7 Common Bidder Issues

At a session I attended a couple of years ago the City of Mississauga’s procurement department identified these common bidder issues.

  • How to find bid opportunities
  • Who to Contact
  • Onerous Requirement & Lengthy Bid Documents
  • Not enough information
  • Not enough time permitted to respond
  • Bid Rejections – doing all the work only to have it rejected
  • Perception of Secrecy

Sound familiar? I imagine you can all relate to these concerns and they are often the very reasons why many consultants and professionals shy away from, or simply no longer respond to, price-based RFPs for professional services. Detailed pricing just takes a lot of time and responding to a RFP can cost respondents a lot of money in lost time alone.

This is the first in a series of informational articles/blogs on these common bidder issues.  I will be tackling each of these issues separately and will be offering suggestions on how you can address them throughout the series.

The first one:

How to Find Bid Opportunities

Municipalities have limited advertising budgets so the days of posting their bid opportunities in the local paper have all but disappeared, except perhaps where required under a trade agreement or their own procurement by-law. The reason is that hard copy advertising is probably the most costly way for municipalities to advertise bid opportunities – plus it’s not a very effective way either because the ads don’t necessarily reach their target audience – which is the professionals they want to respond.

Most municipalities now have a Bids/Tenders section on their own municipal websites and they will post any bid opportunities they have in that location of their own website. This works well if you’re a local consultant who only wants to work in a geographic area near your business but it would be far too time-consuming to check 444 individual municipal websites daily for new bid opportunities.

To get broader exposure for their bid opportunities, and ultimately to acquire more competitive quotes, many municipalities now post their RFPs on outside websites – like muniSERV.ca, specifically designed for RFPs for consulting/professionals services, or bids&tenders, etc. for construction and other RFPs.  This enhances openness and transparency in the procurement process, helps municipalities target their advertising directly to the professionals/vendors they’re trying to reach and increases the number and quality of quotes they receive.  Bidders pay a fee to use such sites but they do help professionals/vendors find and access hundreds of bid opportunities daily – plus they offer automated email notifications that will notify members when a RFP has been posted that matches the service they provide.

How a municipality advertises their bid opportunities varies but it should be set out in their procurement or purchasing by-law, or in a policy that forms part of their procurement by-law. Most municipalities will have their procurement/purchasing by-law posted in the by-law section of their websites, so if you want to check how a specific municipality in which you’re looking for work advertises their bid opportunities, you can get a copy of their procurement by-law from their website.

Larger projects with certain value thresholds which are subject to certain trade agreements will have specific advertising and notice requirements. Under such agreements procurement opportunities must be advertised for a minimum number of days, irrespective of the advertising method used. Again, the project value thresholds, the number of days and how they will be advertised can be found in the municipality’s purchasing/procurement by-law.

In the municipal sector procurement is a dynamic, sometimes complex process. It is governed by contract law as well as various statutes.

But as you can see there are a variety of ways to find bid opportunities. It all comes down to your preferred method and the time and money you want to spend on finding them.

Susan Shannon is Principal of muniSERV.ca.  Earlier in her career she was a municipal Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and as a result she understands first-hand the challenges faced by both municipalities and professionals/vendors in public sector procurement.  Connect and follow her on LinkedIn, join the muniSERV LinkedIn Group or reach her at 855 477 5095 or [email protected].