The articles contained in this section are written to provide information that will allow departmental users to make better decisions in drafting specifications and in interfacing with the Purchasing Department. As a public entity, certain laws apply to our operations. A basic understanding of the laws will help us work together to purchase the best quality of goods and services for the University. If there is additional information that you think would be helpful, please contact the Purchasing Department at 277-2036.
Writing Specifications to Purchase What You Need
This article should assist you in developing specifications that will result in the Purchasing Department buying the goods that you want. As a state institution, we have state laws we are required to follow. A basic understanding of these laws is necessary to know what can and cannot be done.
- We are required by law to do a formal advertised bid for all goods and services over $60,000 unless it is a sole source procurement.
- We can specify a brand name item, but only to identify the level of quality or performance. If a brand name is required (i.e. for parts compatibility), this must be documented and it is then considered a sole brand procurement. This must still be bid unless we can document that the brand is available from only one source, in which case we have a sole source purchase.
- We are prohibited from writing specifications that restrict competition. This means that we cannot write our specifications so that only one brand of the item can meet the specifications.
Violating any of the above laws can result in the losing vendor filing a formal protest, which under the law stops the purchase. The Director of Purchasing must then respond to the protest, and if the vendor disagrees with our response, they can take the University to court. This can be very time consuming and can delay the purchase.
Another law that affects bidding and specifications states that the award must be made to the lowest responsible bidder. Responsible means the bidder meets all the specifications. If a vendor is low bid, but does not meet the specifications, we will not buy from them. Hence, the importance of the specifications in buying the items that you want.
In developing specifications for a purchase, there are several areas that you should review.
Physical characteristics include size, shape, material composition, color, weight, utility connections, packaging, etc. While these may seem to be very obvious, this is one area where many problems occur. Do not assume that every item similar to the one you want to buy is identical. Be specific about the things that are important to you. If you are going to set something on the counter and have 24", then state that the item can be no larger than 24". If you don't state it, a vendor can submit a bid with an item that is 24-1/8" and be considered responsive. It is important to identify critical specifications. Purchasing cannot identify critical specifications - you must. Do not assume that since you have discussed your needs with a specific vendor and they know what you want, that they will bid the item you want, even if the specifications are not complete. They may know, but another vendor may bid exactly what is specified, at a lower price, and under the law we have no choice but to award to the lowest responsible bidder.
The same concepts for physical specifications are true for performance specifications. Some areas to consider are measurement criteria, speeds, compatibility with existing equipment, ease of operations, clarity of manuals, accessibility for maintenance, reliability, etc. If something is important, state it. Do not assume that all items that meet the physical specifications will also have the same performance specifications. In buying computers, if you plan on running specific software, state that the bidder must guarantee the computer he is offering will run the software you plan on using.
There may be things that the vendor or manufacturer is responsible for that are important to you. Again, don't assume all vendors will offer the same service, delivery, etc. Things you may want to state are delivery needs, availability of parts and service, warranties, availability to technical support, installation, stock levels, financial stability, references, etc.
Assistance in Writing Specifications
The Buyers in the Purchasing Department are available to assist you in developing specifications. They have the experience and can assist you in purchasing the goods and services that meet your needs at the best available value. Our phone number is 277-2036.
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Request for Proposals: Use, Preparation, and Evaluation
This article will assist you in understanding the use, preparation, and evaluation of the Request For Proposal (RFP). The information in [ ] refers to the appropriate New Mexico Statute Annotated. (NMSA)
The Purchasing Department will generally use a Request For Proposal when factors other than price and delivery are important in the procurement. An example would be the "Installation of a Campus Fiber Optic Network." In this example successful experience installing a fiber optic network is important. The cost of materials and labor is important. The ability to schedule and coordinate the installation within zones with minimum disruption to the campus is important. There is also some design work involved. Therefore it is determined that a Request For Proposal should be used rather than an Invitation For Bid. The Purchasing Department makes the determination when a Request For Proposal should be used. [13-1-111 NMSA]
The basic sections of a Request For Proposal are Instructions to Offerors, Terms and Conditions, Scope of Work and or Background Information, Specifications, and Evaluation Criteria. Each of the sections is discussed below.
Instructions to Offerors
This section contains the basic instructions for submitting offers. It covers areas such as late submissions, faxed submissions, taxes, alternate offers, modifications, cancellations, rejection of offers, and similar items. These instructions are the same for every Request For Proposal. A copy is available from the Purchasing Department.
Terms and Conditions
This section is required. [13-1-112 NMSA, 1978] This section contains, at minimum, the UNM Terms and Conditions that appear on the back of the Purchase Order, the conflict of interest requirements, and all contractual terms and conditions applicable to the procurement. Other terms and conditions may be insurance requirements, bonding, or subcontractor approvals required.
Scope of Work/Background Information
This section is optional. If there is background information about the University or the specific project that will assist the vendor in providing a better offer, it is included. Purchasing develops this section with the using department.
This section is required.[13-1-112, NMSA, 1978] The specifications will vary based on the services to be purchased. The specification section must be directly related to the Evaluation Criteria Section. Examples of specifications are performance criteria, work to be completed, experience, qualifications of offerors, scheduling, delivery, references, financial information, service contracts, and similar items. This section can contain minimum specifications, meaning specifications that are reviewed to determine if the offeror is qualified to submit a bid. These may include experience, bonding capability, and financial status. Offerors that fail to meet the minimum specifications are not evaluated further and are declared non-responsive. The Buyers work with the using department in developing this section.
This section is required by law. The evaluation criteria must be identified in the Request For Proposal and the relative weight of the criteria must be identified. [13-1-114, NMSA 1978] A simplified example is shown below:
Quality of Offeror 30%
These criteria must directly relate to the specifications. If you don't specify something, you can't evaluate it. The weight of each criteria changes with each Request For Proposal. Each specification should fit into one of the evaluation criteria. If a specification does not fit into your evaluation criteria, you have no method of considering the vendor's response to that specification and it becomes a useless specification. The specification section is one of the more important sections of the Request For Proposal and the quality of the specifications will determine the quality of the award.
A Request For Proposal must be advertised in the legal section of the newspaper for a period of 10 days. [13-1-113 NMSA 1978] The legal ad will normally appear 3 days after the advertisement is faxed to the paper. The minimum due date for a competitive solicitation is 14 days after the draft is finalized. Generally, a Request For Proposal will have a due date of 2 to 3 weeks, but can be as long as 4-6 weeks from the date that it is mailed out to prospective offerors. The due date is determined by the complexity of the specifications and the complexity of the information the vendor is to submit.
Once the sealed offers are received, they are held until the time and due date shown in the Request For Proposal. They are then opened in Purchasing. One individual opens the offers and another individual records and witnesses the opening. The opening is not open to the public. The using department is invited to attend.
Following the evaluation, negotiations may be conducted with the Offeror(s) found to reasonably be selected for award. [13- -115 NMSA, 1978]
The New Mexico State Procurement Code states: "The contents of any proposal shall not be disclosed so as to be available to competing offerors during the negotiation process." [13-1-116 NMSA, 1978.]
If you are participating in the evaluation of a Request For Proposal, either as the user or as part of a committee, you must obey this law. This can include information as to the number of offerors. This is not a University regulation, it is state law. The University and its employees are required to follow this law. This law does prevent the Purchasing Department from making public the information received from offerors prior to the award. The information cannot be released until an award is made. An award is considered to be made when the purchase order is issued.
Any offeror who is aggrieved in connection with a Request For Proposal or award has the right to submit a protest within 15 calendar days from the date they are aware of the facts giving rise to the protest. [13-1-172, NMSA, 1978]. If a timely protest is received, the purchase cannot proceed until the protest is resolved, unless the University can show that the contract is necessary to protect substantial interests of the University. [13-1-173, NMSA, 1978]. Purchasing notifies the offerors of the award at the time the purchase order is issued. This is generally considered the start of the 15 day period. It is important you process the requisition immediately after the award decision is made so that the purchase order is issued and the protest period begins. Any protests received are responded to by the Director of Material Management and Purchasing.
The Buyers in the Purchasing Department are experts in the use of the Request For Proposal. They do over 50 every year. They can help you draft the specifications and evaluation criteria so that you get offers that meet your needs. They can help develop the evaluation criteria in a manner that results in the most qualified vendor receiving the award. Proper development of the evaluation criteria can make the evaluation process easier and quicker. Please involve the Buyers early in any project that will require a competitive solicitation. They will work with you to help you purchase the best services to meet your requirements. Our best procurements are those that involve both the using department and the Purchasing Department at the beginning of the project.
If you have any questions regarding the use, preparation, or evaluation of a Request For Proposal, please call the Purchasing Department at 277-2036.
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