Fire department policy: Bid disputes

Having a bid dispute policy is often required and always a good idea; here are steps to build one

One of the items that has given some departments difficulty under the new federal procurement policy is the need to have a bid dispute resolution policy.

To put it in laymen's terms, your department needs to adopt a policy that defines what action a vendor takes if it feels that there has been a material breach of your procurement policy.

This is a relatively easy document for your department to develop and adopt if you don't already have one. The bid dispute policy at a minimum should contain six items.

1. Who receives disputes
List who in your department will receive and process bid disputes. This should be identified by job title rather than by a person's name.

Also, this designated person should not be anyone who was involved in the bid process.

2. Accepted in writing
The policy should state that disputes will only be accepted in writing. It should also indicate whether you will only accept those sent by U.S. Postal Service or whether you will accept electronic submissions.

3. Defined time limit
The policy should have a well-defined time limit for submitting disputes. For example, all disputes will be submitted in writing within 10 days of bid award.

4. List the contents
The policy should spell out exactly what needs to be included in the dispute submission. Here are seven examples of what to include.

  • The name and address of the complainant.
  • Identification of the competitive procurement at issue, for example, by RFP number.
  • Identification of the specific provision of the procurement document and/or procedure that was allegedly breached and the manner in which it was breached.
  • A precise statement of other relevant facts.
  • The complainant's arguments and supporting documentation.
  • The complainant's requested remedy.

5. Who will decide
The bid dispute policy should define who will conduct the fact finding, review the facts and render the decision on the complaint. This can either be an individual or a committee.

Again, it is recommended that this be spelled out by job title and not a person's name.

6. When the decision will be made
Finally, your policy should contain information on the time limit for a decision by the fact finder and how the complainant will be notified.

This policy may be more detailed, especially in the case of a larger department. But the six items laid out in this list are the basic requirements to establish a dispute policy.

For smaller departments, this policy is only mandated if you are using federal money for your project. However it may be a good policy to have one in place for all of your purchases. 

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