With the release of the Broader Public Sector procurement directive in 2011, health care organizations in Ontario have been forced to change the way that they procure goods and services. DDO is working with our clients to implement procurement procedures that are both practical and in compliance with Ontario’s regulatory requirements.

The following are some simple tips that we recommend to any organization working within the BPS procurement regime. These tips are intended to help BPS organizations to avoid common mistakes that we have observed since the coming into effect of the procurement directive; mistakes that can lead to embarrassment or, in some cases, to legal action against issuers.

  1. Understand the differences between available procurement documents. Each of a Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Quotation (RFQ), Request for Supplier Qualification (RFSQ), Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) and Request for Information (RFI) has a specific purpose and each entails a specific process for completion. It is not unusual for us to see organizations misusing these procurement documents. For example, an organization may issue a RFQ (which is traditionally understood to be seeking only proponent pricing) but will evaluate the related proposals as though they were responses to full RFPs. This is a misuse of the RFQ and a waste of the issuer’s resources. By understanding when and how each of the available procurement tools are to be used, an organization will increase the efficiency of its procurement processes and will be less likely to step offside of the procurement directive and related guidelines.
  2. Be selective in the identification of mandatory requirements. Many organizations include a long list of mandatory requirements in their procurement documents. Such mandatory items may range from requirements for truly essential abilities or specifications to merely administrative requirements (e.g., inclusion of a signature on every attachment included in a response). When determining what requirements should be mandatory for proponent responses, keep in mind that the failure to comply with a mandatory requirement will automatically disqualify a proponent. It is counterproductive for an issuer to be forced to disqualify a top proponent because of the proponent’s failure to comply with a requirement related purely to the form of the response (or other relatively minor matter). Such a disqualification is not in keeping with the BPS goal of ensuring value for money.
  3. Adhere to published timelines. Adherence to timelines and time limits set out in procurement documents is an essential obligation of the issuer.Submission dates and times must be established and enforced even if the enforcement means the disqualification of highly qualified proponents. If interviews are part of the procurement process, the time limits for each interview should also be strictly obeyed so that each shortlisted proponent has an equal audience with the interview panel. Failure to abide by established timelines could lead to invalidity of the procurement process and possibly to litigation.
  4. Be as transparent as possible about the proposed evaluation process. To the extent possible, include a clear and detailed description of the evaluation process in the procurement documents. The inclusion of a clear, detailed evaluation description will have multiple benefits to the issuer, including: (i) minimizing the number of questions received by the issuer from proponents who are confused about the process; (ii) reducing the likelihood that disputes will arise due to differences in interpretation of process guidelines; and (iii) providing a clear guide for each of the members of the evaluation team.
  5. Keep proponents informed on changes in decision-making timelines. Evaluation of responses commonly takes longer than expected. As the issuer, remember to be courteous to proponents by informing the proponents of any significant delays in the decision-making process. Proponents invest significant amounts of time and resources into their responses and appreciate being made aware of changes in timelines so that they can adjust expectations and plans accordingly.

Keeping these simple rules in mind will help you to avoid pitfalls that have troubled BPS organizations in the past.