at less than $5,000 and services valued at less than $25,000. At least three vendors should be contacted and ministries should keep a record of the information discussed with the vendor over the phone, including:
- A description of the goods or services being purchased;
- The preferred schedule;
- Dates when the delivery of goods or services are required;
- Insurance or WCB requirements; and
- Pricing, including unit prices, lump sum, hourly/daily rate, estimated project hours/days and/or total estimated project price.
For goods over $5,000, ministries are to send a requisition in iProcurement to Procurement Services Branch (PSB), specifying their requirements, and PSB will manage the ITQ process. Ministries may acquire services of any value of their own, but should use either the corporate ITQ for Services (ITQS) or another price-based solicitation tool that has been approved by Legal Services.
Refer to Award to the Lowest Price for more information.
When can the Invitation to Quote for Services (ITQS) be used instead of a Request for Proposals (RFP)?
The ITQS template can be used only when the required service can be defined to a point that price is the only variable. If the evaluation process will include more evaluation criteria than price, the RFP or Short-form RFP (SRFP) is the appropriate tool.
How should an Invitation to Quote for Services (ITQS) be advertised?
Where no list of qualified suppliers applies, an ITQS with a value of $75,000 or more must be posted on BC Bid (see CPPM 6.3.2.c.4). However, the ITQS should include some way of ensuring that the bidders are capable of providing the services, in order to avoid a bidder with no or inadequate experience or capabilities submitting a low-balled bid. Ministries may decide to advertise the opportunity using other methodologies in addition to BC Bid; refer to item a) Effective Marketing on the Strategies to Receive Quality Submissions page.
When a pre-qualification list has been established, the ITQS can be forwarded directly to these qualified suppliers, rather than being posted on BC Bid, regardless of the contract value.
For opportunities valued at less than $75,000, the ITQS can be forwarded to a minimum of three known potential bidders.
When should a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Short-Form Requests for Proposals (SRFP) be used?
The RFP/SRFP is used where price is not the only factor that determines who will be awarded the contract. The RFP/SRFP document provides vendors with an overview of the perceived or expected requirements and deliverables. It does not give a detailed project plan, as it is expected that this is what the vendors will develop and explain in their responses to the RFP/SRFP.
RFP/SRFP submissions are evaluated on a number of factors, which usually include how well the proposed project plan will meet the government’s needs as stated in the RFP/SRFP (i.e. the approach to service delivery), the ability of the proponent to deliver the services (e.g. experience of the organization and/or key personnel, facilities, equipment, etc.) and price.
In recognition of the substantial investment that proponents often make in preparing their responses to RFPs and SRFPs, ministries should not issue RFPs or SRFPs unless they have established a clear intent to issue a contract and a funding source exists. Also, the proponent’s cost of preparing a submission should not be excessive in relation to the value of the contract. If vendors view the process as too costly, the RFP/SRFP process may not result in a proponent who is offering best value for money.
Refer to Award to the Highest Score for more information.
What can go wrong with a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Short-Form RFP (SRFP) process?
If a vendor challenges the legality of an RFP/SRFP process, government must rely on the terms and conditions built into the RFP template or SRFP rules as part of the response to the vendor. Therefore, changing the wording in the RFP template is not permitted without the review and approval of Legal Services Branch. Ministries should be careful not to make contradictory statements in the RFP or SRFP that may create internal inconsistencies in the solicitation document, and create risk and potential liability to government. If ministries believe that something in the RFP template or SRFP rules is not applicable to their project, advice should be sought from the ministry's Procurement Specialist, Legal Services Branch or Procurement Services before changes are made.
Ministries should avoid taking any actions or making any decisions during an RFP/SRFP process that could be constructed as providing an unfair advantage to any vendor. This includes having preferences that impact the evaluation of proposals that were not disclosed in the RFP/SRFP. Vendors need to have confidence that the RFP/SRFP document is a fair and accurate description of how a successful submission will be selected.
If the evaluation process stated in the RFP/SRFP document is not followed, the ministry responsible may find itself being challenged by unsuccessful proponents. Refer to Submission Evaluations for more information.
Does a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Short-form Request for Proposals (SRFP) result in any contractual obligations?
Yes, when using the Province's standard RFP or SRFP template, a Contract A (bid contract) is created between the Province and any proponent who submits a compliant submission to an RFP/SRFP. At the end of the solicitation process, a Contract B (performance contract) may be established between the Province and the successful proponent.
A compliant submission is a proposal to the RFP/SRFP that meets all mandatory requirements and minimum scores identified in the RFP/SRFP document.
Are there standard Request for Proposals (RFP) and Short-form Request for Proposals (SRFP) templates?
Yes, both RFP and Short-form RFP (SRFP) templates have been developed to accommodate a wide range of projects. The terms and conditions included in these templates reflect the common law of contracts as it applies to an RFP/SRFP.
The RFP template is a Word document that is colour-coded to allow ministries choices and options when completing it. The SRFP is a smart form that allows ministries some options and choices within the parameters of the template.
The RFP template has been designed for following one of three contracting format options:
- The General Service Agreement. The RFP should identify or attach as an appendix the appropriate General Service Agreement, including what options apply to Schedules D, E and G. Proponents are agreeing to sign a contract that is substantially the same as this agreement if successful in the RFP process.
- A custom contract, with necessary advice and approvals from Risk Management Branch and Government Security Office, Legal Services Branch and the Office of the Chief Information Officer for privacy protection advice. The RFP should attach the customized contract as an appendix. Proponents are agreeing to sign a contract that is substantially the same as the attached custom contract if successful in the RFP process.
- Applicable contract clauses that will be included in the final contract with the successful proponent, but that do not necessarily represent the full text of the contract terms and conditions.
The SRFP template has been designed with only two options for the contracting format, and proponents are agreeing to sign a contract substantially the same as the option chosen if they are successful:
- The General Service Agreement. The SRFP identifies which General Service Agreement applies, as well as any additional insurances and terms and conditions. In addition, the SRFP specifies whether or not Schedules E and G apply.
- A custom contract, with necessary advice and approvals from Risk Management Branch and Government Security Office, Legal Services Branch and the Office of the Chief Information Officer for privacy protection advice. The contract is attached as an appendix to the SRFP.
It is important to remember that an RFP/SRFP process normally results in the establishment of a Contract A (bid contract) between the Province and any proponent who delivers a compliant submission, and that the RFP/SRFP document defines the terms and conditions for the bid contract. The extent of information required by the current RFP and SRFP templates is necessary to clearly define and limit the obligations of the Province and define the obligations of any proponent.
When should the Short-form Request for Proposals (SRFP) be used instead of the Request for Proposal (RFP)?
Ministries should use the SRFP for those contracts that are in scope, meaning that:
- The overall value of the contract is expected to be under $250,000;
- The contract format is fully known; and
- The acquisition is considered a lower exposure.
More information on how to determine whether or not a contract is in scope for the SRFP can be found at Buyer Information on the Short-Form Request for Proposals (SRFP). Ministries are encouraged to use the SRFP rather than the RFP for any contract that is within scope. Contracts that are out-of-scope for the SRFP should use the RFP template when awarding to the highest-scoring proponent (rather than the lowest price).
What information should be included in a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Short-form Requests for Proposals (SRFP)?
The scope and detail included in an RFP/SRFP should reflect the complexity, significance, and risk of the procurement opportunity. An RFP/SRFP describes the program or requirement for which the ministry will contract, the minimum requirements that submissions should address, and the criteria that will be applied to the evaluation of submissions.
Vendors should be provided with all information relevant to the requirement, including but not limited to:
- Location of ministry or client site(s);
- Restrictions on the scope of work;
- Deliverables or outcomes;
- Risk and critical success factors;
- Performance standards;
- Governing legislation;
- Reporting requirements; and
- Information that some vendors may have already have that is or is perceived to be relevant to submission evaluations, including the name of the incumbent contractor, if applicable.
An RFP/SRFP should also describe the terms and conditions of the RFP process, including the mandatory and weighted criteria that will be applied to evaluate the submissions received. Refer to Award to the Highest Score for more information.
What are mandatory criteria?
Mandatory criteria are requirements that a submission must meet in order for it to be considered. Mandatory criteria are either met or not—there is no grey area. Therefore, mandatory criteria should be objective and are normally answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a ‘pass/fail’.
Mandatory requirements can be both project-related (e.g., academic qualifications, specific type of equipment or technology) or administrative (e.g., specific number of copies submitted by a specific time, to a specific location, in a specific format). The more mandatory requirements there are, the more likely an otherwise satisfactory, and possibly winning, submission will fail the mandatory test and be disqualified. Therefore, the number of mandatory requirements should be as few as possible.
Do not confuse mandatory criteria with contractual obligations. Mandatory criteria must be met by all proponents, whereas contractual obligations are only required from the contractor, after the contract is signed.
Refer to Mandatory and Weighted Criteria for more information.
What are weighted criteria?
The weighted (or desirable) criteria reflect what the submissions are being evaluated and compared against. They only apply to solicitations that are scored (e.g. Request for Proposals, Short-form Request for Proposals, and Request for Qualifications, as well as some Request for Corporate Supply Arrangement, and Request for Standing Offer), not to those that are awarded to the lowest price.
Weighted criteria can usually be broken down into three key areas: approach, proponent capabilities, and price. The solicitation must describe the weighted criteria, including relative weightings, which will be applied in evaluating submissions (CPPM 6.3.3.b.1).
The evaluation criteria will be different for each individual solicitation, reflecting the unique needs and priorities of each project. When it comes to evaluating submissions, these stated criteria should be the only criteria upon which ministries base their decision (i.e. avoid any hidden, undisclosed criteria). Although a detailed point breakdown need not be included in the solicitation, this level of detail is required before ministries look at any submissions received.
If ministries have gone through a pre-qualification process and issued the solicitation only to pre-qualified suppliers, ministries may choose not to include qualifications as part of evaluation criteria. If qualifications are included in the solicitation, they should be different from those that were assessed to establish the pre-qualified list (i.e. specific to something related but not assessed in the RFQ process).
What are minimum scores?
Minimum scores, which may also be called upset scores, are set out in those solicitations that are scored for all or a subset of the weighted criteria.
If a submission does not achieve any of the minimum scores defined in the solicitation document, it can no longer be considered. The use of minimum scores prevents a situation where the best overall score has actually failed in a critical component of the weighted criteria.
Price should not have a minimum score, if it is to be scored.
See Mandatory and Weighted Criteria for more information.
How should submissions be evaluated to ensure fairness when awarding to the highest scoring submission?
During the evaluation process, it is important to treat all proponents fairly and to evaluate their submissions in accordance with the process described in the solicitation document. Ministries must keep detailed notes explaining each score assigned during the evaluation process (CPPM 6.3.3.b.2).
Only the information provided in the submission should be included in the evaluation process. Do not consider additional information that is known to the evaluators, but not presented in the submissions.
Refer to the Step-by-Step Guide on How to Evaluate Submissions for detailed information on the process.
The submission that demonstrates the best overall approach, capabilities, and price, as applicable (i.e. the submission with the highest overall score that has met all minimum scores) wins the contract, subject to contract finalization (CPPM 6.3.3.b.6). The following table presents a format that can be used to compare scores. Detailed evaluation documentation explaining every score awarded to each proponent must also be created, to support the comparison summary (CPPM 6.3.3.b.2).
Arrived at closing location on time
Project team lead has required professional credentials
Consistency of solution with program goals
Quality assurance plan
Score = (lowest proposed price/this price x total marks)
Ideally, everything from the successful submission can be written into the contract, and the successful proponent will readily sign. However, if the best submission is materially deficient in terms of the desirable criteria or it is not a workable solution, ministries may announce that the solicitation process has concluded and no suitable submission was received. Where only minor, non-materials details remain to be worked out (e.g., fine-tuning the schedule or project plan, filling in details missing from the submission), ministries may proceed to finalize a contract with the successful proponent.
The requirements as stated in the solicitation document should not change significantly during the contract finalization stage or unsuccessful proponents could reasonably claim they would have submitted a different submission had they known this was what the ministry really wanted. If in doubt as to whether or not a contemplated change is simply fine-tuning or a substantive change, contact the ministry's Procurement Specialist, who may also involve Legal Services Branch.
Is a debriefing required?
Ministries must offer a debriefing for unsuccessful proponents as a last step in the RFP process (see CPPM 6.3.3.c.1). The purpose of a debriefing is to provide feedback to proponents on where they did well, and where their response was weak. Debriefings are beneficial to both the proponents and the Province as they give proponents information to help them improve for future responses, which in turn improves the quality of submissions and outcomes of government solicitations.
A debriefing process is not an opportunity for unsuccessful proponents to provide additional information, request a second evaluation process, overturn results, or find out how their submission compared to others. It is also not an appeal process. A debrief may be the first step in the Vendor Complaint Review Process.
The debriefing process should take place as soon as possible after the RFP process has concluded. More information can be found in Debriefs.
Is additional information on preparing Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Short-form Requests for Proposals (SRFP) available?
Procurement Services has developed a document, Ministry Guide to the Request for Proposals Process, which provides step-by-step guidance on preparing an RFP and includes examples of related documents, including: a sample letter to an unsuccessful proponent; a draft agenda for the Proponents’ Meeting; and a sample newspaper ad. Refer to the SRFP page for more information on the SRFP, including the scope, process and step-by-step guidance on managing an SRFP.
When can a contract be directly awarded without competition?
The direct negotiation and award of a contract of any value may be permitted if (see CPPM 6.3.3 a.1):
- The contract is with another government organization;
- The ministry can strictly prove that only one contractor is qualified, or is 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; or
- 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.
In those instances where a contract is direct awarded, the contract manager is responsible for documenting in the contract file the rationale, or the circumstances, that supports the use of one or more of the above exceptions. This documentation must be appended to the contract file and be available when requested (CPPM 6.3.3.a.2).
If, however, a contract for goods valued at $10,000 or more, or services or construction valued at $50,000 or more is intended to be awarded on the basis that there is only one vendor that can provide the services required, but this cannot be strictly proven as required in CPPM 6.3.3 a.1, a Notice of Intent must be posted on BC Bid.
More information can be found in Direct Awards.
What if the situation does not fit the direct award criteria exactly?
Ministries are expected to compete the opportunity in compliance with policy. If the specific situation does not exactly fit the direct award criteria, a competition is the usual result. However, ministries may contact Office of the Comptroller General, Procurement Governance Office (PGO) or Procurement Services Branch (PSB) for advice on a specific situation.
What about emergency purchases?
In an unforeseen emergency situation (e.g., when there is not time to requisition the goods through Procurement Services Branch (PSB) or to purchase the services through a solicitation process), policy allows ministries to directly acquire goods and services. Ministries are responsible for supporting the emergency nature of such purchases, including the reasons why the situation could not have been anticipated in advance.
Note that the expiration of a critical contract is not usually a candidate for an emergency purchase without competition, as the expiration was not unforeseen.
More information can be found in Direct Awards.
When is a Notice of Intent (NOI) required?
When a ministry is of the opinion that only one vendor is qualified to provide the goods or services, and the opportunity would otherwise be competed, the ministry must prove that no other vendor is capable, interested and available. In the absence of such proof, the ministry is required to issue an NOI if the value of the goods is $10,000 or more or $50,000 or more for services (see Core Policy sections 6.3.2.b.5 and 6.3.2.c.7). Note that some ministries may have policies to post NOIs at lower dollar thresholds.
The ministry posts an NOI on BC Bid to inform vendors that negotiations with a specified vendor will take place without a competitive process. This process is undertaken to ensure that other vendors have not been inadvertently missed. If additional qualified and interested vendors are identified through the NOI process, the opportunity must be competed.
If a ministry intends to direct award a contract to the only known vendor and the aggregate dollar value is below the applicable threshold, an NOI is not required (although a ministry can still choose to post one). If the NOI is not posted, ministries should document what efforts they made to find alternate potential vendors (e.g. internet searches, phone calls to vendors, discussions with other ministries and jurisdictions, etc.)
An NOI is specific to proving that only one vendor is interested and capable of providing the goods and/or service, and is not required when different direct award criteria apply.
More information can be found at Market Research and Notifications.
Is there a template available for the Notice of Intent (NOI)?
There is no corporate template currently available for the NOI. However, the ministry's Procurement Specialist or Procurement Services Branch (PSB) is available to help ministries prepare and post NOI documents.
More information on what to include in an NOI can be found at Market Research and Notifications.
What are pre-qualification activities?
Pre-qualification activities use a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process to pre-qualify vendors for a known or unknown opportunity(ies).
When should a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) be used?
When there is the potential for significant interest in a specific contract opportunity, the RFQ process can be used to pre-qualify vendors who will then compete on the opportunity. This can make the subsequent solicitation process more efficient as there will be fewer submissions, all of which will be from qualified proponents. It is less time consuming and fairer to proponents to evaluate several submissions from qualified proponents rather than dozens or hundreds of submissions from both qualified and unqualified proponents.
An RFQ process can also be used to create a pre-qualification list for numerous future contracting opportunities for similar services. A pre-qualified list will allow the ministry to quickly select a qualified supplier when the next opportunity arises. However, the process for selecting one of the qualified suppliers from this list for a specific contract should be explained in the RFQ document.
What can go wrong if a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is not used correctly?
Of the risks associated with the RFQ process, the following are two key areas where issues may arise.
One risk associated with the RFQ process is the mismanagement of the pre-qualification list. Policy provides that the method for selection of a qualified supplier from the pre-qualification list must be specified in the RFQ document and this selection method must be followed (CPPM 6.3.2.a.13). If the process used to select a qualified supplier is not consistent with the process explained in the RFQ document, issues of fairness and transparency may arise. Qualified suppliers who are not selected for a contract opportunity may successfully challenge a ministry’s decision to award the contract to another qualified supplier if the stated process is not followed.
A second risk with the RFQ process is using it inappropriately to request proposals. If used correctly, the RFQ process does not create any commitment on the part of the Province to enter into a contractual arrangement with any vendor who responds. The RFQ process is designed to pre-qualify one or more vendors who will be given an opportunity to compete on one or subsequent opportunities restricted to only the qualified suppliers. Pre-qualification can be the first step in a solicitation process, with subsequent steps to follow, rather than a complete solicitation process in itself.
Is there a standard Request for Qualifications (RFQ) template?
Yes, two RFQ templates are available. One template is specific to the process to select pre-qualified suppliers for a single contracting opportunity (i.e. two-part RFQ/RFP process) and the other is to establish an ongoing pre-qualified list for multiple future contracting opportunities (i.e. an ongoing list).
The templates can help ministries develop a document that:
- Provides enough information to allow vendors to understand the nature of the opportunity(ies), as well as the information and qualifications being sought in responses;
- Explains the pre-qualification process that vendors will engage in, including key terms and conditions;
- Explains whether the pre-qualification process is one stage in a multi-stage solicitation process for a specific contract opportunity or whether a pre-qualification list will result for use in multiple future opportunities;
- Includes the project requirements, evaluation criteria, mandatory selection criteria, and scoring system (which may include pass/fail scores);
- Explains the method for selecting a vendor from a pre-qualification list or the method for establishing a short-list of vendors for a subsequent competition; and
- Specifies the period during which the pre-qualification list will be valid and whether opportunities to be registered on the list will be provided continuously or at regular intervals.
More information can be found in Request for Qualifications.
Are there recommended processes for selecting a vendor from a pre-qualification list?
The process for selecting vendors from a pre-qualification list must be consistent with the process that is explained in the Request for Qualification (RFQ) document used to establish the list. Deviations from the described process would be offside of policy and could form the basis of a vendor complaint.
More information can be found in Request for Qualifications.
What are information gathering activities?
Information gathering activities are processes used to obtain information on the availability of goods or services, the availability of vendors, and the level of interest in the opportunity. These activities are not competitive processes as they are not requesting bids or proposals. Consequently, if the available tools are used correctly, information gathering activities will not result in a contract. The purpose of these activities is to obtain the information needed to assess whether a competitive process will be necessary, or appropriate, and to provide the information needed to define the requirements before moving into the competitive phase.
- Request for Information (RFI);
- Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI); and
- Notice of Intent (NOI).
An RFI, RFEI, or NOI are independent processes that may or may not lead to a solicitation process. They are intended to be used only to obtain information. Participation in an information gathering process should not guarantee participation in the subsequent solicitation.
Note: The terms RFI and RFEI are used in its corporate meaning; some ministries may use the same or similar titles for ministry templates that are used for different purpose(s). Refer to Market Research and Notifications for links to ministry-specific information.
When should a Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) be used?
The RFI and RFEI processes are designed to gather information that can help in the development of a future solicitation. They are not designed to solicit bids or proposals; therefore, they do not lead directly to a contract.
What can go wrong if a Request for Information (RFI) or Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) is not used correctly?
If the RFI and RFEI processes are followed correctly, they will not establish a legal contract: neither a Contract A (bid contract) nor a Contract B (performance contract). However, if the processes are used inappropriately to solicit bids or proposals, there is the potential to create liability to the Province. As these tools are designed to gather information, they do not contain the language that exists in solicitation tools to set out the process rules and protect the interests of the Province and vendors.
Note: The terms RFI and RFEI are used in its corporate meaning; some ministries may use the same or similar titles for ministry templates that are used for different purpose(s). Refer to Market Research and Notifications for links to ministry-specific information.
Are there standard Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) templates?
How should a Request for Information (RFI) or Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) be advertised?
An RFI or RFEI should be advertised in a manner that ensures all vendors who might be interested have an opportunity to participate. Posting the RFI or RFEI on BC Bid will achieve this goal (refer to Posting Threshold Guidelines for information on when such postings are required). In addition to posting on BC Bid, other acceptable methods include:
- Advertising in the local press or trade publications;
- Posting a notice in provincial government buildings serving the area where the work is to be undertaken (such as in the local courthouse); or
- Making an announcement in the British Columbia Gazette.
Can a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) be used to pre-qualify vendors?
The RFEI should not be used to pre-qualify vendors. Ministries should use a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the pre-qualification process as it more clearly communicates to vendors that the process is looking for qualifications, not just expressions of interest.
However, if only one vendor responds to an RFEI, the ministry can direct award to that vendor if the RFEI stated this option. In this case, the RFEI provides evidence that only one vendor can be found to deliver the goods and/or services, and the direct award is the next step but a separate process from the RFEI. Note that one response to the RFEI does not remove the obligation to post a Notice of Intent, if applicable.
Note that some ministries use a title such as Request for Expression of Interest and Qualifications, which would have a different purpose than the corporate RFEI. Refer to Market Research and Notifications for links to ministry-specific information.
When should ministries contact Procurement Services Branch (PSB) for help?
Ministries should first consult their ministry policies and procedures documentation and then contact their ministry Procurement Specialist before contacting PSB, as assistance may be available internally. If internal resources are not available, or the procurement is complicated and additional expertise is sought, contact PSB.
PSB can provide advice and assistance at any stage of a ministry’s procurement process, although results are best when they are brought into the process early. Their expertise and familiarity with procurement tools can simplify the procurement process, making it more efficient for ministries and for interested vendors.
PSB has the authority to acquire goods and services on behalf of ministries, and can run the entire procurement process for ministries.
Does Procurement Services Branch (PSB) charge for its services?
As PSB operates on a cost recovery basis, there is generally a charge for services provided. Refer to the Procurement Services Branch website, or contact PSB for specific information on their fee structure for the procurement services they provide.