Common Procurement Questions
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This page provides answers to the most common procurement questions and answers the Public Transportation Division (PTN) receives.

1. What is the difference between an Invitation for Bid (IFB) and Request for Proposal (RFP)?

An Invitation for Bid (IFB) is a sealed bid and the most common method used in the public sector to obtain specific goods, such as vehicles and equipment. This method is typically used when complete specifications or purchase descriptions are available or can be easily developed. The IFB process must involve two or more bidders and the award is made to the bidder who complies with the requirements and instructions of the IFB, and who offers the lowest total bid price while meeting all specifications and requirements.

This type of procurement usually includes a design specification. Design specifications are a detailed description of the product.

Advantages
  • Award process is simpler. 
  • In determining best value, price and whether the goods or services meet specifications are the most important considerations.
Disadvantages
  • Defined specifications may be difficult to develop. 
  • Does not encourage innovative solutions. 
  • Negotiations are not allowed if there is more than one responsive bidder. 
Request for Proposal (RFP) is a competitive procurement method when a general, rather than specific, description of goods and /or services is used. This method allows for the procurement of goods and /or services in which every detail of the work to be done cannot be specified and/or when creativity on the part of the proposer is desired.

This type of procurement usually includes a performance specification. Performance specifications describe how the end product should perform or what should be achieved at the project’s conclusion.

Advantages
  • Allows for customized proposals suggesting different approaches to the same business need. 
  • Allows for negotiations. 
  • Considerations in addition to price are used to determine best value. 
Disadvantages
  • Lead time for procurement is much greater. 
  • Evaluations tend to be more complex.
2. How much communication should we have with potential vendors?

The level of communication depends on the procurement stage; at the onset, there are two stages where Subrecipients may community with potential vendors:

  • Pre-Bid Conference: A pre-bid/offer/proposal conference occurs after solicitation issuance and before the solicitation closing deadline. A conference provides a forum for potential respondents to pose questions about the solicitation in a face-to-face setting or by conference call or web conference. It also provides an opportunity for vendors to develop subcontracting relationships and lets the agency gauge industry interest in the procurement.

  • Question and Answer Period: As a best practice, solicitations should include a formal process for potential vendors to submit questions to the subrecipient to clarify their understanding of the solicitation. Additionally, the solicitation must specify the due date when questions must be submitted to the agency as well as the anticipated release date of the subrecipient’s answers. Once the subrecipient’s responses are finalized, the question and answer document must be published with the solicitation as a solicitation addendum. The document should include all vendor questions as they were submitted.

After these stages are complete, all communication should be made only through the subrecipient’s designated procurement staff as outlined in the solicitation. If a potential respondent contacts staff other than the designed staff outlined in the solicitation, the staff member should politely decline to discuss the procurement and forward the inquiry to the assigned person.

3. If a vendor provides the Independent Cost Estimate (ICE), can they submit a bid for the RFP/IFB?

A potential vendor should not be contacted to provide ICE information. Contacting them could give them an unfair advantage in the procurement process over other vendors because they now have knowledge of the exact item being procured in advance of other vendors. ICE information should be obtained using the following methods:

  • published price lists
  • historical pricing
  • comparable purchased by other agencies
  • engineering estimates
  • independent third-party estimates
4. What is considered a cardinal change?

Cardinal changes are major deviations from the original purpose of the work or the intended method of achievement, or a revision of contract work so extensive, significant, or cumulative that, in effect, the contractor is required to perform very different work from that described in the original contract.

5. What should I have within my procurement files?

Your procurement file will vary depending on the project; however, here is a list of items that are required for most procurements. The subrecipient shall determine which are appropriate for their procurement:

  • Procurement justification with grant information.
  • An independent cost estimate (ICE).
  • The procurement plan and timeline (if required).
  • Statement of work or specifications. 5. Sole Source Justification (if applicable).
  • Solicitation documents, revised solicitation documents, and any addendums.
  • Written procurement concurrence from TxDOT PTN.
  • Evidence of procurement advertisement.
  • Pre-bid or proposal conference and/or any solicitation questions and answers.
  • Signed acknowledgement of any solicitation on amendments from Vendors.
  • Open Bid opening documentation.
  • Cost or Price Analysis “fair and reasonable” price determination.
  • Single Bid Justification, if applicable.
  • Proposed contractor’s “responsibility” determination; this include SAM.gov and Texas Debarment & Suspension.
  • Negotiation Memorandum (if applicable), otherwise insert documentation concerning clarifications or discussions and/or oral presentations (if held).
  • Signed federal/state clauses and certifications.
  • If applicate, submit a copy of the Board’s procurement approval.
  • The Notice of Intent to Award the contract.
  • Any protest letters, decisions, or other related documents.
  • The signed and conformed contract.
  • Any contract modifications and documents supporting such modifications.
  • Documentation related to any option exercises including related contract modifications.
  • Contractor-submitted data and reports.
  • Correspondence/documentation related to complaints or contractor performance.
  • Any documentation concerning pre-award or post-award Mistakes in Bid.
  • Any applicable Invoices and Payment Vouchers.
  • TXDOT PTN procurement correspondence that has not been filed.
  • Any pertinent contract administration correspondence between the subrecipient and the Contractor.
  • Any pertinent correspondence/documents concerning contract close-out.at happens if I only receive a single Bid?
6. What happens if I only receive a single Bid?

If a single bid is received, you should determine if competition was adequate or inadequate. The situation of a single bid received after a competitive solicitation is addressed in the FTA Circular 4220.1F, at Ch. VI, Section 3.i.(1)(b)2. If you find that competition was inadequate because of a restrictive specification that only one offeror could meet, then you must process this as a sole source contract award and obtain the requisite agency approvals prior to award.

As a best practice, a subrecipient should contact the companies that were solicited to find out why they did not submit bids. If there was a problem with the specifications being restrictive, then you have inadequate competition and must fix the problem and re-solicit. The mere fact that only one bid was received does not automatically mean competition was inadequate since many unrelated factors could cause potential sources not to submit a bid or proposal.

7. Can I put a geographic preference in my RFP?

FTA Circular 4220.1F, Chapter VI, 2. a. (4) (g) prohibits geographical restrictions when evaluating all bids and proposals except for Architectural and Engineering and certain disaster or emergency relief contracts.

8. When is it appropriate to use a sole source procurement?

When the recipient requires supplies or services available from only one responsible source, and no other supplies or services will satisfy its requirements, the recipient may make a sole source award. When the recipient requires an existing contractor to make a change to its contract that is beyond the scope of that contract, the recipient has made a sole source award that must be justified under one of the bases below.

Grantees have the authority to make sole-source subcontract awards under certain conditions as discussed in FTA Circular 4220.1F, Chapter VI, Pages VI-16 through 20.

9. Can I use a cooperative agreement from another state?

Section 3019 of the Fast Act allows grantees to purchase rolling stock and related equipment via cooperative procurement contracts. A “cooperative procurement contract” means a contract entered into between a State government or eligible nonprofit entities and 1 or more vendors under which the vendors agree to provide an option to purchase rolling stock and related equipment to multiple participants. The contract term for a cooperative procurement contract may be for an initial term of not more than two years and may include three optional extensions of one year each.

  • Prior to purchasing rolling stock or related equipment from a state contract, it is the subrecipient’s responsibility to verify the procurement complies with all applicable federal and state clauses.
10. How long do I need to keep contract related documents?

All procurement documents are public information and must be maintained by the subrecipient for at least three years after grant closeout, or, in the case of a capital project, the life of the asset plus three years

11. Do I need to seek approval from my Public Transportation Coordinator (PTC) before issuing a solicitation?

If your proposed purchase meets the procurement threshold, you will need to request concurrence from your PTC prior to issuing the solicitation and at every stage of the procurement process.

12. Since Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) is considered a cooperative agreement, can I use federal dollars to purchase items from their website?

Under the HGAC agreement, the actual purchase of vehicles is accomplished by HGAC members negotiating with participating vendors and placing purchase orders based on the prices listed in the HGAC agreement. However, given the requirements for full and open competition, FTA grantees are not free to simply place an order with a preferred vendor on a sole source basis based on a vendor’s catalog price. This would be a sole source procurement on the part of the grantee rather than a procurement using full and open competition.

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