After the site visit and/or pre-bid meeting, the following could result:
- the selection process continues to the opening date and time as planned,
- the submission date is extended by addendum to give bidders a reasonable amount of time to submit their bids/proposals (especially if there are changes to the solicitation documents), or
- the requirement is altogether cancelled.
Assuming that the process continues as expected, receiving and opening offers (bids/proposals) is the next step.
The date, time and place for receiving offers, including the manner in which they should be marked and sealed, must be clearly stated in the solicitation documents. It is the bidders’ responsibility to ensure that their offers are submitted at the correct place, date and time. The entity receiving the bids or proposals, as stipulated in the solicitation documents, must ensure that the package(s) in which the offers are received are dated and time-stamped and placed in a secured area prior to the day of the public opening event. The procuring entity should also keep a list of the offers received by name of bidder, date and time the offer was received, and the number of packages received for each.
The opening of offers should take place immediately after they are received. This should also be stipulated in the solicitation documents. Once the offers are received, those received on time should be publicly opened at the place and time stipulated in the solicitation documents.
Offers received late are usually returned unopened to the respective bidders. When considering the rejection of a late offer, it is important to be guided by the language used in the solicitation documents, because this language will determine if there is any flexibility in accepting late documents. For instance, if it is stated in the solicitation documents that late offers “may” be rejected, then a rejection of late offers would depend on the circumstances that caused the document to be submitted late and on the approving authority’s willingness to accept the offer(s) received late. In contrast, if the solicitation documents state that late offers “shall” or “will” be rejected, then offers received late cannot be accepted for evaluation purposes regardless of the reasons why they were received late.
It’s important to note that the reason for late reception of offers is not always the result of negligence on the part of the bidder. It could be for reasons beyond their control, so if the solicitation documents permit a decision to be made on the acceptance or rejection of a late offer, then the acceptance of a late submission would be determined only by the approving authority. Preferably, though, such need for decision should be anticipated and regulated in order to avoid arbitrary actions on the part of the approving authority.
As mentioned above, offers should be opened soon after they are received, ideally on the same day. If this is not possible, they should be opened the next day. The opening of offers is a formal process and the details of the event should be recorded in the minutes of the opening event. The opening of offers is also a public event, were bidders are requested to attend, and the public at large should be permitted to witness the event, if they so desire.
At the opening event, offers received are examined to determine if they are compliant with the instructions of the solicitation documents. A checklist is used for this purpose. As a common practice, the names of the firms submitting offers are listed on a board for all present at the opening event to see, and the price of each offer (depending on the procurement method) is also placed on the same list. In cases where the technical proposals are evaluated first, the financial offer is not read out until the results of the technical evaluation are known. Then the respective bidders are invited to attend the public opening of their financial offers.
At the public opening of offers, discussions should be limited to clarifying the names of the bidders, if there are confusions; but bidders should not be permitted to discuss or clarify the content of their offers, because at that stage the offer has already been received and bidders should not be allowed to changed their bids after the closing date and time of submission; furthermore, it’s up to the evaluation panel to determine the need for clarification and to request the same, through the procuring entity, from the respective bidder(s).
The rejection or acceptance of an offer should not be addressed at the public opening event.
Although a summary examination of the offer submission package is done at the opening event to determine compliance with the requirements of the solicitation documents, the preliminary and detailed examination of the offers received should be left for the Evaluation Panel to complete during the evaluation process.