Plain LanguageGovernment Solicitations - article FOUR
This – the fourth in my series on plain language for government solicitations – tackles what is meant by “proposal validity”. This is very important to understand, as it impacts how long you must honour the approach and pricing that you offered in your submission.
Note: This article is intended for general information only, and is not, nor should it be treated as, legal advice. Readers should consult with their legal counsel about anything stated in this article if they intend to rely upon it.
Many government solicitations include language such as:
“Proposals will be open for acceptance for at least 90 days after the Closing Time.”
This means that anyone whose submission is accepted (i.e. that meets all the mandatory criteria) must allow the buyer to take up to 90 days (or whatever time period is identified) to decide who they will purchase from.
The reason for this time limit is two-fold:
- It gives the buyer time to go through their evaluation process to determine who they will buy from; and
- It gives the participating vendors a maximum time period for their offer to be valid. Just imagine what it would be like if the government buyer asked you six months after closing to honour your offer – your availability and pricing may not be the same that long after the solicitation closed.
But sometimes the government buyer takes longer than they anticipated to evaluate submissions, and no decision is made by the time the submissions expire. So what happens then? Usually, this means that no vendor is still bound to what they offered – but that doesn’t help you as a participating vendor or the government buyer. In these circumstances, one of the following will usually result:
- The government buyer may decide not to continue with the purchase. This means that the solicitation has had no results, and no contract will be offered to anyone. The government buyer may decide to reissue the solicitation at a future date.
- The government buyer may continue with the process, if they can decide on who is successful very shortly after the deadline expires (i.e. within days). Technically, there are no valid proposals after the expiry date, but the successful vendor and government may decide to overlook this.
- The government buyer may ask all participating vendors to extend the time period that their proposals are valid; if everyone agrees, the process can continue until the new expiry date. If you are asked to do this, you have the choice to agree or not agree – your decision should be based on whether or not the opportunity is still of interest to you (e.g. you have the resources to be able to do the work as you offered in your submission at the same price).
If you are offered the contract after your submission has expired, do not expect this to be an opportunity to negotiate substantive changes to what you have offered. Although it is true that what you offered in your submission has expired, the government would not be in a position to allow substantive changes. If they did this, the process is not fair and transparent, as no other participating vendor was given the same opportunity, and your proposal may not have scored the same had your original offer matched the changes you’d now like to make.
The bottom line to think carefully about how long your submission will remain valid, and what you will do if the government’s decision takes that full amount of time (or longer). This can be a particular issue if the solicitation asks you to name individuals into one or more roles – you need to consider if these same people would be available that long after closing.
If you haven’t heard any results a few weeks after closing, don’t be shy about emailing the contact person about the status of the solicitation. They won’t likely give you much information, but it sometimes helps to push the process along if multiple participating vendors are asking when they will hear the results.
And as always, if anything is unclear about how long your submission is valid or you are concerned about how long the individuals you’ve been asked to name in your submission will be available, send a question to the government contact person asking for clarification well in advance of the closing date.
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