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The bidding process

i Notice

FAR Part 5 provides a central set of 'policies and procedures for publicising contract opportunities and award information'. For contract actions expected to exceed US$25,000, federal agencies must post a synopsis of the contract action at a government-wide point of entry (GPE). The main GPE used for federal procurements is the Federal Business Opportunities (or FedBizOpps) website found at fbo.gov. The USASpending.gov site is also used by the US government as a repository for awarded contracts. Agencies are generally required to post a notice of proposed contract action for at least 15 days prior to the issuance of a solicitation for proposals or bids and must provide for a minimum response time of 30–45 days. For contracts utilising procedures other than full and open competition, a synopsis of the sole-source decision must be posted depending on the type of contract.

ii Procedures

Government agencies must utilise procedures for full and open competition of contracts wherever possible. The parameters of competition are delineated in the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA), 41 U.S.C. Section 253, and FAR Part 6. The two main types of competitive procedures are sealed bids and competitive proposals.

For sealed bidding procedures under FAR Part 14, offerors must submit a bid in response to an invitation for bids issued by the agency. Bids are opened publicly by the agency and evaluated without discussions. Award is made based on price and 'price-related factors' included in the invitation for bids, and is made to the lowest priced bidder found to be responsive based on the criteria set forth in the invitation.

Negotiated procedures under FAR Part 15 are more commonly used in competitive procurements. Under these procedures, offerors must submit proposals responding to specific instructions and evaluation criteria supplied in the solicitation. Once offerors submit proposals, agencies have the option to engage in exchanges with offerors in order to clarify points in their proposals or raise significant weaknesses or deficiencies.

Different procedures govern the more limited situations where full and open competition is not used. For example, federal supply schedule contracts with the General Services Administration are governed by specific procedures in FAR Part 8.4. Task and delivery orders issued under IDIQ contracts are governed by FAR Part 16. Small business contracts are governed by specific procedures set forth in FAR Part 19.

iii Amending bids

Bids submitted under sealed bidding procedures may be amended or withdrawn if notice is provided prior to the time set for bid opening. Similarly, under negotiated procedures, proposal revisions or modifications must be received by or before the time set for submission of proposals. Proposals submitted under negotiated procedures may also be revised after submission in response to discussions with the agency.