Successful Online Bidding and Contract Management

Author(s):

Jim Parker, C.P.M.
Jim Parker, C.P.M., Director of Purchasing, University of Utah, 1901 E. South Campus Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9351, (801)581-7241 (ph) (801)581-8609 (fax), jparker@purchasing.utah.edu

85th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 2000 

Abstract: Public Sector bidding and contract management can be made more efficient and economical using a common sense approach to the latest developments in technology. This session will review cutting edge ideas that have been implemented by the State of Utah and the University of Utah to streamline operations and to improve information flow and analysis for suppliers, internal customers and purchasing staff.

Online Bidding

Public entities most often have requirements for public bidding and disclosure. Although statutes and laws regulating public notice and advertising of bids and RFPs vary, the Internet has become a valuable tool in exposing the institutions needs to the supplier community and helping new and potential suppliers in understanding the bid process. The following are important:

  • Providing adequate notice of the website where bids are posted and informing suppliers of any changes in processes to accommodate online bidding. Public advertising of the web address where bids are posted may be needed to satisfy the public notice requirement in many public settings.

  • Clearly posting necessary information regarding bid dates, response dates and form of response required. If faxed or e-mailed responses are not allowed, this information must be clearly noted.

  • Determining the best format for allowing potential respondents to download necessary forms, specifications, terms and conditions, and other materials required for response. PDF file format ensures that the appearance of downloaded data is identical for all suppliers.

  • Ongoing, daily site maintenance is extremely important for ensuring the integrity of the process. Mistakes due to required ongoing updates can compromise the process and lead to delays and protests. It is also important to either maintain electronic or paper records of all postings depending on local laws to provide documentation in the case of disputes.

  • Ensure that the site has a high level of security to thwart vandalism.

  • Some organizations have developed electronic supplier registration processes for suppliers to provide information to organizations about their products and contact information. These registration processes can be required for all suppliers submitting bids. During this process, suppliers can electronically acknowledge that they understand the policies and procedures of the bidding institution.

  • Posting of bid results and award decisions online provide immediate notice to suppliers and may enable the clock to begin ticking for the statute of limitations regarding protests.

Once the bid site is established, it will not be unusual to have other sites copy and post your institutions bid inquiries to their own sites. Although this may provide greater exposure, often these listings will not contain all the information necessary for a supplier to respond. It is important for purchasing managers to contact these sites if problems occur.

Contract Management:

One of the greatest tools for purchasers to use in communicating contract information is via the web, Intranets or virtual private networks (VPNs). This is especially important in the public sector, where most of the time; contract information must be disseminated to a large number of users who may infrequently need to place orders against these contracts. In many institutions, catalogue and contract price information is a matter of public record.

In many public institutions, a great effort is required to disseminate contract information in paper form to users. Electronic contracts not only allow for tremendous savings of paper, but also allow for real time updates, convenient searches and often, direct tie-ins with contract suppliers.

With the advent of electronic signature laws in most states, and the growth of digital certificates, electronic contracts can often completely replace their paper counterparts from inception though negotiation and completion to distribution. It is important however to ensure that all records of prices, changes, etc. are stored in such a way as to be able to validate the method, timing and approval of any amendments.

Digital imaging of records has become the preferred method for archiving and accessing contracts and purchase orders for many organizations. The cost of implementing imaging storage solutions has continued to decrease. Recent innovations in technology have provided a number of new solutions for indexing and retrieval of these records.


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