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Competitive Sealed Proposal (RFP)

What are Competitive Sealed Proposals?

Competitive Sealed Proposals is a method of procurement for acquiring products or services that exceed $250,000. The intermediate procurement threshold as defined by ORS.279B.070.  For this procurement method, DAS Procurement Services on behalf of an agency, or an agency with delegated procurement authority, collectively termed, a procuring agency, issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) to initiate the Competitive Sealed Proposals process.

Potential suppliers submit proposals for the required products or services in response to an RFP issued by a procuring agency. After evaluating proposals against the criteria established in the RFP, the procuring agency awards to the responsible proposer with the proposal that offers the best value to the agency. The Competitive Sealed Proposals method allows for a procuring agency to negotiate with the suppliers.

When to Use Competitive Sealed Proposals

Agencies must make their Buy Decision in the priority order specified in administrative rule. Before selecting an open market method such as Competitive Sealed Proposals, a procuring agency must first determine its procurement need cannot be met through a higher priority. If an agency procures products or services that exceed $250,000 through an open market method, or services that exceed the intermediate procurement threshold as defined by ORS.279B.070, then it must use either the Competitive Sealed Bidding or Competitive Sealed Proposals method, unless otherwise covered by a statutory exception.

An agency should use the Competitive Sealed Proposals method when it is clear on “what” the product or service is, but the “how” is not clear or is left to the supplier to propose. An agency should use the Competitive Sealed Proposals method when there are in-depth considerations beyond just cost, i.e., other aspects associated with the product or service. The Competitive Sealed Proposals method permits an agency to compare different solutions to determine which is most advantageous to the agency.

For formal procurements, refer to the following table that distinguishes the characteristics of Competitive Sealed Proposals versus Competitive Sealed Bidding.

Refer to Competitive Sealed Bidding (ITB) for more information on this formal procurement method.

Note: Prior to selecting any formal procurement method through the open market, an agency should refer to Procurement Planning for more information on conducting appropriate plan activities that facilitate the procurement process.

How to Process Competitive Sealed Proposals

A procuring agency must use a process that comprises the following nine tasks to conduct a solicitation through the Competitive Sealed Proposals method:

An RFP document must include information according to Oregon statutes and administrative rules.

Resource: Using the approved RFP template is mandatory for agencies. This template was developed by DAS Procurement Services and the Attorney General's Office to create alignment with state statute, DOJ Model rules, and DAS rules. The RFP checklist can be used in conjunction with the template.

An RFP document includes the RFP and its attachments, which are provided in the RFP template. Additionally, an RFP document includes a sample contract, and all exhibits, addenda and supplemental information that will be posted through OregonBuys.

The procuring agency should draft the RFP document, including a sample contract, according to the instructions provided for in the RFP template. The RFP template includes the following elements as components of the RFP document:
  • High level information about the RFP – a description of the procurement objectives and the parameters that define the scope, factors that inform the procurement, such as agency policy or legislative direction, (as applicable), award information, term and renewal options.
  • Tentative schedule of events – anticipated dates for pre-proposal conference, questions/requests for clarification, RFP protest period, proposal closing, public opening of proposals, presentations, demonstrations, or interviews, notice of intent to award, etc.
  • Single Point of Contact (SPC) – procurement professional responsible for communicating any provision of the RFP or its process.
  • Authority – identification of the statute, rule, or other authority, or through DAS delegated authority.
  • Method – RFP may include combination of the methods, including options for competitive range, discussions and revised proposals, revised rounds of negotiations, negotiations, best and final offers, or multistep sealed proposals.
  • Overview and purpose – background information on the agency and the project, describing how the need has been met historically, desired outcomes, context, benchmarks or past performance, driving factors, including past and projected purchases, and contract or price agreement beneficiaries.
  • Scope of work – description of what the agency is looking for. The scope of work establishes the parameters of what can be amended into the contract at a later date. The scope of work should not be confused with the statement of work, which is intended to describe the work to be completed as agreed to by the parties in a contract.
  • Minimum proposer requirements – proposal must demonstrate how proposer meets all requirements of this section, which may include D&B ratings, number of years’ experience related to business and technical requirements, licenses or certifications, among other requirements.
  • Proposal submission requirements – content elements include an executive summary, RFP template attachments, such as proposer information, references, cost proposal, COBID certification (Attachment B-Attachment G), administrative and technical proposal, key persons and resumes, work samples, and any other requirements applicable to the RFP, and as applicable for each competitive round. Format elements include page limits, format and quantity and authorized representative.
  • Proposal requirements – content elements include RFP template attachments, such as proposer information, references, cost proposal, key persons and resumes, technical proposal, work samples, project implementation plan, and any other requirements applicable to the RFP, and as applicable for each competitive round.
  • Solicitation process – the process and content details of the solicitation, including issuance of public notice, provision for pre-proposal conference, questions and requests for clarification, protests, proposal delivery options, modifications or withdrawal, proposal closing date, public opening date, (limited to disclosure of the proposers’ names), and proposal rejection, and as applicable for each competitive round.
  • Evaluation process – the processes and criteria for determining responsiveness and responsibility, evaluation criteria for evaluating each proposal and proposers capability independently, evaluating cost, and consideration of preferences, and as applicable for each competitive round.
  • Point and score calculations – description of method for assigning points, scoring, ranking of proposers, and determining next steps, and as applicable for each competitive round.
  • Additional rounds – if additional competitive round details are undetermined, however, a procuring agency wants to reserve the right to conduct them, the agency may describe its intent to conduct additional competitive rounds and include the details in the notice of competitive range.
  • Scoring and ranking of proposers for subsequent rounds – options for scoring and ranking of proposers may be specified in the RFP. Options include selection of either a cumulative scoring method or an independent scoring method, as applicable across multiple competitive rounds.
  • Award and negotiation – includes provisions for:
    • Award notification process – highest ranking responsible proposer(s) based upon the scoring methodology and process.
    • Intent to award protest – protest submission provisions.
    • Submission requirements apparent Successful Proposer – insurance, taxpayer ID, business registry, etc.
    • Contract/Price agreement negotiation – agreement to comply with the requirements of the RFP, including the terms and conditions of the Sample contract/price agreement (Attachment A) unless noted in its proposal and unless it is a negotiable term and condition.
    • Contractor selection methodology – the method of selection applicable only to multiple awards of contract/price agreements.
  • Additional information – includes encouraging small businesses certified by COBID, governing laws, ownership/permission to use materials, cancellation of RFP, cost of submitting a proposal, recyclable products, printing, binding, and stationary work (if applicable), among others.
Beyond the RFP template content elements, the following items, provided by Oregon statutes and administrative rules, further direct the Competitive Sealed Proposals procurement. RFP documents must address:
  • Requirement for a contractor's certification of compliance with Oregon tax laws, if applicable (refer to ORS 305.385).
  • Proposer certification of non-discrimination in obtaining required subcontractors, if applicable.
  • Provisions for proposal security.
  • Requirement that contractors perform work according to the highest industry standards for their profession.
  • All contractual terms and conditions applicable to the procurement, clearly specifying the consequences for a contractor’s failure to perform the RFP’s scope of work or a contractor’s failure to meet established performance standards.
  • Contractual terms or conditions that the agency reserves to negotiate or requests proposers to offer within the context of the request for proposals.
The procuring agency must follow its internal and state-level procedures for review and approval of the RFP document prior to posting the public notice. State-level procedures, at a minimum require the agency to submit the RFP, with the attached sample contract,to the Attorney General for the required legal sufficiency review. Additional state-level reviews may be required depending on the type of product or service being procured.

After the procuring agency obtains internal and state-level approvals, the agency must advertise the opportunity to potential proposers through a public notice posted on OregonBuys. This informs potential proposers of the procurement opportunity and strengthens competition.

To promote the procurement opportunity and foster competition, a procuring agency may supplement the public notice through additional means. An agency may use mail, newspaper or the agency’s website for this purpose, however, the information provided must be limited to directing potential proposers to the official notice on OregonBuys.

Note: Conducting a solicitation through OregonBuys satisfies an agency’s requirement to provide timely notice and information to the Governor’s Policy Advisor for Economic and Business Equity regarding proposal solicitations and 
contract awards (refer to ORS 200.035).

All public notices must contain the following information:
  1. Where, when, how, and for how long the RFP may be obtained.
  2. A general description of the products or services to be acquired.
  3. The date that suppliers must file applications for prequalification, if prequalification is a requirement, and the class of products or services for which suppliers must be prequalified.
  4. The office where contract terms, conditions and specifications may be reviewed if unable to access the OregonBuys official notice.
  5. The name, title and address of the individual authorized to receive proposals.
  6. The time and date by which sealed proposals must be received.
  7. Any other information deemed appropriate.
Official notice of the RFP must appear on OregonBuys for a minimum of 30 days prior to closing. Additional notice may be given for any reasonable time period.

In certain circumstances, the procuring agency may determine that a shorter official notice period is in the public's interest and that the shortened period will not substantially affect competition. A posting period, however, must not be less than seven days. If the official posting period is reduced from 30 days, the procuring agency must document the specific reasons for the shorter time period in the procurement file.

​After posting the RFP, the procuring agency must manage the solicitation until responses are received. The procuring agency must be careful to protect the integrity of the competitive procurement process by treating all potential proposers fairly and equally during the procurement process. After the RFP is posted, a potential proposer must direct all communications related to the RFP, including technical requirements, contractual requirements, the RFP process, or any other provision only to the single point of contact identified in the RFP.

Solicitation management includes:
  1. Facilitating the pre-proposal conference (if provided through the solicitation).
  2. Receiving and responding to suppliers’ written inquiries regarding the solicitation.
  3. Processing solicitation addenda, as required.
The purpose of a pre-proposal conference is to explain the procurement process and scope of work to potential proposers and allow them to ask questions. Oral responses to questions and other statements made during the pre-proposal conference are not binding on the State unless confirmed in writing through an addendum to the RFP posted through OregonBuys.

An addendum is used to communicate material changes to the RFP, correct minor defects, and provide information or clarification to potential proposers. If the procuring agency must amend the RFP, it should consider the impact to the potential proposers and determine if additional time should be given for submission of proposals. Official notice of an addendum to the RFP must be posted on OregonBuys. Unless there is an extenuating public interest, the addendum should not be issued less than 72 hours before the proposal closing unless the addendum also extends the proposal closing date.

After the official public notice of the solicitation and before the award of a contract, any communication between the procuring agency and potential proposers must occur within the context of the solicitation only. This communication can only occur during the scheduled question and answer time frame allowed by the RFP as it relates to potential proposer questions related to terms and conditions, specifications, addenda or other related matters.

During this time frame, telephone conversations and meetings with potential proposers must be documented in the procurement file and a record of all material communications regarding the solicitation by potential proposers must be included as part of the procurement file.

​The procuring agency must date and time stamp, but not open, any proposal submitted prior to closing. Proposals must be stored in a secure place until the closing time and date described in the RFP.

After the closing date and time for the RFP, the procuring agency conducts a public opening for all proposals received, and reads aloud and records the names of all proposers in a proposal register that must be posted to OregonBuys.

All proposals are withheld from public inspection until after award of the contract. At a public opening, the procuring agency must only disclose the names of the proposers and must open proposals in a manner to avoid disclosing contents to competing proposers.

Any proposals arriving after the official due date and time are considered late and may be retained by the state, returned to the proposer at its expense, or destroyed.

Mistakes in Proposals

To protect the integrity of the competitive procurement process and to assure fair treatment of proposers, the procuring agency should carefully consider whether it will allow for waivers, or withdrawals of proposals for certain mistakes.

The procuring agency must not allow a proposer to correct or withdraw a proposal for an error in judgment. If mistakes are found in a proposal after the opening, but before award of the contract, the procuring agency may take the following actions:
  1. Waive, or permit a proposer to correct, a minor informality. A minor informality is a matter of form rather than substance that is evident on the face of the proposal, or an insignificant mistake that can be waived or corrected without prejudice to other proposers. Examples include a proposer’s failure to:
    • Return the correct number of signed proposals or the correct number of other documents required by the RFP document.
    • Sign the proposal in the designated block, provided a signature appears elsewhere in the proposal, evidencing an intent to be bound.
    • Acknowledge receipt of an addendum to the RFP document, provided that it is clear on the face of the proposal that the proposer received the addendum and intended to be bound by its terms; or the addendum involved did not affect price, quality or delivery.
  2. Correct a clerical error if the error is evident on the face of the proposal or other documents submitted with the proposal, and the proposer confirms the procuring agency’s correction in writing. Examples include:
    • Typographical mistakes.
    • Errors in extending unit prices.
    • Transposition errors.
    • Arithmetic errors.
    • Instances in which the intended correct unit or amount is evident by simple arithmetic calculations.

    Note: Unit prices must prevail over extended prices in the event of a discrepancy between extended prices and unit prices.

  3. Permit a proposer to withdraw a proposal based on one or more clerical errors in the proposal only if the proposer shows with objective proof and by clear and convincing evidence:
    • The nature of the error.
    • That the error is not a minor informality or an error in judgment.
    • That the error cannot be corrected or waived.
    • That the proposer acted in good faith in submitting a proposal and in communicating that the alleged error in the proposal exists.
    • That the proposer acted without gross negligence in submitting a proposal that contained the claimed error.
    • That the proposer will suffer substantial detriment if they are not granted the permission to withdraw the proposal.
    • That the state will not face substantial hardship from withdrawal of the proposal.
    • That the proposer promptly gave notice of the claimed error.
A procuring agency may allow for mistakes in proposals to be corrected after opening, however, changes that are prejudicial to public interests or fair competition are not allowed. The procuring agency must reject any proposal in which a mistake is evident on the face of the proposal and the intended correct proposal is not evident or cannot be substantiated from documents submitted with the proposal.

A procuring agency may cancel awards or orders due to proposal mistakes, but must support that action with a written determination. Following award, a proposer is bound by its proposal, and may withdraw its proposal or rescind a contract only as allowed by applicable law.

The procuring agency must conduct a review of all proposals to determine their responsiveness to the RFP’s mandatory requirements, including compliance with the RFP’s Minimum Qualifications and Minimum Submission Requirements sections. Following this review, the evaluation committee, comprising representatives selected by the procuring agency, must independently review the responsive proposals and evaluate each according to the criteria established in the RFP.

At any time prior to award, the procuring agency must determine responsibility of the apparent successful proposer and may reject a proposer found to be not responsible. Refer to Develop Evaluation Strategy for more information on the evaluation process.

Depending upon the provisions of the RFP, a procuring agency may make an award using the following contractor selection methods or combination of methods:
  • Solely on the ranking of proposals.
  • Discussions leading to best and final offers (revised proposals).
  • Serial negotiations, beginning with the highest ranked proposer.
  • Competitive simultaneous negotiations.
  • Multiple-tiered competition.Multistep RFPs.
The procuring agency may conduct site tours, demonstrations, individual or group discussions and other informational activities with proposers for the purpose of clarification to ensure full understanding of, and responsiveness to, the solicitation requirements or to consider and respond to requests for modifications of the proposal requirements. The procuring agency must use procedures outlined in the RFP to ensure proposers are given fair and equal treatment with respect to any opportunity for negotiation and revision of proposals.

If an agency determines that two or more proposals are identical, it must use the following priority to resolve the tie:
  1. Award to the proposer who is offering products or services manufactured, produced or that will be performed in Oregon.
  2. Award through a random drawing if none or all of the tied proposers are offering products or services manufactured, produced or that will be performed in Oregon.

Life Cycle Costing

A procuring agency must consider the use of life cycle costing as an evaluation factor to quantify the total cost of ownership. This method calculates the cost to acquire, operate, support and dispose of a product over its useful life.

The procuring agency may use this method to include any additional costs that relate to adverse impacts of a product, for example, impacts to the environment or public health. Using this method, award of a contract is not based solely on the lowest price, and a low proposal would include life cycle costing.

If a procuring agency elects to use life cycle costing for evaluation, the RFP must:
  1. Describe how life cycle costing will be considered and applied in the evaluation process and award decision.
  2. Provide relevant information for the evaluation of the proposal, for example, projected product usage, operating environment, and operating period.
  3. Provide any information related to testing, demonstrations, or interviews.
  4. Describe any information that potential proposers must provide in their proposals, including relevant life cycle costs and supporting information.

Multi-tiered and Multistep Proposals

A procuring agency may provide for a multi-tiered or multistep selection process that:
  • Permits award to the highest ranked proposer at any tier or step.
  • Calls for the establishment of a competitive range.
  • Permits either serial or competitive simultaneous discussions or negotiations with one or more proposers.
In multi-tiered and multistep solicitation, a procuring agency may exercise its discretion to use a variety of means to solicit information from potential proposers in any sequence or order and at any stage of the selection process.

At the completion of any stage, the procuring agency may determine the most advantageous proposal and award a contract, or contracts for multiple-award solicitations, and conclude the procurement process.

Before posting a notice of intent to award, the procuring agency may provide proposers the opportunity to protest exclusion from the competitive range or phases of multi-tiered or multistep sealed proposals. However, with the posting of the intent to award notice, the procuring agency must provide an opportunity to protest its intent to award a contract. Refer to the full section on Protests for more information on providing for and addressing a protest.

Best and Final Offers

During the evaluation process, the procuring agency may determine that the use of a Best and Final Offer (BAFO) is required.

A request for BAFO may be used during the evaluation process for any of the following reasons:
  • To clarify or amend the RFP.
  • To request revised cost proposals from the proposers.
  • To allow proposers to submit clarifications.
The BAFO is a good tool to ensure proposers are given fair and equal treatment with respect to revisions of proposals and evaluation.

When the need for a BAFO arises, the BAFO will be provided to all proposers, unless the procuring agency has eliminated proposers using competitive range or other evaluation methods described in the RFP. When issuing a BAFO, the procuring agency must establish a date and time for the proposers to submit their response. The BAFO must inform proposers that if they do not submit a BAFO, their immediately previous proposal will be considered their best and final offer. After best and final offers are received, the evaluation committee will reevaluate the proposals as modified by the BAFO response. A procuring agency may determine to use additional rounds of BAFO as needed.

​Prior to meeting with the proposer, the procuring agency should prepare a summary of points to cover in the negotiations, and during the negotiations should document the outcome of negotiation discussions for each point. Verbatim records of the discussion are not required.

A procuring agency may conduct serial negotiations with the highest-ranked eligible proposer or may conduct simultaneous negotiations with all eligible proposers. A procuring agency may negotiate any element called out as negotiable in the RFP, including:
  • Proposed statement of work.
  • Proposed price.
  • Other terms and conditions authorized for negotiation in the RFP.
A procuring agency must not accept alternative terms and conditions that are not reasonably related to those authorized for negotiation in the RFP.

The procuring agency may terminate negotiations with a proposer and enter into negotiations with the next highest-ranking proposer. The procuring agency may take this action after a time period established in the RFP if it believes the proposer is not negotiating in good faith or if the procuring agency has determined that further negotiations will not result in the parties agreeing to the terms and conditions of a contract in a timely manner.

For multiple award contracts, the procuring agency may enter into contracts with different terms and conditions with each contractor to the extent those terms and conditions are within the scope of the RFP and do not materially conflict with the applicable contractual terms and conditions.

Revised Rounds of Negotiations

A procuring agency may conduct successive rounds of proposals achieved through negotiations to gain the best proposal for purposes of award. Through this process, negotiations may successively or jointly encompass price, specifications, and final terms and conditions. The procuring agency must disclose the parameters of each round of negotiations, at which point the agency may revise the solicitation’s specifications, terms and conditions, evaluation criteria and weight, or pricing structure.

At each successive round, the procuring agency may disregard its scoring of prior proposals and produce new scoring for the new proposals. The procuring agency may eliminate any proposal after a round because the proposal did not meet a minimum score or was not susceptible to award. The procuring agency may proceed to a subsequent round, and at its discretion, may permit any previously eliminated proposer to submit a new proposal, if the reason for the prior elimination no longer applies.

Once the procuring agency selects the responsible proposer that submitted the proposal offering the best value to the state, the agency must document the award determination and file it in the procurement file. At a minimum, documentation of an award determination for an RFP must include:
  • The complete evaluation of the proposals.
  • Written justification for any rejection of higher scoring proposals.
  • Written documentation of any discussions, clarification, negotiations or BAFO.
  • Written documentation of any other procedures used to select the anticipated awardee.
In addition to these required elements, the procuring agency should also document any other relevant information supporting its award decision.

After documenting the award determination, the procuring agency should prepare for contract award. Prior to awarding a contract, the procuring agency must send to all proposers a written notice of the intent to award and post a notice of intent to award on OregonBuys at least seven days prior to the award of a contract.

The procuring agency may determine that circumstances justify prompt execution of a contract, in which case a shorter award notice period may be provided. If a shorter award notice period is used, the procuring agency must document the specific reasons for the shorter notice period in the procurement file.

After the notice of intent to award, the procurement files must be made available according to applicable law, except where applicable law requires the procuring agency to make information contained in the procurement files available before any notice of intent to award (refer to the Public Records Law) or that the procuring agency may withhold from disclosure to the public because the materials are deemed exempt or conditionally exempt from disclosure (refer to ORS 192.501-502).

After the intent to award notice period, and as required by the RFP, the procuring agency must provide the successful proposer a contract, signed purchase order, price agreement, or other contract documents, as applicable.

The successful proposer must promptly sign the provided contract and complete any actions necessary to fully execute the contract as required by the RFP.
Unless delegated procurement authority to conduct Competitive Sealed Proposals, a requesting agency must submit a purchase request through ORPIN or email a Contract Services Request to DAS Procurement Services and must provide a concept document, statement of work, specifications, and other checklist items. 
The Competitive Sealed Proposals procurement process generally involves substantial time and effort to plan, develop, solicit, manage, evaluate and make an award. An agency should plan appropriately and engage DAS Procurement Services early in the process to enable efficient processing of its procurement need.

Amendments and Protests

Read the full sections on each of these subjects to learn more about requirements and how to process: