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Tendering and Awarding the Contract

67. Qualification Matters

In a one-stage process with open tender, qualifications are presented at the same time as the offer. The procuring authority must first assess qualifications before evaluating the bids. Separating these two steps sequentially is generally regarded as good practice, and some jurisdictions regulate the process in this way through their legal framework to protect transparency.

In a two-stage open tender (pre-qualification), or in interactive or dialogue processes, qualification is done in advance of inviting the candidates to prepare and submit the bid (or to participate in a dialogue or interaction).

In two-stage processes, an issue can arise if there is a change in the composition of a bidding consortium between pre-qualification and the submission of bids. The RFQ should specify whether this is allowed, in what circumstances, and what consequences may follow. Some flexibility in consortium membership can be desirable to enable a pre-qualified consortium to bring in additional organizations that can strengthen its bid. However, a consortium should not be allowed to continue in the process if its composition changes such that it would no longer be capable of meeting the pre-qualification requirements. The procuring authority should minimize the likelihood of changes in consortium membership by ensuring that there is not an unduly long period of time between pre-qualification and bidding.

Otherwise, the considerations regarding proper management of the pre-qualification process are the same in one- and two-stage tenders. In some two-stage processes, there is an added task of evaluating the qualifications in order to select a short list of candidates.

The main considerations relating to a proper qualification process (and also applicable to the evaluation process) are as follows.

  • The essence of the assessment procedure is the RFP (or RFQ, if using a two-stage process).
  • Qualifications must be assessed in accordance with the criteria announced and described in the RFP (or in the RFQ in a two-stage process). Deviations from the criteria and methodology laid out in the RFP are not consistent with the transparency needed and will likely result in challenges to the outcome (see chapter 4 for a description of typical qualification criteria).
  • The team whose task it is to assess the qualifications must be sufficiently skilled in the respective areas involved.
  • A manual or a set of established procedures used to assess the qualifications is important to further document the process and methods that are to be applied. This is especially the case, for consistency purposes, when more than one person will assess any particular criteria or sub-criteria. However, any manual that is developed should remain consistent with all the criteria described in the RFP (or the RFQ).
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