“Professional” Bidding – The Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act

“Professional” Bidding – The Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act

Florida Statutes, Section 287.055 is known as the “Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act” or “CCNA”. The CCNA applies to the procurement of certain professional services, including architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, or registered surveying and mapping. The Act also provides requirements for design-build projects. Design-build is a construction project where the agency does not have final design drawings and specifications, and desires to have the same firm provide the design and construct the project.

For professional services, the CCNA requires agencies follow a multi-step process selection process. First, the public agency will publish notice of its intent to solicit the professional services, and qualify the firm or individuals with interest as authorized by law and agency regulations as authorized to perform the services. Among the factors to be reviewed in qualifying firms, the agency is to consider the capabilities, adequacy of personnel, past record, and experience.

Next, once the agency has qualified firms, it will select, in order of preference, no fewer than three firms deemed to be the most highly qualified to perform the services. This may also be referred to as a ranking of the firms. The CCNA sets forth factors that should be considered as part of the ranking process. Agencies often times use committees comprised of staff to discuss the qualifications of the firms, and which may also conduct interviews or hear presentations from the firms. It should be noted that these meetings are to be conducted in the public pursuant to the CCNA and Florida’s Sunshine Law.

Finally, once the firms have been ranked in order of preference, the agency will attempt to negotiate a contract with the top ranked firm for compensation which the agency determines is fair, competitive, and reasonable. It is only after the ranking process has taken place that the agency can discuss or receive proposals as to the price for the services.

If the negotiation with the top ranked firm does not result in a contract, then the agency must formally terminate the negotiations and move on to the next ranked firm. Similarly, if those negotiations fail to result in a contract, the agency will then proceed to negotiate with the third most qualified firm.

With respect to design-build projects, the CCNA defines who can qualify as a “design-build firm”, including a state certified or registered general contractor, or a state certified architecture or engineering firm. In order to advertise the project, the agency must also prepare or procure a “design criteria package,” which must provide certain basic information about the project to permit firms to respond. Finally, depending upon the specific rules adopted by the agency, the selection process may be based upon a qualifications based process as outlined above for professional services, or by a competitive proposal selection process.

In the area of public construction, having an understanding of the CCNA is imperative to pursuing an award of professional services or design-build services. The CCNA itself is quite detailed and spells out the process and requirements for the advertising, selection and contract award.