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Key Steps in the Formal Procurement Method

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Key Steps in the Formal Procurement Method

  • Defining the "Need"
  • Develop the Procurement Strategy
  • Evaluation of Offerors
  • Negotiation and Award Contract
  • Manage the Contract

Defining the “Need”

Schools should understand what the fundamental “need” or requirement before planning its procurement. Procurement is a means to satisfying a school’s food service need. The school should start its procurement by clearly defining the need for the purchase and specify specifically what is to be purchased. Poor identification of needs may result in incorrect goods or services being purchased, poor service from vendor, disruption in service, and may resulting in additional time, resources, and cost to procure of the good or service. 

Moreover, the procurement process does not occur in a vacuum and requires communication with different departments and staff. As a result, the school should know exactly what is being procured and why. How does this purchase affect the food service department and other departments utilizing the school’s food service? Being able to answer these questions will help in developing of evaluation criteria and specifications later in the procurement process.

Some questions that might concern a school are:
  • Category Analysis; is the school buying the same or similar (category) of goods and services from different vendors? (Can this be streamlined to increase efficiency)
  • Product and Service Analysis; is the school buying the same item from different vendors, in different department at the school at different prices?
  • Payment Analysis; is the school leveraging all possible discounts or interest from invoice payment processing?
  • Vendor Analysis; what goods and services is the school purchasing from a single vendor?
  • Contract Analysis; is the school and vendor complying with existing negotiated contract terms? Do these contracts meet Federal and State contracting requirements?

A school should not send out a solicitation for goods and service it does not intent or have a plan to use.   

 

Develop the Procurement Strategy

Depending on the school’s need and the scale of the procurement event, there could be a range of potential solutions and approaches to the procurement event. As a result, the school may want to conduct internal meetings and develop a strategy for how best to conduct the procurement.  This may require a Request for Information (RFI) to gather information and call on past vendors to ask them questions to gather sufficient information to plan the school’s procurement.

The school will also want to communication with different departments and staff, and check different calendars to make sure all internal information required for drafting and planning the procurement is up-to-date and accurate. This may possible include school board input for consideration and approval of future budgets and awarded contracts.

 

Evaluation of Offerors

Once the school has a handle on its need and procurement strategy, the school can start developing criteria for evaluating the procurement. The success of a procurement event will depend greatly on how well the school prepares and develops the evaluation criteria.
The school should weight the “key criteria” more than criteria that will have little impact on the solution. Remember costs are important but other requirements and criteria should also be evaluated either by applying points or pass/fail grading.
It is also important to be clear in the solicitation document when describing evaluation criteria and how the school will evaluate these criteria. Remember that a Request for Proposal (RFP) is awarded based on points and an Invitation for Bid (IFB) is awarded on lowest costs. Regardless if the school is using a RFP or IFB, schools will need to carefully consider the whole procurement process and resulting awarded contract when developing its evaluation plan.
 
The following are some evaluation criteria you might consider:
  • vendor past experience criteria
  • delivery criteria
  • system communication criteria
  • specification criteria
  • cost evaluation criteria
  • contract management criteria

Negotiation and Award Contract

Depending on the type of solicitation the school uses for its procurement, either RFP or IFB the school will use different criteria for awarding the contract (points vs. costs).  As a result the school will have a couple different avenues for awarding and negotiating the contract. If costs are the only criteria left after offerors are determined to be responsive, then negotiations is optional and the school can award the contract based simply on the lowest cost. However, if other criteria are being used, for instance points used with a RFP, then the school may enter into negotiations with selected offerors. A word of caution is advised when negotiating terms and pricing. Make sure you have experienced negotiator and a defined plan and goals for how you will conduct the negotiations. Regardless of how the school awards the contract, the awarded contract should have some resemblance to the solicitation document. If the awarded contract varies too much from the original solicitation document, then this may result material change which is not allowable.   

Manage the Contract

Managing the contact is referred to as "Contract Management" which means that all of the steps taken after awarding of the contract ensure that the requirements of the contract are met. It encompasses all dealings between the school and the vendor from the time the contract is awarded until:
  • the work has been completed and accepted or the contract terminated,
  • payment has been made, and
  • disputes have been resolved.