The bid process for Florida agencies is much more rigid than the process used for private projects. And, for good reason–taxpayers have the general expectation that their tax dollars will be used as efficiently as possible. The Florida statutes lay out the procedures by which construction or renovation work on public buildings or land should be solicited. The law outlines three methods for gathering bids in the state: invitation to bid, request for proposals, and invitation to negotiate.
Each method is most applicable in certain circumstances. However, any bid solicitation must:
- Be made available to vendors at the same time;
- Include the date and time to receive bids, proposals, or replies;
- List the date of the “public opening”;
- Include applicable terms and conditions of the procurement; and
- Lay out criteria for determining “acceptability and relative merit” of a bid, proposal, or reply.
Invitation to Bid (ITB)
A few Florida agencies have the capacity and capability to provide a precise scope of work for interested contractors. Because the agency can work out specifications for this type of bid solicitation, the prices of bids are the dominant factor. In an ITB arrangement, the “lowest responsive bid” will win out. Bidders must include estimated yearly costs for performing under the contract.
Request for Proposals (RFPs)
If the state agency cannot specifically define the scope of work, it usually sends out an RFP. The RFP is appropriate when the agency can specifically define the “purposes and uses” for the work and identify “necessary deliverables.” Just like ITB proposals, RFPs are available to “responsive” vendors. Because price is not the determinative factor in RFPs, bidders must be informed of other criteria which will be important in determining the successful bidder. Broadly speaking, an RFP will be awarded to a responsive vendor whose proposal is “most advantageous to the state.”
Invitation to Negotiate (ITN)
Of the three bid solicitations covered in this blog, the ITN option is the most open-ended. Simply put, an ITN is used when an agency determines that negotiations with one or more contractors is most likely to deliver the “best value” for the state. The ITN describes the agency’s overarching goals or desired solution for a problem. Still, an ITN must set forth certain criteria by which the contractors’ replies may be judged.
The procedure for awarding bids for public construction projects is heavily guided by the Florida statutes. Generally, though, public entities seek efficient use of tax money by responsive, and responsible, contractors. Still, construction firms deserve a fair bidding process. If you’ve encountered problems with a recent bid or want legal assistance to position your firm for success, contact Florida Construction Law Group today. We pledge to work toward efficient legal solutions for you and your team.