By Racquel Muindi, Ballard Spahr LLP. Full bio below
The first and second parts of this series discussed how a public owner can identify thoughtful goals to frame project delivery and the prospective partnership and set the right tone with industry participants through thoughtful engagement in pre-procurement interactions. The third, and final part of the series (below) discusses how a public owner can invite meaningful private sector participation through goal-driven submittal requirements and evaluation criteria.
Invite Meaningful Participation through Goal-Driven Submittal Requirements and Evaluation Criteria
Ultimately the goals an owner identifies should be translated into the submittal requirements and evaluation criteria included in the Request for Qualification (RFQ) or a Request for Proposals (RFP), providing owners with the opportunity to invite meaningful private sector participation. The hallmark of an effective procurement is that goals drive submittals and the vision for the project solicited.
Accordingly, the submittal requirements and evaluation criteria are the heart of an effective procurement package and are where private partners get a glimpse of how the owner sees the goals fitting into project delivery. On the owner side, significant time and resources are spent building the framework of the submittals and evaluation regime and on the private side, significant time and resources are spent preparing responsive SOQs and proposals. With that investment, a clear signal that project goals drive submittals is partnership-affirming.
Public owners should craft the submittal requirements and corresponding evaluation criteria included in an RFQ and RFP with an eye toward the ultimate determinations to be made by the public owner at each stage of the procurement: (1) what qualifications does the prospective private sector partner need to support the public owner’s identified and articulated goals, and (2) what information is needed for the public owner to determine which qualified proposer offers the solution that best assures the public owner that the final result will achieve the identified and articulated goals. Goal-driven document drafting sounds deceptively simple and yet there are project-specific nuances, market knowledge, and owner preferences that each have their own utility in the submittal requirement/evaluation criteria development process.
For example, some procurement documents will include as a submittal requirement “’X’ years of experience performing a comparable scope of work.” Not unlike the prospective bidders’ assessment of the owner’s articulation of goals, it should be clear to prospective partners that a requirement or submission points to assessment of the likelihood of goal achievement. Here, this submittal requirement can be more thoughtfully conveyed by looking at what is meant by “comparable,” and what the driving forces behind a comparability determination are. In the context of higher education, owners can answer this question of comparability a number of different ways:
- Nature of the project assets (e.g., student housing, educational facilities, student union, etc.);
- Cost, including the dollar amount of the design, construction, operations, and maintenance, or the amount of private financing injected into the project;
- Geography, to the extent the owner values private partner regional P3 experience;
- Unique features of the project scope (e.g., artwork integration, revenue component, or certain stakeholder interfaces); and
- Anticipated peculiarities or areas of particular concern or focus valued by the owner.
This is not to suggest that all submittal requirements should be excessively detailed. In fact, too much detail and specificity can detract from the value proposition of P3 delivery generally, and expertly crafted submittal requirements are useless if no (or not enough) private sector entities can be responsive to them. An excellent development approach (and efficient use of resources) is for owners to challenge candidate submittal requirements by asking whether a response places the owner closer to making a determination of whether a particular private sector partner is offering information or a solution that will achieve the owner’s identified goals.
Submittal requirements and evaluation criteria optimally go hand-in-hand. Perhaps an owner’s previous procurement included a submittal requirement that was not weighted heavily enough, or a submittal requirement that was weighted too heavily. Ultimately, the evaluation criteria should accurately reflect the owner’s values and those values really are, or should be, byproducts of the owner’s goals and objectives.
In conclusion, it is important for an owner not only to invest the time to identify its goals upfront but also to understand the value of having thoughtful, precise goals guide the owner in its decision-making and communications at various milestones of the procurement and partnership. This series examined three practical steps that public owners can take to build better partnerships and support successful project delivery.
- Identify thoughtful goals and objectives.
- Set the right tone with industry participants.
- Invite meaningful participation through goal-driven submittal requirements and evaluation criteria.
Ultimately, the more confidence and clarity an owner has about the goals identified, the easier it will be to convey those goals and ensure that, from the beginning, the owner and prospective private sector partner are focused on the project together—as partners.
RACQUEL A. MUINDI is an associate in the P3/Infrastructure Group at Ballard Spahr LLP, focusing her practice on advising private and public sector clients on complex P3/infrastructure, energy, and project finance matters within the transportation, transit, utility and social infrastructure spaces. Racquel advises clients on key issues and complexities surrounding project development and structuring, procurement, bid preparation, financing and project delivery. Read more about Racquel, and connect with her on LinkedIn.