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Section M - RFPs, IFBs, the Schedule, RFQs and Best Value

The average sales person does not spend enough time analyzing Section M when completing a proposal. Not to grasp all of this key section is to do business at your own peril.

The government only has a few ways to buy including RFP, IFB, schedule,and RFQ. By law, the IFB is low bid, and this is why it is so neglected. If the government is buying $2 million of a brand name product, they should be using an IFB at least 90% of the time. Many agencies fail to do so. We have even seen court cases on this issue where the court ordered the agency to cancel the RFP and use an IFB.

But what about RFQ's and schedule buys? They must be awarded to the low bidder, unless the bid contains a best value equation. The FAR requires the CO to state the relationship between price and technical. In a recent court case, even the GAO, with its weak review powers, overturned an award by HCFA in which HCFA made a value award for storage systems after their RFQ said low price.

We recently saw a similar case in a civilian agency where the agency said they would do a schedule buy, had no equivalent to Section M, and did not award to the low-priced supplier who met their needs. This is a sure protest loser if one comes.

But GAO also recently okayed buying Microsoft at a higher price from a schedule holder and rejected a non-schedule, lower-priced bid. CICA in 1984 okayed schedules as a business but required low price awards and required that the program be open to everyone. It is or is it? The job of NFL wide receiver is open to everyone if you run a 4.1 40 and weight 220. Schedules are hardly open to everyone. The two most common conditions are Sun won't let you put their stuff on your GSA and your past discount history was not well managed, preventing you from obtaining a GSA at a profitable price. If you doubt this, just ask Sun, Oracle and Microsoft to be on your schedule. Call me when they all say yes.

But the sales guy, when he gets a bid, has to ask questions such as how long is the life cycle, what training do you want, what is the best value award basis, etc. If they don't, they may starve to death.

Written by Terry Miller. Published by Organizational Communications, Inc. Republished with permission.

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