A Request for Proposals (“RFP”) is usually used when the public agency does not have or cannot come up with a defined scope of work or specifications for a project. Like an Invitation for Bid, price is still a consideration, but it may not be the only factor. Proposers responding to an RFP may have to demonstrate experience, capability, qualifications, management, and a plan that outlines how the proposer intends to perform the project. A proposer can win a contract without being the low bidder because the other factors may be as important as or more important than the price. This gives bidders an opportunity to be creative and entrepreneurial in responding to an RFP.
Agencies generally seek to determine which proposer is the most responsive and responsible. A responsive proposer is a proposer who submits a proposal that conforms in all material ways to what the RFP requested. The RFP must contain all of the terms, specifications, and evaluation criteria so that all of the proposers know how to adequately respond. The evaluation criteria should be explained, and is usually expressed in terms of points awarded for each specific criterion, or the percentage of weight given. For instance, an RFP may say that 30 points will be awarded for experience, 20 points for price, and so on.
RFP’s for contractual services or commodities under Chapter 287 of the Florida Statutes, as well as many state and local procurement guidelines, allow for proposers to discuss with persons designated in the RFP the RFP requirements during the solicitation process. Under this process, all proposers may be afforded the same opportunity to ask questions of the advertising agency to better define the scope of the RFP. The responses to those questions are generally published in writing as addenda to the RFP so that all proposers are treated equally.
Usually a selection committee is established to review the proposals submitted and evaluate them based on the RFP’s methodology. The selection committee generally ranks the proposers. The proposer with the best evaluation score is usually the top ranked proposer for the award. A contract is not formed, however, based on the ranking alone. Following the ranking process, the agency must approve the ranking. Once that is done, the agency can start negotiating the terms of the contract with the top ranked proposer, if necessary. The terms of the contract will be consistent with the RFP and the selected vendor’s proposal.