Procurement Manual

Appendix A - Evaluation Committee Formation and Procedures

The following outlines all the details needed to form and work through the committee procurement process.

Functions of the Committee

  1. Determine and Apply Evaluation Criteria
  2. Evaluate Proposals Individually and/or Discuss
  3. Rank and/or Develop a Shortlist
  4. Interview/Obtain Clarifications
  5. Recommend Award

Where does the committee begin?

The evaluation committee first reviews all of the relevant information (e.g., scope of work, purchase description/specifications) and develops weighted evaluation criteria that will establish the standards by which to measure how well an offeror’s approach meets the needs of the requesting department or the RFPs performance requirements.

The establishment of these criteria is critical, since only those standards listed in the RFP can be considered in the evaluation of competing offers.

The second major task of the committee is to agree upon a scoring method to rate or rank the offers. Once a scoring system has been devised, it must be impartially applied to each proposal.

What are the next steps?

Clarify each member’s role on the committee and establish a work plan and schedule that includes clear milestone dates. The committee must review the solicitation documents (Request for Bids or Request for Proposals) and then review procedures to be used during the process. At the request of the department or school needing the goods/services, the Procurement representative may serve as the committee chair. Committee members should work out an acceptable workload arrangement with their supervisor in order to allow time for committee activities. Management must be supportive of all the arrangements so that committee members can adequately fulfill their evaluation duties. 

What does the committee chair have to do?

The chair of the evaluation committee (i.e., Procurement representative or school/department representative) is charged with the responsibility of assuring that the committee’s actions are in accordance with all GW policies and applicable guidelines. The chair establishes a timetable for evaluation activities and assumes the responsibility for keeping activities on schedule. If necessary, intervention by management to assist in enforcing the completion of scheduled events can be solicited. The chair is responsible for scheduling and coordinating the activities of the evaluation committee; however, these efforts can be negated if the committee members are not cooperative and do not make the required time commitment to committee activities. Participation on an evaluation committee is a priority effort.

The chair also arranges the time, date and place for any oral sessions that the committee feels are necessary and notifies the offerors. The offerors are individually scheduled to appear before the committee; and all other offerors are normally barred from attendance unless prohibited by law. It is customary for the committee to ask a certain set of questions that apply to all the offerors invited to oral sessions in addition to specific questions that are directed to specific offerors. 

Other Key Roles

Procurement Department School/Departmental Representative and Other Technical Party's Role
  • Serve as Committee Chair when requested (Administrative);
  • Votes, if voting member;
  • Ensures integrity of procurement system;
  • Ensures compliance with RFP requirements;
  • Schedules Committee meetings;
  • Schedules supplier interviews;
  • Keeps minutes and files;
  • Corresponds with RFP respondents; and
  • Negotiates financial issues.
  • Serve as Committee Chair when requested (Administrative);
  • Votes, if voting member;
  • Develop scope of work and technical requirements;
  • Develop budget estimates;
  • Develop technical questions for orals;
  • Negotiate technical RFP aspects; and
  • Provide overall technical input.

What is the Evaluation Committee Code of Conduct?

  • Committee membership obligates the individual to both a commitment of judgment as well as time. Participants serving on a committee evaluating proposals are morally bound to be as objective and fair as possible, since these decisions impact the expenditure of university funds and the business livelihood of the offerors in the private sector. Members should also be prepared to make a priority commitment of time, since a timely turnaround on award recommendation is important. 
  • Committee members should exhibit a competent, non-authoritarian attitude in representing the university’s position on any particular procurement. There should be a strong resolution as to the needs and interests of the university from the very beginning of the procurement. Members should be reasonable, open-minded, and willing to entertain and consider suggestions and compromises that could ultimately result in a better contract for the university. Internal committee deliberations over the merits of proposals should be constructive discussions. Members have the right to voice their opinions to either make or refute a point.
  • Evaluation committee members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times when dealing with prospective offerors, actual offerors, or the general public. The opportunities for outside interaction can present themselves a number of times. Pre-solicitation conferences, proposal openings and oral presentations are typical examples of outside interaction. 
  • Inherent in committee membership is a trust that all proceedings be held in confidence until final contract award is a matter of record. The only information a committee member is obligated to divulge to an outside party is a reconfirmation of the contents of the evaluation committee selection report. This document is the official statement of the deliberations and decision-making process within any committee. In practice, all outside questions relating to any area of the procurement process should be referred to the committee chair.
  • Individual committee members are responsible for defending their own vote. A voting committee member is charged with recommending the award of a contract to the offeror who gives the best proposal response to the university’s RFP.

What is the optimal composition of the committee and what are their crucial tasks? 

The evaluation committee is often comprised of university staff; however, other knowledgeable people may be on the committee. The committee should include both technical and administrative personnel and, if appropriate, should include user department staff and persons from other departments. The committee may include individuals outside the university who bring a special expertise to the process. Members of the evaluation committee or their immediate family shall not have any financial interest in or any personal relationship with any of the offerors.

If requested, Procurement will help coordinate the selection of committee members and assign tasks.

Upon formation of the evaluation committee, the chair will convene a meeting to provide instruction and direction on the process, role, responsibilities and requirements of the committee/team. Typically, the chair and the end-user determine the composition of the committee. To ensure integrity in the process as well as fair and open competition, the committee members will be instructed to retain all evaluation documents; including worksheets, evaluation forms, and notes during the evaluation. These will be returned to the chair for future reference and referral. Committee members will also be instructed to individually and independently evaluate, score and rank proposals by applying the same objective criteria and to refrain from discussion with any other member during the evaluation process until which time the committee meets as a whole to discuss their individual ratings and rankings. 

Committee members are encouraged to take as many notes as they feel necessary when reading through proposals. Not only does it help them to mentally organize the information, but also aids in any recap required to come up with final scoring. In addition, the notes become a quick reference tool to an individual when the committee meets as a group to discuss each proposal.

What is the best way to establish the evaluation plan?

The first step in developing the evaluation plan is to identify parameters to be used in the solicitation method. These parameters will measure the most important aspects of the offerors proposals. Weighted rating factors are then assigned to the parameters which become the evaluation criteria and must reflect the relative importance of each factor in the overall evaluation. By reviewing the proposed weighting at this stage, Procurement can help the end-user ensure that the most significant factors drive the choice of the recommended offeror. Again the relative weighting of each component will differ for each RFP issuance. Finally, the plan must indicate which offeror selection method will be used.

To establish the evaluation plan, considerable collaboration with and input from the end-user must be secured. Consensus among all interested parties as to the manner in which proposals will be evaluated, as well as the process and methods used must be achieved prior to the commencement of the solicitation.

The purpose of the evaluation process is to identify the most responsive proposal and to ensure sufficient accurate information is included to make a sound decision. A well-defined and thorough RFP will result in a solicitation with multiple responses. Inclusion of the evaluation method and criteria within the RFP is vital to achieving proposals that will meet the objective of the solicitation.

What is the best way to establish the evaluation criterion?

RFP award decisions are based on the proposal affording the best value - in other words, not only on the price but also on technical quality and other factors of the proposal. Therefore, fair evaluations based on clearly defined evaluation criteria are very important. These criteria, including price and non-price factors, weights and values by category, minimum upset score by category, where appropriate, and the evaluation matrix, should appear in the RFP document. At a minimum, the order of importance of the criteria should be stated.

Evaluation criteria are designed to determine which competing proposal represents the best value or the optimum balance between price and quality. Consider having a combination of minimum mandatory criteria as well as rated criteria. Evaluation criteria should relate directly to:

  • The proposer’s understanding of the requirement;
  • Experience of the offeror in providing services of similar size and scope;
  • Professional qualifications and experience of the resources being proposed; and
  • The proposed approach, work plan or solution.

Procurement staff can provide guidance on the most appropriate way to factor in price for your specific requirement. Always do a sensitivity analysis to ensure that the most relevant or important criteria drive the decision.

Steps in the Evaluation Process

While the evaluation process is slightly different for every RFP, a strong similarity can be anticipated. Typically there are five steps in the process:

  1. Review for inclusion of mandatory requirements;
  2. Discussions for clarification;
  3. Preliminary evaluation;
  4. Tentative cost evaluation; and
  5. Discussion with responsible offerors for best and final offers.

There are a number of important responsibilities for Procurement and the Departmental/School employees to take note of. First is the review of proposals for completeness – or “determination of responsiveness.”

When the university solicits proposals through the RFP process, any and all contractual terms and provisions may be subject to negotiation. Accordingly, the university is permitted greater latitude in considering proposals that fail to conform to the requirements of the solicitation or which qualify their response or suggest alternatives to the university’s stated requirements. It is the soliciting department’s responsibility to review all timely proposals to determine their responsiveness.

The university must determine whether or not the omission of any requirement of the solicitation document or modification thereof is material. Such a determination cannot be made without considering the possibility of waiving these deviations as possible minor technicalities. This interpretation is based on the professional judgment of the procurement official in conjunction with the end user and legal department.

To review when proposals will typically be deemed to be non-responsive see section 5.5 in this manual. Examples of minor irregularities and informalities include but are not limited to the failure of an offeror to:

  • Provide information concerning the number of its employees;
  • Return the number of copied, signed offers required by the solicitation;
  • Furnish affidavits concerning parent company and affiliates;
  • Failure to provide required insurance documents;
  • Failure to provide requested samples; and
  • Failure to return the proposal addendum or amendment, if on the face of the offeror’s submittal, it is apparent to procurement that the offeror was aware of the addendum and their proposal was submitted in accordance therewith.

The university or the offeror may initiate clarifications to eliminate minor irregularities or apparent clerical mistakes. However it is the university’s responsibility to verify any variances between the offeror’s proposal and the RFP.

The university has the right to reject proposals that cannot be made responsive. Although the university has greater flexibility in the case of RFPs than in the case of Bids, certain mandatory requirements may be essential to the performance of the contract. This includes insurance requirements, license requirements and certain types of certifications. The determination of responsiveness must consider whether the offeror is capable of meeting these requirements in an acceptable time frame prior to any contract award.

Following the determination of responsiveness, all proposals received should be screened for compliance with mandatory requirements. Any discrepancies will be noted, along with proposals that are non-conforming, once the initial review is completed. 

If the offeror provides sufficient evidence within their response submission that it intends to comply with all mandatory terms and conditions prior to award of the contract, the evaluation committee may waive the non-compliance as a minor irregularity. It is highly unusual for a proposal not to comply with mandatory requirements. An offeror who fails to meet a mandatory submittal requirement is usually eliminated from further consideration with regard to the RFP. The decision to eliminate a proposal submission must be thoroughly documented to justify the committee’s decision. 

Mandatory requirements must be clearly stated in the RFP. These requirements may be administrative, such as “Proposals are due by April 3 and must be received no later than 3:00 pm, at the specified location.” These requirements may be technical in nature, identifying a critical feature or functional capability. For RFPs with mandatory requirements, the evaluation process will be a two-step process. The committee first examines each offer’s stated ability to satisfy the mandatory requirements. Offers unable to meet these standards are eliminated from further consideration. Once compliance is determined, the committee members assign a score to each proposal based on the evaluation criteria defined in the RFP.

A mandatory condition is a requirement that must be met without alteration. One example is the submission of the proposal by a specified time. If it is late, it is usually returned to the supplier unopened. Another example is a requirement that the offeror must provide 24-hour emergency service. To ensure that offerors do not miss mandatory requirements scattered throughout the RFP, all of the mandatory requirements should be identified in one section of the RFP. Many evaluators can be uncomfortable eliminating an offeror from further consideration for failure to satisfy a mandatory condition, especially when the contract specialist deems the requirement to be only “highly desirable.” It is incumbent upon Procurement to ensure that mandatory requirements are precisely defined and must be essential elements for the success of the project.

The process of proposal rejection is awkward and sometimes embarrassing when the mandatory requirements are unclear and could be interpreted in several ways. In order to compensate for error, all proposals may be declared to be responsive, examine the actual requirement more closely, and seek clarification from the offerors. Committee members should evaluate each proposal on its merits. Failing to deal properly with mandatory requirements may lead to litigation.

Proposals sent to the Evaluation Committee

Following the review for responsiveness, proposals will be distributed to the evaluation committee. Generally each committee member will review a proposal in its entirety. Occasionally, a subject matter expert will do a special review of a particular section. Scores received from these individuals are incorporated into the final scoring matrix. 

  • Each member of the evaluation committee must receive a complete copy of each proposal, a copy of the original RFP including all addenda, and an evaluation committee scoring sheet for each proposal. This information will be distributed promptly in order to provide each committee member adequate time to review and evaluate each proposal. Each committee member should have a preliminary score entered for each proposal prior to the first committee evaluation meeting.
  • Proposals shall ONLY be evaluated by using the criteria listed in the EVALUATION CRITERIA section of the RFP. Initial evaluation must be based solely upon the proposal submitted; no other or additional information is to be used.
  • Any evaluation committee meeting discussion must be either taped or summary minutes recorded for the Procurement files. If an oral presentation from proposers is part of the meeting, then that meeting must be taped OR minutes recorded. 
  • The evaluation committee should begin work by establishing procedure, with a general discussion of their tasks, and review of the proposals received. The committee member(s) assigned to review references should make a report to the committee. On highly technical matters, a technical review sub-committee should make a report to the full committee. After discussion and reports, each member will review their scoring sheets and pass them to the committee chair for tabulation. It is best practice for the committee to come to a consensus based on the evaluation criteria and discussion of the committee.
  • Oral presentations by proposers should be for clarification purposes only. Committee members shall not communicate with proposers outside of presentations. The committee may not receive or consider any material, additions, or changes to the proposal submitted. If oral presentation option is offered to all proposers, the presentations shall occur before individual scoring sheets are submitted to the committee chair. If oral presentations are available only to the finalists, then new evaluation scoring sheets will be distributed to the committee prior to presentations. Each committee member will re-evaluate each of the finalists on both the oral presentation and the proposal submitted using the same process of tabulation as noted above.
  • Once the finalists have been rated, the committee should review the process and reach a consensus on the ratings and on a recommendation for award to the first ranked proposer(s).
  • The university shall reserve the right to further negotiate any terms or conditions, including price, with the highest rated proposer. If an agreement cannot be reached with the highest rated proposer, the university reserves the right to negotiate and recommend award to the next highest rated proposer or subsequent proposers until an agreement is reached.
  • The committee chair shall be responsible for the following: All of the individual scoring sheets collected, minutes and/or tapes, and tabulations. All RFP information including the evaluation committee scoring sheets, tabulations, minutes, and tapes shall become public record upon recommendation for award or ten (10) days after proposal opening, whichever occurs first. Any proposer may review the scoring as presented. It is very important to enter comments on the scoring sheets, particularly when giving a low score, so that committee members can recall scoring rationale if it is required at a later date.

During the evaluation process, if additional information or clarification is required, it should be directed to the Procurement representative, who will see the response and distribute the related information to all committee members. Committee members will also be instructed not to make contact with any of the offerors or proponents, but rather, direct inquiries to the procurement representative. Similarly, if a site visit, demonstration, or further presentation is required, it will be coordinated, established, and arranged through Procurement.

The number of proposals to be evaluated from interested respondents for any open-competitive procurement can theoretically range from a single submittal to an indefinite number. A committee can conceivably be formed to review just one proposal. For example, an offeror may be the sole source supplier for the particular good or services required; or only a few submittals are received in response to an RFP and all but one proposal has to be automatically rejected for mandatory requirements (e.g., signature, bid bond, insurance).

When the committee members have completed their individual reading and scoring of proposals, the committee chair assembles the committee as a group. These group/team meetings are the center points of the evaluation process. The discussions on each proposal and the resulting deliberations are the means by which the committee can ultimately arrive at a collective decision. At this stage, the committee process is dynamic; it is designed to solicit the perspectives and opinions of all voting members. What one committee member may have understood about a certain concept or approach may differ from what another member may have perceived. A committee can go back and forth until all members are convinced of their choices and the rationale behind them.

Final Notes:

  • Depending on the degree of agreement/disagreement within the committee, the committee chair may deem it necessary to end the present committee meeting and reconvene the group for another meeting at a later date. In the interim, committee members may choose to re-read certain proposals or sections of proposals in order to confirm their particular convictions or to verify the positions of the committee members. Once the committee has met several times as a group, it is hoped that a unanimous decision on award recommendation can be made. However, when it is clear that only a consensus opinion has resulted, then the committee should go forward with both a majority and minority report.
     
  • Once a selection has been identified, the committee chair will provide a written recommendation to the dean/department head, or depending upon amount, the executive vice president and treasurer or delegate supporting its review and recommendation. If management approves the committee’s recommendation, the procurement action will continue through the normal university procurement and contract approval process. If management rejects the committee’s recommendation, and selects a different vendor, then management will notify the committee chair of this action along with the reasons and justifications. Management may reject all of the vendors and ask that the procurement process be re-opened and the committee will be reconvened to review the new bids and quotations.