Multiple Contract Awards

Q. Management is considering releasing an RFP for various future vehicle/facility-inspection activities on an ongoing basis. The plan is to award an open-ended contract to each qualified proposer, with a ranking by fixed-fee and category of work, with costs varying by location and type of inspection service. Work would be offered to the first ranked contractor in a particular category, and if that contractor declines, the next one would be notified, until a contractor accepts the work. No new bidding is involved with each job as it arises. Is this type of arrangement consistent with FTA's third-party contractor guidelines regarding full and open competition?

A.  To answer this question properly we would need to define terms more precisely than is done in the question. If the term "fixed fee" means a fully loaded labor rate that includes overhead and profit for each category of labor, and the term "costs" means material and other expenses such as travel and per diem, then the question is describing a time and materials type of contract. If the solicitation is clear regarding the competitive selection criteria and the resulting contracts are requirements type contracts for a specific period of time such as one year, this arrangement will meet the full and open competition requirements. (Note the requirements in FTA Circular 4220.1F, Ch. VI. regarding time and materials contracts.) However, if these proposed contracts are truly "open ended" as stated in the question, the grantee cannot prohibit other contractors from competing for the tasks as they become available. In fact the grantee should periodically advertise the existence of this competitive opportunity. (Revised: August 21, 2009)

Q. If we prepare an Invitation to Bid that encompasses two or three sizes of bus shelters and if we receive responses from two or more vendors, who may each build only one of the sizes, can we select 2 or more vendors?  This RFP would be over $100,000 and last for 5 years or so.

A. You may award multiple contracts; e.g., to several different vendors for different size shelters based on the lowest price received for a particular size shelter.   Of course your IFB must tell the bidders that you may award one or more contracts based on the lowest responsive and responsible bids received for the various shelter sizes.  Also, you must clearly describe your agency selection criteria.
(Posted: July, 2011)