Competitive Procurement Processes in the State of Florida
In Florida, the Legislature has established a system of procedures to be utilized by state agencies in managing and procuring commodities and contractual services. § 287.001, Fla. Stat. (2021). Generally, the procurement of commodities or contractual services over $35,000.00 requires a state agency to use a statutorily created competitive solicitation process. § 287.057(1), Fla. Stat. (2021). Three main processes authorized by statute are an Invitation to Bid, a Request for Proposals, and an Invitation to Negotiate.
The first process is an Invitation to Bid (“ITB”). § 287.057(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2021). A state agency should use an ITB when the agency is capable of specifically defining the scope of work for which a contractual service is required or when the agency is capable of establishing precise specifications defining the actual commodity or group of commodities it requires. Id. In an ITB, the agency must award the contract to the responsible and responsive vendor who submits the lowest responsive price. § 287.057(1)(a)4., Fla. Stat. (2021). A “responsible” vendor is one who has the capability in all respects to fully perform the contract requirements and the integrity and reliability that will assure good faith performance. § 287.012(25), Fla. Stat. (2021). A “responsive” vendor is one whose bid conforms in all material respects to the solicitation. § 287.012(27), Fla. Stat. (2021). An ITB is the default competitive procurement process as the other processes require an agency to provide justification for their use. § 287.057(2)(a), (3)(a), Fla. Stat. (2021). Normally, an agency will use an ITB when the commodity is an off-the-shelf product or the service is non-professional.
The second process is a Request for Proposals (“RFP”). § 287.057(1)(b), Fla. Stat. (2021). An agency should use an RFP whenever the purposes and uses for which the commodity, group of commodities, or contractual service being sought can be specifically defined and the agency is capable of identifying necessary deliverables. Id. For an RFP, the contract should be awarded to the responsible and responsive vendor whose proposal is determined in writing to be the most advantageous to the state, taking into consideration the price and other criteria set forth in the RFP. § 287.057(1)(b)4., Fla. Stat. (2021). An agency may choose to use an RFP when it is not possible to specifically define the scope of work for a one-to-one comparison of the vendors or where an agency seeks professional or technical expertise requiring a qualitative evaluation of vendors.
The final competitive process is an Invitation to Negotiate (“ITN”). § 287.057(1)(c), Fla. Stat. (2021). A state agency should use an ITN when it seeks to determine the best method for achieving a specific goal or solving a particular problem and to identify one or more vendors with whom the agency will negotiate to receive the best value. Id. The contract ensuing from an ITN should be awarded to the responsible and responsive vendor that the agency determines will provide the best value to the state, based on the selection criteria. § 287.057(1)(c)4., Fla. Stat. (2021). “Best value” is defined by statute as “the highest overall value to the state based on objective factors that include, but are not limited to, price, quality, design, and workmanship.” § 287.012(4), Fla. Stat. (2021). An agency may choose to use an ITN where negotiations with vendors is necessary in order to achieve the best value for the state or where the specific goal or particular problem is highly complex. Often agencies use an ITN when procuring enterprise technology solutions.
Various exceptions exist to a state agency’s requirement for competitive purchases. If you are submitting a response to a competitive procurement to a state agency in Florida, and you desire additional consultation, please contact the Radey Law Firm.