Include integrity and past performance in evaluation process
Traditionally, we teach that responsiveness and responsibility are the two tests a bid must pass in order to be considered for a contract. Most organizations use a variety of criteria, considering those that only appear in the solicitation document. The usual method is to rank the bids in price order and concentrate on the lowest numeric price. The appropriate role of price is related directly to the material or service required, the specification requirements and commercial factors. All this is accomplished with a view towards best value.
The new paradigm of evaluation should include as part of the commercial factors — and our bidding population should understand this — an evaluation of integrity and past performance of the bidder as an integral part of the evaluation process. Organizations need to reserve the ability to investigate bidders’ integrity and evaluate their past performances not only on previous orders swith the organization but also with similar government organizations.
I know that, under a broad definition, integrity and past performance can be categorized under responsibility, but I’d like them to stand on their own to magnify their importance.
A public body needs to ensure that contracts are awarded to firms that meet or exceed the organization’s own standards. Not doing so could lead to fraud, shoddy workmanship, lost time and money, and severe embarrassment to the organization. Organizations need to reserve the right in their solicitation documents to hold bidders to ethical standards and to have bidders demonstrate adherence.
Achieving these standards might take the severe form of investigating federal criminal records, federal bankruptcy records, illegal activity allegations, organized crime affiliations, civil cases and media coverage. Risks include fraud, regulatory activity, sanctions and post-9/11 legislation.
You need to determine the abilities and integrity of potential and, possibly, existing vendors. You need to know prior to contract whether they have criminal records, financial troubles or business relationships that could create conflicts or be embarrassing to your organization.
Your integrity programs should be designed to hold vendors accountable to ethical standards set by you and to prevent problems that have a negative impact on your reputation and delivery of services.
You can rely on your own staff, primarily law departments and/or police departments, which have specialized databases and are authorized to conduct background checks on potential suppliers. The service can also be done by outside firms and can be obtained by competitive solicitations.
Previous performance of the bidder relates to not only performance with your organization but also with others. Your internal records should show if there had been problems with the bidder on previous orders, and the documentation should have addressed what was resolved. Lack of sufficient documentation poses a real problem to you. If there is no record of corrective action on previous contracts, the bidder can claim its performance was satisfactory. As part of your solicitation, ask for the bidder’s current work; review it for contracts with other governmental organizations, using the same size and scope as your contract as a guide; and investigate how the bidder performed for others. If your investigation and review find a less-than-satisfactory performance by the bidder on previous work, you may also reserve the right to give notice to the bidder to furnish information demonstrating to your satisfaction that their work was, in fact, satisfactory. Alternatively, they could show that circumstances that gave rise to the unsatisfactory performance have changed or will not apply to the performance of the current contract.
You are entitled to a reasonable expectation of performance by the bidder, along with these assurances, and it is the obligation of the bidder to demonstrate to your satisfaction that it can perform the work in a satisfactory manner.
Frederick Marks, CPPO, VCO, is a retired purchasing officer who has held positions as a supervising buyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as director of material management for Northern Virginia Community College. Contact Marks at [email protected]