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Structuring and Drafting the Tender and Contract

57.4 Short Listing – Beyond the Pass/Fail

In some projects, the pre-qualification process is accompanied by the selection of a short list from the pre-qualified bidders. The pre-qualifying bidders are ranked on the strength of their pre-qualification responses, and a limited number of the highest ranking bidders are short listed to proceed to the RFP stage. Limiting the number of pre-qualifying bidders is generally necessary in two-stage processes that include a Dialogue or Interaction Phase. The most common number of candidates may be in a range of three to five[71].

Obviously, no evaluation will be needed when the number of candidates that meet the pass/fail test equals the minimum number of candidates pursued. Nonetheless, evaluation criteria will have to be clearly settled and explained in the RFQ, including the weighting of each criteria in the overall score, and how each criteria will be scored. Including qualitative assessment in the criteria is uncommon, but some sub-criteria may have some level of judgment (for example, how significant a particular experience is in terms of similarity with the project under the tender process).

Short listing requires selection. Moving beyond the pass/fail implies that a weighting among criteria and sub-criteria is necessary and scoring systems will have to be put in place. Though it should be noted that if on a high/low scoring system it is only a minimum score that adds value, then a pass/fail test can be re-introduced. Care should be taken to profile the most suitable private partner for the project before deciding the weighting, as this will define which of the selected firms or consortia will conform to the short list.

The RFQ should also describe whether changes in a consortium will be permitted after selection. Replacement or removal of existing consortium members should generally not be allowed except in exceptional circumstances (for example, one member abandoning participation through bankruptcy). However, some countries/jurisdictions allow new members to join a consortium if the new member has no previous involvement in any short-listed consortium and the existing consortium members retain their roles.

Allowing flexibility on changes to consortia, provided that the lead members do not change, can be beneficial in projects in which the complete mix of skills and capabilities required may not be obvious until bidders see the detailed RFP. In these circumstances, a consortium may want to bring in specific companies when they see the RFP, or other consortium members may not want to continue when they see the RFP.

All points described as good practice in qualification under the previous heading are equally applicable to short listing. See box 5.21.



BOX 5.21: Key Points regarding Qualification and Short Listing

  • The RFQ sets out the rules for bidders (or candidates to bid in two-stage processes) to be qualified. Qualification is the way to ensure a sufficient level of capability from prospective bidders so as to diminish risks of project failure. The purpose is to avoid failure due to capacity weaknesses in the form of insufficient financial strength or inexperience in any contracted function (investment, finance raising, construction, O&M, integrated life-cycle planning and management, and so on).
  • By setting the qualification requirements, an authority is shaping the profile of the future private partner.
  • Qualification regulations should allow for the experience of any member in a potential consortium to be counted, providing it commits to certain equity participation and/or certain participation in the specific work, for example, construction.
  • Qualification regulations should allow for the formation of a consortium, especially to encourage less experienced companies to joint with experienced partners in EMDE countries.
  • Qualification may be based only on pass/fail or may imply pre-selection (conventional qualification) of a short list of bidders (short listing).
  • The RFQ may be embedded in the RFP (one-stage open tenders) or be a separate and earlier stage (pre-qualification), potentially including short listing. Short listing is always used in tender processes where dialogue or structured interaction will be used, as well as in most negotiated processes.
  • Each type of qualification process (including short listing) has pros and cons, and its appropriateness depends on the maturity of the market. It is also important to remember that more competition is not necessarily better competition, and that a straight-forward open tender (with no pre-qualification phase) may discourage relevant bidders.
  • Qualification criteria include legal status (always pass/fail), and financial and technical capability or experience.
  • Clarity, objectivity, and transparency are essential conditions for sound and valuable qualification and short-listing exercises. Some degree of standardization of contents and forms (by means of PPP guidelines) is highly desirable — always recognizing that thresholds for pass/fail and evaluation criteria for selecting a short list must be tailor-made for the specific project.


  • [71] . There
    are, however, some cases where the target is to short list only two bidders.
    The state of Victoria, Australia takes this extreme position of requiring
    procuring authorities to only short list two bidders where this is appropriate
    in the context of the project.

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