FAQs for Conducting Bid Evaluations
February 26, 2016
~ Sample Bid Evaluation Matrix Attached ~
Congratulations to the 724 PA schools and libraries that filed Form 470′s for FY 2016! After the Form 470 is posted, there is a mandatory 28 day (minimum) waiting period during which vendors may submit proposals to you for consideration and/or contact you for more information relating to the services you listed on your Form 470. Then, on the 29th day after your Form 470 was posted (called the Allowable Contract Date) or after, you may select a vendor, sign a contract (unless purchasing a MTM service) and submit the Form 471.
Below is a list of bid evaluation FAQs based on the questions you’ve been sending me over the last few weeks.
How do you determine your Allowable Contract Date?
The Allowable Contract Date (ACD) is the 29th day after you hit submit on your Form 470, and is the first date that you are permitted to hit submit on your Form 471 (29 days include weekends and holidays). To find out your exact ACD (without logging into EPC), go to https://data.usac.org/publicreports/Form470Rfp/index and search by your Billed Entity Number. (You also have to select PA as the state, and select all for the applicant type and service type in order for the search to return results). The search results will be at the bottom of the page and will show the Allowable Contract Date (ACD), and will give a link to the 470 PDF and any uploaded RFP documents.
Where can you find a copy of your Form 470 without logging into EPC?
The same search results to find your Allowable Contract Date will also provide you with a link to your Form 470 PDF and any RFP documents you have uploaded. Go to https://data.usac.org/publicreports/Form470Rfp/index and search by your Billed Entity Number. (You also have to select PA as the state, and select all for the applicant type and service type in order for the search to return results). The search results will be at the bottom of the page and will show the Allowable Contract Date (ACD), and will give a link to the 470 PDF and any uploaded RFP documents.
Are you required to respond to vendors that contact you for the first time after the 28-day waiting period?
No. But you may do so as long as you afford all vendors the same opportunity.
Are you required to meet with vendors?
No. Applicants are not required to meet with vendors or view product demonstrations.
What should you do if you received no bids for a service listed on our 470?
If you don’t receive any bids after your 28-day waiting period, you can contact one or more service providers to solicit a bid(s) or if it’s an existing service, you can choose to remain with your incumbent provider and use a recent invoice as the bid response. You are not required to seek more than one bid, but if you only get one bid, you must make sure it’s cost effective. The only exception to this is for Category 2 equipment which costs between $10,500 – $19,400 in which case you must seek 3 telephonic bids (does not apply to services).
Are you required to answer vendor questions?
Yes, you are required to answer questions to the best of your ability when those questions are relevant to the Form 470. But if your Form 470 contains the information being asked, or your Form 470 contained specific instructions that vendors must follow to pose questions and the vendor did not follow your instructions, you are not required to re-answer those questions and may simply refer the vendor to your Form 470 or RFP.
Do we have to select the lowest-cost bid?
This depends on whether you’re bidding equipment or services.
…Services: You are NOT required to select the lowest bid. You ARE required to select the most cost effective proposal with price of eligible services being the most heavily weighted factor (which means that if you have 3 evaluation criteria, price of eligible services must be at least 34% of the total weight.) Many other factors besides price may be considered, for example (this is not an exhaustive list):
- vendor qualifications/experience
- minority business status
- in-state preference
- existing relationship with school
- references from other school customers
- cost of ineligible services/equipment (such as new cell phones required to run on vendor’s network)
- staff time required to change IP addresses, etc.
…Equipment: It depends:
– IF…you released a 470/RFP and are NOT using the PEPPM Mini-Bid process: PA procurement law requires that you select the lowest responsible bidder (basically low-bid). You are not permitted to consider additional bid evaluation criteria as suggested above. However, you are permitted to outline strict bid disqualification criteria in your 470/RFP that vendors must meet in order to be considered a qualified bid. The disqualification criteria must be able to be answered in a Yes/No fashion (such as: do they have a SPIN, do they receive good references, do they have E-rate experience, have they been in business for X number of years, have they submitted all of the required documents, etc.).
– IF… you released a PEPPM Mini-Bid (whereby you do not release a 470/RFP): You are NOT required to select low bid and your evaluation standard is based on the E-rate “most cost effective proposal” standard. You and are permitted to consider additional bid evaluation factors just as you are with services. In addition, you also are permitted to outline strict bid disqualification criteria in your PEPPM Mini-Bid that vendors must meet in order to be considered a qualified bid. The disqualification criteria must be able to be answered in a Yes/No fashion (such as: do they have a SPIN, do they receive good references, do they have E-rate experience, have they been in business for X number of years, have they submitted all of the required documents, etc.).
How do you score the cost in a bid evaluation?
The fairest way to score cost is to calculate a weight based on the difference between a proposal’s cost and the lowest proposal’s cost. For example, you would divide the second lowest cost by the lowest cost to assign a weight %. Then that weight % would be multiplied by the total available points assigned to cost. Attached is a bid evaluation template which shows how the calculations work. Be sure to fill-in your own evaluation criteria and scoring system.
Do you have to create a bid evaluation matrix?
In all E-rate audits I’ve seen thus far, applicants are expected to have either a memo to file indicating no bids were received, or a bid evaluation worksheet showing how they selected their vendors. In addition, the new SPIN change procedures require applicants wishing to switch vendors to submit a copy of their bid evaluation worksheet to prove that you have selected the vendor with the next highest score in your Form 470 evaluation process. Also, the new, required Contracts Module in EPC requires you to list the # of bids received which is easy to determine if you have created a good bid evaluation matrix for each procurement.
Do I have to keep the losing proposals?
Yes! You must keep the winning AND losing proposals for a period of 11 years.
Are you required to notify the losing vendors?
It’s not an E-rate requirement, but is a good idea so vendors know where they stand (and so they will stop contacting you!)
Are you required to release information related to the winning and losing proposals?
This is not an E-rate requirement, but for public schools, it is considered public information and must be provided if someone submits a formal Right to Know request through the appropriate process.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!