…well, maybe not – but there is a link.
Governments must learn to seek the best, be reasonable and decisive and decide fast.
Competition is a goal or result in which the best suppliers vie to win government contracts, with the eventual contractor being the best fit for the job.
There are business reasons why this may not happen. “Best” suppliers may be committed to other work; perhaps the work is in a location that a “best” supplier cannot support efficiently; a job may be too small or too big.
Government buyers cannot control supplier business decisions but their actions can dissuade suppliers from bidding, and therefore be anti-competitive.
Buyers often have the attitude: “I buy, I set the rules. If you don’t like them I will find someone else.” For example, a recent procurement specified a completion date. That alone could have made it impossible for some already-committed “best” suppliers to bid. No contract was awarded. A new call for bids had to be issued, with a new completion date, meaning program delay with time and money lost. What value or relevance, then, the original supposed completion date? What if a potential bidder in the first process had requested some date flexibility so it could bid? When a potential bidder asks for flexibility or suggests other changes to a procurement bid, a modification may give more competition, a better-fit contractor and better program results.
Do organizations value fast bid evaluation? More likely they drag the process out: evaluators are busy, and besides the bids are valid for months, so what’s the rush?
Every day costs bidders money. In bidding they undertake to do the work if they win the contract (the Contract A link). That means keeping resources available “in case”: it costs money for resources to sit and wait. It is high risk for a bidder to go after other contract opportunities using the same resources: what if it ends up winning two contracts, and an impossible obligation to use the same resources on both? Conversely, by not bidding on multiple opportunities a supplier may end up with no work.
Delays cost government buyers as well. Prudent suppliers pass up opportunities in order to maintain their readiness to carry out other contracts. Each pass decreases the buyer’s likelihood of finding the “best fit” contractor. Program delivery and budget may suffer. Suppliers may bid but increase their prices to recuperate some of their “waiting time” costs, with the result that governments pays more for the same thing. Aggressive bidders may win overlapping contracts – they split their resources between both or use replacements, and both buyers risk “B Team” results.
For example, suppose a supplier bids for a large contract, certain it has no conflicts of interest. While the bids are being evaluated … and evaluated … and evaluated, one of that supplier’s proposed sub-contractors receives another very small contract with the same program. After our hypothetical bidder is evaluated as the “best fit,” someone in the contract award decision chain learns of the second contract, decides that it could constitute a potential conflict of interest, and despite making reasonable proposals to remedy the situation, the successful bidder is pitched.
Had the first evaluation been completed quickly the problem might not have arisen: with the contract awarded before the alleged conflict arose, the buyer would have had the “best fit” contractor. Instead, the buyer denied itself the benefit of a known “best fit” contractor, based on nervousness about “could” and “possible.”
Of greater concern, our hypothetical bidder was pitched because of an after-the-fact event that could not have had any impact on the development of the bid or the integrity of the evaluation. Is it fair or reasonable to take post facto events into account, when standard procurement practice (and Contract A) requires bid evaluation based only on what is in the bid? If the bidder proposes possible solutions, such as removing the “conflicted” resource from its team and re-evaluation based on the rest of its proposal, is it reasonable for the buyer to refuse because it would be bid repair? Sounds more like bid destruction.
Allowing extraneous and/or after the fact information to alter bid evaluation results cannot but undermine supplier confidence. That increases buyer risk with fewer bids, less likelihood of finding the best fit contractor, negative impact on program delivery and increased cost.
These three examples undermine the spirit, integrity and benefits of competition. Buyers need to be confident that their procurement activities are not having the same effect.