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Q/A with Potential Vendors

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I'm working on a high priority procurement with a short timeframe for submitting quotes.  Is it appropriate to set up one conference call with all potential vendors to expedite the question and answer process?  Thank you.

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On ‎9‎/‎2‎/‎2019 at 3:28 PM, Dash_t11 said:

I'm working on a high priority procurement with a short timeframe for submitting quotes.  Is it appropriate to set up one conference call with all potential vendors to expedite the question and answer process?  Thank you.

Not only is it permissible, if the timeline for the acquisition can be moved alone by doing so, I think it is a great idea. People get to wrapped around posting QAs to FBO and no other way will work ("the way we've always done it" crap), but if there is a better way to do it for the situation at hand, why not!!!

I would suggest keeping minutes of the call and posting them after the fact. Whether a protest could be won or not, it could save you the headache.

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I’ve never heard of a conference phone call for Q&As.  But I have heard on online discussion forum type Q&As.  Potential sources post questions and the CO answers.  The easy answers are posted immediately.  Others take a few minutes to discuss.  In one instance the agency answered everything but one question that day.  The remaining answer was posted the next day.

The advantage is everyone on the government team sees exactly what the question is.  There’s no chance of not hearing the question correctly with disagreements on what was said.

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On 9/3/2019 at 3:53 PM, Constricting Officer said:

Not only is it permissible, if the timeline for the acquisition can be moved alone by doing so, I think it is a great idea. People get to wrapped around posting QAs to FBO and no other way will work ("the way we've always done it" crap), but if there is a better way to do it for the situation at hand, why not!!!

I would suggest keeping minutes of the call and posting them after the fact. Whether a protest could be won or not, it could save you the headache.

So how does the playing field stay level if someone doesn't attend the conference call but still wishes to submit an offer?  Sometimes we do things because it's an appropriate way to do them.

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27 minutes ago, Desparado said:

So how does the playing field stay level if someone doesn't attend the conference call but still wishes to submit an offer?

How does the playing field stay level if someone doesn't submit a question in writing? Doesn't email a question by the due date? Doesn't properly read the RFQ? Doesn't attend industry day? Doesn't research the agency? Doesn't research the past procurement? 

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yes, appropriate.

However, conference calls are iffy.  I would check with the vendors about it before proceeding.  Sometimes they are reluctant to say anything within earshot of their competitors.  Even their presence on the call- identifying themselves as an interested party - might be something they want to keep private.  

 

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A little off topic but my eyes really got opened once I left the government and got involved in consulting.  I took training in business development and proposal writing.  Some examples - the notion that all sources except maybe incumbents start out on equal footing is just wrong.  A study from a few years ago on companies winning large DoD contracts found over 60% of B&P costs were incurred before the solicitation was issued.  So companies that win start early on gathering data.  Winning companies attend do a lot to gain information and insights of what agencies want.  Another is if a company knows nothing about a procurement until they see FBO, the chances of winning are so slim proposal writing experts say don’t bother.  One more thing is a large share of questions are “ghost questions” to highlight competitor weaknesses.  So there’s really no such thing as a trulely level playing field. 

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23 hours ago, Desparado said:

So how does the playing field stay level if someone doesn't attend the conference call but still wishes to submit an offer?  Sometimes we do things because it's an appropriate way to do them.

I don't understand your reasoning? Opportunities are offered to all, but that doesn't mean all take advantage. Not contracting's job to worry about who attends.

FAR 1.102-2[c](3): "The Government shall exercise discretion, use sound business judgment, and comply with applicable laws and regulations in dealing with contractors and prospective contractors. All contractors and prospective contractors shall be treated fairly and impartially but need not be treated the same (EA)."

If the contractor chooses not to attend, that is their decision.

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21 hours ago, General.Zhukov said:

Even their presence on the call- identifying themselves as an interested party - might be something they want to keep private.  

In this regard, see FAR 15.505(f).

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2 hours ago, Retreadfed said:

In this regard, see FAR 15.505(f).

I believe the concern General raised is some companies don’t want to let to competitors know they are interested.  This is all pre-award.  This is interesting.  I’ve seen companies sign in on pre-procurement events as a little known corporate subsidiary or as a planned sub.  They claim they don’t want to be dishonest.  On the other hand, other companies show up wanting to be seen and heard so they get picked up as a teaming partner.

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On 9/5/2019 at 8:53 AM, PepeTheFrog said:

How does the playing field stay level if someone doesn't submit a question in writing? Doesn't email a question by the due date? Doesn't properly read the RFQ? Doesn't attend industry day? Doesn't research the agency? Doesn't research the past procurement? 

The examples you list are different (imho) to the government formally giving out information to only a select few contractors.  There is a reason that after questions are submitted in writing, the answers (and questions) are posted to FBO.  In order to maximize competition and keep the playing field level (aka, fairness) I would not disseminate information this way.  But that's just me... 

Now, having said that... I do see a way this can be done fairly by posting well in advance that the call would take place, and then follow up with posting the key points of the call on FBO.  

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There had been a lot of talk about FBO, but we don’t know if the procurement requires FBO synopsis.  The original posting spoke of quotations, so maybe we’re below the synopsis threshold for a FAR part 13 simplified acquisition, or maybe we’re under FAR subpart 8.4 for a schedule order?  If so, or possibly for other reasons, advice to post on FBO may not fit.

There may be two thoughts that need to be balanced.  One is that anyone who wants whatever benefit that might come from participating in the phone call may participate in the phone call — a simple notice of the phone call in the RFQ, if a RFQ is being used, will cover that thought. The other is to stay fair, such as by not purposefully favoring one prospective contractor over another — this can be covered by ensuring that any real change that arises during the phone call exchange is captured in a RFQ amendment, if a RFQ is being used.

We don’t want to over-proceduralize this.

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21 minutes ago, ji20874 said:

There may be two thoughts that need to be balanced.  One is that anyone who wants whatever benefit that might come from participating in the phone call may participate in the phone call — a simple notice of the phone call in the RFQ, if a RFQ is being used, will cover that thought. The other is to stay fair, such as by not purposefully favoring one prospective contractor over another — this can be covered by ensuring that any real change that arises during the phone call exchange is captured in a RFQ amendment, if a RFQ is being used.

We don’t want to over-proceduralize this.

Amen.

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