Wanted: Pre-Qualified Government Contractors

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Answer the tender call . . . if you do not bid, you cannot win

By Keith Strachan

Special to the BCA Report

The public sector spends millions of dollars on construction services each year. Those coveted government contracts can be huge boon to your business.  However, that pesky government procurement process wrapped in red tape can be frustrating at times.

The red tape gets in the way of government, too

What may surprise you is that the public sector procurement process is frustrating for government agencies as well. Laws outline how the bidding process is to be fair, open and competitive. These laws are good news for tax payers, as in theory this ensures best value for money.

Public sector organizations generally struggle with the process as the lowest price is not always the best solution and the tender process can be lengthy. Both underperforming contractors and drawn out buying processes affect project timelines. The late capital projects are those that end up on the front page of the Toronto Star.

It gets worse

Thanks to some high profile misuse of funds by contracted government consultants, the Ontario Government took its Broader Public Sector guidelines and made them a legislated directive. This means that government agencies like hospitals, school boards and post-secondary schools must have competitive project policies for even lower value jobs.

There is a solution

To help relieve the pressure of this process on every project schedule and land the best contractor for the job, the public sector is using a pre-qualification model. This means through a Request for Proposal (RFP), it can pre-qualify contractors in different service categories and then use that roster (vendor of record list) for future work. The pre-qualification is most likely based on experience and ability rather than just price.

Once the pre-qualified roster is set however, those contractors are not guaranteed work.  The pre-qualified vendors will be eligible for a streamlined second stage selection process as jobs come up.

What this means for the construction industry

Contractors can throw out those pencils they use to fill out simple bid forms. They will now have to market themselves to public sector buyers by highlighting expertise in the field and an ability to execute projects.

The contractor’s sales team will need to stay on top of posted opportunities. Before the popularity of pre-qualified contracts, if you missed a tender you could always go after the next one. Now if you miss the pre-qualification process, you may be blocked out of that organization for the next three to five years.

It’s good news for the construction industry

The trend of pre-qualified bidders should be welcomed by the construction industry because it puts steps in place to ensure the public sector is purchasing on merit and not just lowest price. Being on the roster gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with the organization and to know its operations. The second stage selection process is streamlined, so quoting jobs will take a lot less of your resources.

Keep in contact with your local government to become aware of its buying practices and upcoming projects. If you do not bid, you cannot win.

More information on doing business with the public sector can be found at www.selltopublicsector.com.

Keith Strachan is a public sector business development consultant. As a public procurement advisor for eight years, he saw a lot of good tender submissions and a lot of bad ones. Keith wants to make sure your next submission is one of the good ones. You can reach Keith at (647) 289-4756 or keith@selltopublicsector.com

            For information on public tenders and how to navigate the process call the Barrie Construction Association’s plan room at 705-726-5864 or email printing@barrieca.com.