Before or during the evaluation process, queries may arise with an individual bidder’s submission that require clarification before the evaluation process may be completed. Queries may arise where a bidder has given an ambiguous or otherwise unclear response to a question. Rather than assuming that you understand what was meant, it may be safer to seek clarification of the information.
Likewise, a bidder may have responded to a question in a different way to others and you may need to make sure you understand what is being offered so that you can make a fair assessment of the response against the specification and award criteria.
Depending on the nature of the query, the clarification may take place by telephone, email, in writing or at a face-to-face meeting. In each case, the outcome of the clarification should be confirmed in writing and agreed by both parties.
It is important that the nature of any bid clarification does not materially change the substance of the requirement or, to that matter, the bidder’s submission. If the substance of the requirement is changed, then the competition (ie the quotation or tender) should be stopped and re-started using the revised specification ie all the potential bidders are afforded the opportunity to compete for the new specification.
For tenders that exceed the relevant EU threshold, the EU Procurement Regulations stipulate the following in regards to bid clarification:
“Where information or documentation to be submitted by bidders is or appears to be incomplete or erroneous, or where specific documents are missing, contracting authorities may request the bidders concerned to submit, supplement, clarify or complete the relevant information or documentation within an appropriate time limit, provided that such requests are made in full compliance with the principles of equal treatment and transparency”.
Where an abnormally low bid is received, it should be checked and the background to the submission clarified before it is rejected.
Any clarifications that are not of a minor nature should be carried out with the involvement of the Procurement Office.
Remember, bid clarification is not about trying to improve one bidder’s submission against another. It is about ensuring that you understand what the bidder is offering and can then carry out an informed evaluation of what has been offered and at what price.
Note: Bid clarification should not be confused with post tender negotiation.