The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines for the preparation of tender calls for heritage projects. It has been compiled in response to concerns voiced by members of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) that tendering practices vary widely. It is hoped that the guidelines will facilitate the preparation of well-considered, accurate proposal calls and ensure that all requests for proposals are administered in the fairest manner possible. It will help those designing tenders by providing a “checklist” of what should be included. It should also help heritage consultants by ensuring that they get clear and accurate tender calls.
The Board of Directors of the CAHP recognizes the need for improvements in the job tendering and bidding process. The Advocacy Committee of the Association distributed a questionnaire to all its members to determine the range and nature of existing problems. Some of the major concerns were: the lack of sufficient tendering information, inflexible or vague terms of reference, the relationship between scope of work and available funds, the process by which consultants were notified about projects, problems relating to consultant’s qualifications, the criteria used for selecting consultants, inadequate time allotted for proposal submission, and a lack of a mutual understanding that an accepted tender is a legally binding agreement.
These concerns formed the structural basis for this document. The specific recommendations are outlined below.
2.0 Recommendations for Tendering Heritage Projects
The background section of a request for proposals (RFP) is important to both the consultant and the client. From the consultant’s perspective, this section provides the context within which the project has been designed. For the client, the process of amassing and synthesizing the relevant information will help to clarify the project’s objectives and goals.
The background section should provide:
- a description of why the study is needed;
- a history of the project with pertinent sources and visuals;
- a submission date that allows sufficient time for proposal preparation;
- a glossary of terms in order to clarify potentially ambiguous words;
- an agency contact/resource person;
- information regarding an introductory site visit, if required;
- a list of consulting firms or individuals invited to submit proposals. For example, this will assist bidders in formulating joint proposals if desired;
- the expected date for bidder notification.
This section deals with logistical aspects of RFPs. It is often the minor details of a project that are overlooked in a proposal call, yet require considerable expenditures of time and effort. It is recommended that clients consider their requirements for the following:
- schedule, including important milestones and deadlines;
- type of contract documents;
- meetings, project stage(s), and location(s);
- number of site visits by the consultant;
- project administration, including special invoicing requirements;
- project commissioning and close out.
Beyond the delineation of goals and objectives, clients often develop a methods section including specific tasks to be undertaken. This should be avoided unless there are extremely compelling reasons for limiting the ability of the consultant team to propose a method which ultimately may be a more efficient and creative way of achieving the goals and objectives.
The consultant team should be free to contribute beneficially and creatively to the project. Moreover, a review of the proposed methods is often a very useful way of assessing the consultant’s understanding of the issues and tasks required to successfully complete the work.
Where, having identified the project goals and objectives, the client is concerned that some ambiguity might still remain, it is often useful to identify project products which are not required. This further improves the consultant’s ability to prepare an appropriate proposal.
In dealing with study method and approach, the client should specify:
- any additional conditions or regulations (e.g., safety equipment required);
- the Government guidelines or industry standards to be followed, such as the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Recreation’s Archaeological Assessment Technical Guidelines regarding archaeological survey;
- research and data collection;
- records and recording;
In terms of deliverables or product, RFPs should clearly state:
- the required or requested format of the project report, plans and maps;
- whether a computer copy of a report, etc. is required, and in what form (software);
- whether interim or draft reports are required;
- specifications regarding presentation and final report format;
- the number of draft or final copies required;
- it should be recognized that each bound copy represents a fixed cost;
- it should be recognized that there are environmental concerns for the amount of paper generated;
- only the necessary reports should be submitted, and double-sided printing should be allowed;
- where, when and by what means reports are to be delivered;
- the number of presentations or public hearings that will be required;
- the specific nature of recommendations (e.g. concerning additional work, prioritization, programme development) which the consultant is required to formulate.
It should be understood that heritage practitioners can only develop a research plan that reflects available funding. Like any small business professional, the heritage consultant must operate on a cost effective basis. Therefore, with regards to fees and schedule, RFPs should:
- provide a reasonable amount of time for completion of projects. This will be dependent on the scale of project as outlined in the introduction;
- take into consideration seasonal weather constraints in contracts involving outdoor work;
- specify the degree of detail necessary in the breakdown of the budget and subsequent invoicing;
- state whether the job is being offered on a fixed budget for all bidders, or on a competitive price basis;
- state whether per diem fee rates are to be provided;
- provide an indication of whether funds for the project have been approved, are available, or require the consultant to apply for them;
- provide details about the terms of payment. For long term projects, monthly billing and start up fees should be standard.
The precise qualifications required of the consultant should be specified in the RFP.
The qualifications required of the consultant in order to submit a competitive bid:
- this permits consultants to decide whether they should respond and if feasible, assemble a team involving sub-consultants;
- by providing an outline of the necessary qualifications, the client can be assured that they have all the necessary information and that any omissions either represent a lack of qualifications or an incomplete proposal.
The minimum qualifications required of personnel involved in a project:
- qualifications should match the needs of a project, as well as the proposed or expected budget;
- whether the names and curriculum vitae of personnel to be involved in the project should be provided.
The manner by which key/senior personnel named in the proposal may be acceptably substituted:
- this will ensure that the client receives the level of expertise presented in the proposal;
- similarly, it will help the consultant in deciding what personnel should be committed to a project.
Whether it is acceptable for certain aspects of the project to be sub-contracted:
- if specialty services are required, they should be outlined and a request made for this information should be included in the proposal;
- the minimum qualifications required for sub-consultants.
The insurance requirements for consultants:
- inform consultants if a minimum liability insurance coverage is required in order to conduct work;
- whether errors and omissions coverage is required.
Which party will be responsible for obtaining the necessary permits and licences for conducting the work:
- professional work-related licenses, such as building permits and archaeological licences, should be the responsibility of the consultant;
- permission to enter private property or acquiring special access permits should be arranged by the client.
The contact person(s) or liaison committee who will be responsible for the project.
Explicit instructions for tender submission are important as they provide a convenient checklist and ensure a complete tender. Remember to specify:
- that proposals must be received at a designated location prior to a stipulated deadline, and that late proposals will be returned unopened. Please allow sufficient time for proposal preparation;
- that proposals must be received in the form and number required by the RFPs to qualify;
- mandatory information to be included in an eligible tender submission;
- that proposals acknowledge acceptance of the Terms of Reference and must address the Terms of Reference fully;
- that any departures from the Terms of Reference must be noted clearly and explained fully;
- any other requirements, such as proof of insurance or references;
- remember that clarification or additional information given to any bidder must be supplied to all bidders as addenda.
It is desirable that the selection of the winning bid be made in a systematic and objective manner, fair to all consultants on an equal basis. Thus, the requirements for qualification, the method by which all proposals will be evaluated, and the basis for the selection of the winning bid should be made explicit.
RFPs should therefore specify:
- the method of evaluating bids;
- whether price or creative problem solving are key;
- if a scoring system is to be used, consultants should be made aware of the relative values of the various selection criteria or advised of the type of scoring system which will be used in evaluating proposals;
- if the proposals will be judged, in part, on the consultant’s ability, experience and grasp of the assignment;
- if the client reserves the right to not accept the low bid or any bid.
A proposal, in response to an RFP, is in law an offer to provide services. Acceptance of the offer by the client creates a legally binding agreement on those terms, provided there is a mutual exchange of benefits by the agreement.
A proposal should, therefore, technically repeat all terms described in the RFP. Since this does not usually happen in practice, the RFP, the proposal an any signed agreement together constitute the contract between a client and a consultant. As these three documents are mutually dependent, it is important that no conflict exists between them, so as to avoid potential misunderstanding about the respective obligations and duties of the parties to each other.
It is also important to remember that any agreement to provide professional services is made in the context of the whole body of statute law and precedent relating to the law of contract and will be interpreted by the law using the principles contained within the body, whether formalized with a written agreement or not.
The request for proposals and consultant’s proposal usually concentrate on describing the nature and content of the project. The written agreement is intended to define the legal relationship of the parties. Agreements used range from an appropriate standard form to a simple sign back letter.
In the RFP the client should:
- specify the required form of agreement, if any, depending on the type, size and complexity of the project, and include a description of the proposed agreement;
- use a standard form of agreement where possible, provided it suits the requirements of the project.
The consultants should:
- review standard agreements referred to in RFPs carefully to ensure there is no conflict with any statutory or professional rights and duties required of them, or the terms of their indemnity insurance;
- include a sign-back letter or form of agreement with their proposal as a simple way of formalizing the arrangement;
- the letter should refer very specifically to the request for proposals and proposal, regarding date, title, etc and should describe any of the following which are not precisely defined in the request for proposals or proposal such as the intent, scope and size of project, the project location, time frame and schedule, fees and reimbursable expenses, and payment process.
The request for proposals in dealing with the agreement should therefore refer specifically to the following:
- Copyright and ownership;
- Make conditions of copyright and ownership of deliverables clear;
- Ensure that the conditions are not in conflict with the rights of the consultants (e.g. copyright for any design work).
Termination of contract:
- Include information on the termination of the contract;
- Where needed, describe the circumstances and time frame under which termination could occur;
- Indicate the basis for assessing fees owing in the event of termination;
- Project suspension or abandonment;
- Indicate the circumstances where this may occur and basis for assessing fees owing;
- Laws, Regulations and Codes;
- Be explicit about the laws regulations and codes with which the consultant must comply.