Public Procurement entities across the globe have been struggling to keep up with the demands of the present day. When it comes to complex technology acquisitions, they find it nearly impossible to bring the value expected by stakeholders. As stakeholders are looking for interactive evaluation processes, the RFX/bidding processes of the past are not providing them with what they need.
In Canada, we have been observing the concept of the “Negotiated RFP” since at least the mid-2010s. The public entities in Canada have been trying for a while to balance between the need for speed and the need to maintain a fair, competitive, and transparent process. What is the Negotiated RFP though?
By definition, a negotiated procurement is any non-sealed bidding procurement that is above the simplified acquisition threshold. More importantly, negotiated procurement contracts can be awarded based on factors other than price if competing contractors are so notified in the Request for Proposal. The Canadian Trade Commissioner’s site offers some more guidance on how it works (for more info check https://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/sell2usgov-vendreaugouvusa/research-recherche/acqui_solic-soumi_cont.aspx?lang=eng#negoc_proc-cont_negoc):
• After receipt of proposals, one or more (subject matter experts review and “score” proposals. A report is sent to the Contracting Officer.
• Discussions may be held during the negotiated procurement process and competing contractors may be given an opportunity to change their proposals. Competing contractors are notified in the RFP as to whether the government intends to conduct discussions or intends to make an award without discussion. No discussions are ever held for sealed bids.
• If the RFP so informs, awards can be made after the initial evaluation of proposals and without holding discussions.
• If discussions are held, the government may select only the highest-rated proposals for these discussions. This grouping is called “the competitive range” and is sometimes referred to by contractors as “the short list”. Offerors not included in the competitive range are so notified, and they are told that revisions to their proposals will not be entertained.
• FAR Part 15 (here is the link if you want more detail on the legislation https://www.acquisition.gov/far/part-15) requires any discussion held to be “meaningful”. The U.S. Contracting Officer is required to address during a discussion deficiencies and significant weaknesses in the proposals and is encouraged to discuss other weaknesses.
• During discussions, competing contractors may be dropped from the competitive range when they no longer have a realistic opportunity to receive an award.
• Those still in the competitive range will be given an opportunity to submit a final revised proposal (a best and final offer).
• Following receipt of final revisions, proposals are re-evaluated, and a selection is made.
It is a process worth thinking about, as it provides leverage that the public entity otherwise does not have. Negotiated RFPs can really allow for innovation to become a priority. In practice public officers in Canada need to execute a very rigorous process and make sure that they do it without breaking public procurement rules.
For the rest of the world, this approach is another one that you can consider as you are trying to answer to the question of “how are we going to procure technology effectively in this rigid world?”. Maybe the N-RFP is not part of your legislation today, if you think it is interesting maybe it is time to push for something like that.