Monthly Archives: September 2018

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Contracting by Local Agencies – California Competitive Bidding Laws

By Matthew (Matt) Hilliard, Bay Area Regional Compliance Manager. -

California competitive bidding laws are intended to eliminate the awarding local agency from showing favoritism or in some cases trying to commit fraud and preventing the misuse of public funds. Contracting by local agencies laws are addressed in the California Public Contract Code (PCC), in sections 20100 through 22178. The PCC addresses many specific specifications of the laws surrounding public contracting and should be reviewed if you plan to bid public works projects. For this article, we will focus on the process. One important note, any contractor who bids on or enters into a contract to perform public works projects is required to register with the Department of Industrial Relations.Matthew (Matt) Hilliard, Bay Area Regional Compliance Manager

We’ll start off with some clarification; there are some categories of work that are in some cases, excused from competitive bidding depending on the type of agency. These categories can include specialized personal services, emergency work, maintenance and new projects that don’t reach the local agencies force account limit or bid threshold (dollar amount) that is specified in the PCC, in the city bylaws or charter of the city.

Advertising for Bids

Once a public agency reviews and approves an estimate received by the agency’s City Engineer or a project-engineering consultant, their governing board will vote to give their Public Works Director or designee the authority to advertise for bids. This is one of the major components that creates transparency in this process and allows contractors and the public to view the specifications of the project. Depending on the agency’s own advertising requirements, this can be done in newspapers, centralized community notification boards, and electronic bid-boards online. Contractors submit sealed bids based on the project specifications outlined in the engineers’ estimate. The bids will be publicly opened on a date set by the agency.

Award of Contracts

There are a couple of methods the awarding agencies use, depending on the requirements of the agency, to award a contract. The first, and the most commonly used method, is to award the contract to the lowest responsible and responsive bidder. 

Here is what that means; a responsible bidder must be a licensed contractor who has not been barred from government contracts for prior misconduct. In addition, a responsible bidder must have the equipment and skills necessary to perform the work in question or have a sub-contractor who has those particular skills. If the bidder is deemed not responsible because they do not meet the above criteria, the public agency need not award the contract to the lowest bidder.

The next requirement in the first method is that the bid be responsive. Quite simply, the bid must be an offer to provide the goods and services that are being bid upon and the bid must comply with all procedures that are set forth in the requirements of the bid documents. For example, a bid, which excludes a portion of the work, which was outlined in the specifications, is deemed non-responsive.

The second, less commonly used method to award a contract is to use the “best value system.” Best Value means a value determined by objective criteria, including, but not limited to, price, features, functions, life cycle costs, and other criteria deemed appropriate by the entity. The use of “best value” is limited. CIFAC currently see it used in relationship to design-build projects and lease leaseback contracts but it may be used with design-bid-build delivery.

Reject Bids

The public agency has authority and discretion to reject all bids and to re-advertise. This usually takes place when all bids exceed the amount the agency has budgeted for the work. The public agency may reject any bids presented, if the agency, prior to rejecting all bids furnishes written notice to bidders. The notice shall inform the bidders of the agency’s intention to reject the bid and shall be mailed at least two business days prior to the hearing at which the agency intends to reject the bid.

Bid Protests

Finally, CIFAC can help contractors review the bidding process if they feel that the agency is not complying with their own competitive bidding regulations. If a protest to the awarding agency is require, the contractor should draft a letter immediately as to the reason for the protest. The contractor protesting should go before the agencies governing body at the time they will vote on awarding or rejecting the bid to argue their case. If the protesting bidder is unsuccessful, it may want to consider seeking court intervention. Such court intervention should be sought within a few days of the public entity voting to award the contract to another bidder.


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3 Reasons Why Networking is Essential in Our Industry

By Jamie Watkins, Southeastern Regional Compliance Manager. -

As Regional Compliance Managers we have opportunities to meet many of our partners at networking events. These occasions have allowed us to introduce ourselves, share what we do and build relationships. Most people are intrigued by our organization and want to know more. Networking is critical with the work we do and here are three reasons why:Jamie Watkins, Southeastern Regional Compliance Manager

1. WE CAN SHARE OUR KNOWLEDGE WITH PEOPLE IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

When we have the chance to attend network-meeting events, we are able to share what exactly CIFAC’s mission and purpose is and how our organization can help make sure state and local government agencies are complying with the Public Contract Code. We share the importance of following the code and how it creates more job opportunities, fair bidding and transparency. Most people are not aware of the legislation CIFAC has passed and how we have countlessly influenced agencies to abide with the code. We are also able to share the different ways agencies violate the Public Contract Code, which then leads to more conversations on how we, here at CIFAC, can counteract that.

2. NETWORKING LEADS TO REFERRALS

Oftentimes when we meet people at construction industry associations, many contractors and labor unions share with us issues they have had with the bidding process. We are able to discuss face-to-face concerns and share how we can help. Our partners are our eyes and ears in the field and they see firsthand the problems in the community. We are able to explain the process with each investigation we conduct and what the next step is in resolving the problems.

3. ESTABLISH MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS FOR THE FUTURE

When the CIFAC team connects with people in our construction industry, we are able to have conversations on the importance and significance of the work we do developing strong relationships with our supporters. The more we network and get our name out, the more we can help when our partners see something that is out of compliance and refer to us to investigate. Our ultimate goal is transparency with our supporters and hold the public works industry accountable for code compliance.