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Reverse Auction for Catholic Priest Services


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Oh my:


I know the purpose of these threads are to address a specific question, and here it is: Is a reverse auction an appropriate source selection procedure for this particular service?

My inner contracting officer cannot help but note that these services, by definintion, have been standardized (since Vatican 2?), and there is no source with an inherent price advantage. I suspect the answer is "yes".

However, there seems to be some aversion to this kind of thing- a jouralist at Federal News Radio seems to take umbrage. The language about "bad faith bids" takes on an olternate meaning in this context.

Full disclosure: Former Catholic, current Episcopalian

A quote from the announcement is below:

Solicitation Number:
Notice Type:
Combined Synopsis/Solicitation
Added: Oct 16, 2014 4:58 pm
This is a combined synopsis/solicitation for commercial items prepared in accordance with the format in FAR Subpart 12.6, as supplemented with additional information included in this notice.The solicitation number is W911RZ-14-T-0198 and is issued as an invitation for bids (IFB), unless otherwise indicated herein.The solicitation document and incorporated provisions and clauses are those in effect through Federal Acquisition Circular FAC 2005-77. The associated North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code for this procurement is 813110 with a small business size standard of $7.50M.This requirement is unrestricted and only qualified offerors may submit bids.The solicitation pricing on www.FedBid.com will start on the date this solicitation is posted and will end on 2014-10-23 17:00:00.0 Eastern Time or as otherwise displayed at www.FedBid.com.FOB Destination shall be Colorado Springs, CO 80913

The MICC Fort Carson requires the following items, Meet or Exceed, to the following:
LI 001: Holy Days of Obligation, 6, EA;
LI 002: Sunday Mass, 15, EA;
LI 003: Saturday Mass, 15, EA;
LI 004: Sacraments, 36, EA;
LI 005: Emergency Calls, 10, EA;
LI 006: Contract Manpower Reporting, 1, EA;

Solicitation and Buy Attachments

***Question Submission: Interested offerors must submit any questions concerning the solicitation at the earliest time possible to enable the Buyer to respond. Questions must be submitted by using the 'Submit a Question' feature at www.fedbid.com. Questions not received within a reasonable time prior to close of the solicitation may not be considered.***

For this solicitation, MICC Fort Carson intends to conduct an online competitive reverse auction to be facilitated by the third-party reverse auction provider, FedBid, Inc. FedBid has developed an online, anonymous, browser based application to conduct the reverse auction. An Offeror may submit a series of pricing bids, which descend in price during the specified period of time for the aforementioned reverse auction. MICC Fort Carson is taking this action in an effort to improve both vendor access and awareness of requests and the agency's ability to gather multiple, competed, real-time bids.All responsible Offerors that respond to this solicitation MUST submit the pricing portion of their bid using the online exchange located at www.FedBid.com. There is no cost to register, review procurement data or make a bid on www.FedBid.com.Offerors that are not currently registered to use www.FedBid.com should proceed to www.FedBid.com to complete their free registration. Offerors that require special considerations or assistance may contact the FedBid Helpdesk at 877-9FEDBID (877-933-3243) or via email at clientservices@fedbid.com. Offerors may not artificially manipulate the price of a transaction on www.FedBid.com by any means. It is unacceptable to place bad faith bids, to use decoys in the www.FedBid.com process or to collude with the intent or effect of hampering the competitive www.FedBid.com process.Should offerors require additional clarification, notify the point of contact or FedBid at 877-9FEDBID (877-933-3243) or clientservices@fedbid.com.Use of FedBid: Buyers and Sellers agree to conduct this transaction through FedBid in compliance with the FedBid Terms of Use. Failure to comply with the below terms and conditions may result in offer being determined as non-responsive.

Bid MUST be good for 30 calendar days after close of Buy.

Please refer to attached solicitation for applicable provisions and clauses
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Oh my, indeed! My first thought was, "How is this considered to be a commercial service ?" Now I'm wondering who would bid the services of Catholic priests, who are employed by a Catholic Diocese? In this case, the Diocese of Colorado Springs normally has jurisdiction over the area surrounding Ft Carson. Would another Diocese compete with CSprings? Would individual priests free lance? Maybe retired priests? What about those who have taken vows of poverty? Perhaps they just need gas money?


P.S. Here is a link to a protest concerning the terms a commercial acquisition for religious education and music services for the Marines. http://www.gao.gov/products/B-410098,B-410098.2,B-410098.3,B-410098.4,B-410098.5,B-410100,B-410100.2,B-410100.3,B-410100.4,B-410100.5,B-410101,B-410101.2,B-410101.3,B-410101.4,B-410101.5#mt=e-report

In connection with one of its arguments..."JRS submitted a 'Survey of Churches, Places of Worship & Industry,' which summarized the 'market research' conducted by the protester concerning churches and other religious-based organizations. See, e.g., Protest (B-410098) at Attachment B, Part 2. The protester represented that none of the surveyed churches or organizations utilized, or were aware of others utilizing, third-party entities to provide religious education or music services on a commercial basis. See, e.g., id. The agencys market research similarly determined 'that there were no service vendors who only provide religious services employees.' AR, Tab B, COs Statement of Facts at ¶ 9. Although the record raises a question regarding whether the religious education and music services being acquired in the challenged procurements are in fact 'commercial services,' our Office need not address the question in resolving the protests."

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The Military Archdiocese includes the Catholic Chaplains assigned to the Military. It receives no funding from the US Government according to the website. The job openings appear to be for Chaplains, who receive commissions, not for contracted priests. I may be wrong. Have been before.

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Maybe the reason this seems distasteful is a belief that these services should not be charged, or that religious services should be acquired through the HR office and not the procurement office. Also, the image of Jesus throwing vendors out of the temple comes to mind . . . Fuller dislosure: I was a terrible Catholic, and currently only a somewhat terrible Episcopalian. I will continue to fake it until I make it.

Thank you, Joel, for that link. The *musical* services I think are commercial services. It's not unheard of to hire the Church choir for a large wedding/funeral. Or at least a soloist or two, plus the organist. This statement is based on my experience with larger, more high profile churches located toward the middle of town. I tend to go to these because they tend to hire my wife to sing.

Render unto Washington that with George Washington's picture on it! :rolleyes:

This is my first post at WIFCON- I'll try to pass along more of these quirky things if I run across them. I found this one through marginalrevolution.com . . .

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So I wonder what happens if the priest receives that 11th emergency call; does he say it's not in his contract, or does he answer the call but later submit a claim to the Government?

I also wonder how typical it is for a priest (or any individual, really) to be hired in the private sector on a lowest price technically acceptable basis. How often are individuals hired because they meet the minimum qualifications and are willing to accept the lowest salary?

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Guest Vern Edwards

Such services have been procured through the contracting system for decades. Check FedBizOpps: acquisitions for the services of a Catholic priest are commonly treated as acquisitions of commercial items. Reverse auctions have been used by other agencies to buy such services. The regulations do not require or permit agencies to give such acquisitions special treatment on religious grounds. It's buying a service. Period. Priests use the money to supplement their meager allowance and often use the money for charitable purposes.

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Guest Vern Edwards

I am a big supporter of using FEDBID.com reverse auctions but I would not solicit this kind of service via reverse auction.

Why not?

Priests celebrate the Mass in accordance with a strictly prescribed ritual, which is handed down to them. Every priest celebrates the same Mass as every other priest. Every priest is equally well qualified to accomplish the purpose. As a Catholic, you attend mass to participate in the ritual and fulfill your obligation. We don't expect the celebrant to be a dramatic artist. We're not going to a movie.

As for emergency calls, the priest's obligation is religious, not psychological. In my experience, most priests are no better at emotional counseling in emergencies than most neighbors. Their function is to administer the appropriate sacrament at the appropriate time. Comforting the injured, the frightened, and the grieving is a human responsibility that is not especially priestly. Anyone should do it who is able, and not all priests are able. As often as not, they, too, are frightened and grieving.

LPTA, sealed bidding, and reverse auctions are fine if you don't plan to use inappropriate evaluation factors, like wanting the priest to be like Bing Crosby or Spencer Tracy.

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Agreed, Vern

Standardized services, certified personnel. Objections seem to be emotional and instinctual, though ji20874 may have a more objective objection. (The recent news surrounding FedBid cannot help)

A service acquired through the contracting office is viewed much differently than a service acquired through the human resources office for some reason. Ronald Coase helped eliminate some of that baggage for me, but most people carry it still. Whatever the reason, I doubt you will find it satisfying.

I was also wondering if there as a Scriptural reason a priest would not bid. Ideally, I could answer this question myself, but sorely lacking in the religion department . . .

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A couple of thoughts:

Do churches/priests/preachers surf FBO.gov routinely? The contract specialist may do well to reach out to a few local churches are point them in the right direction.

If this were to come across my desk, I'd probably attempt to establish a Part 13 BPA with a local Catholic church.

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I would not use a reverse auction for this (and can an IFB be used as the method for a reverse auction?). When I see the term "invitation for bids", I think of a sealed bid with FAR Part 14, which wouldn't mesh well with a reverse auction because the general idea of a reverse auction is that your competition will see the new low bid, "sharpen their pencil", and submit a revised lower bid. IFB and Reverse Auctions seem mutually exclusive to me, but I could be missing something.

As far as using an RA for this type of acquisition, I don't think you'd get much bidding on a service such as this. I could see going with an IFB, but not a reverse auction. I just don't see where the Government benefits from it.

Not a fan of FedBid, but RA as a general tool has good applications. I have found it best used when buying large quantities of products, where the contractors/bidders have room to manuever within their profit margin. I just don't see that here.

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In many cases, the provincial bishops limit the fee that can be charged for the celebration of Mass per Can. 1264 n2 (source: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P4Q.HTM).%C2'>

Based upon provincial bishops removing the fee, you could have an interesting situation in FedBid where you have multiple firms that propose $0 to perform the services. In my career, I have never drawn lots to select equally an equally low bidder per FAR Subsection 14.408-6. The FAR makes it seem like quite a party!

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the Ft Carson contracting office contacted the Diocese of Colorado Springs for a referral (about a year ago.)

the Bishop's #2 monsignor selected a retired priest with faculties and suggested he bid on it. This monsignor contacted the CO and told them who would be bidding.

The ordained religious who was referred gets Social Security. that's it.

The Diocese gives him no pension.

He is in his mid-70's.

This priest asked someone with some experience in fed contracts to tell him how to apply.

the previous priest had done this work for $50 per Mass.

Ft Carson is 15 miles from where this retired priest lives.

$50 hardly covers the costs to drive there and back.

on the advice of that person, the priest bid over $100 per Mass.

the RFP requires the offeror to be on call 24/7,

and to go wherever someone needs help,

but that is not compensated.

the CO called the Diocese and asked them to pressure the retired priest to drop his price to $50, like the previous priest.

who quit because it wasn't enough.

the Diocese did suggest that he bid less, but left it up to the priest.

the CO chose not to award.

6 months or so ago,

the same sequence of events, except it looked like they were going to award at the higher price.

the priest was required to register through the Archdiocese of Military Services website.

pretty crappy website, and the deacon who runs it isn't accountable to anyone.

this old priest did his best to register, and followed up to ask if he had done it right.

today, 6 months later, deacon . . . still has not replied.

what's odd to me, also a catholic priest, but not ordained,

is that the post has 4 or 5 priests in uniform, making $80 to $120 K per year (all in,)

but begrudge an old man abandoned by the diocese and his flock making enough to pay the costs to commute to work.


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