Mitigating Risks with Your Government Solicitations

Suzanne Reister, PHR, ARM-P
Executive Director, HR, Workers' Compensation, Unemployment, North Central Educational Service District
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An effective government solicitation requires a great deal of effort. Whether it is an Invitation for Bid (IFB) or a Request for Proposal (RFP), comprehensive government agency solicitations allow for knowledgeable purchasing decisions. Many agencies which are understaffed and overworked, create an environment which may tempt employees to accelerate through the solicitation process; but it is advisable not to do so. A sound solicitation, with an accompanying sound evaluation process, will not only help your agency identify the right vendor and service or commodity solution, it will also allow your agency to mitigate potential risks before entering into a contract.
There are a number of ways your organization can mitigate risk with your government solicitations:

  1. Plan After You Start Planning: Proper planning for a substantial agency procurement can help manage the project efficiently and effectively by scheduling the needed procurement activities in a manner that complies with the agency's policies, needs and resources. This will enhance transparency and minimize risk by enhancing predictability.
  2. Hindsight is 2020, Should Not Refer to Your Scope of Work: An agency's scope of work and the expectations of a potential vendor must be clearly defined. If the user department is not certain of how to develop a scope of work, then start with publishing a Request for Information (RFI). An RFI can be used to gather information about industry standards and innovative processes.
  3. Oranges aren’t Apples: By standardizing evaluations and the scoring criteria, subjectivity will be removed from the process. Make sure you have the information you need and can make an apples-to-apples comparison in order to score potential vendor submissions.
  4. Show Me the Money: The financial strength of a potential vendor should be part of your evaluation process. Request financial reports as part of the proposal submission or require a performance bond. Create a financial stability rating scale. Ratings do not need to be complicated to be effective. There can be three classifications – satisfactory, moderate and unsatisfactory. Moreover, it provides more consistency in the scoring process and is simpler to understand.
  5. Would You Hire Them Again?: Checking references is a best practice when choosing a potential vendor. A few simple questions you can ask can help you judge the potential vendor objectively and in a balanced way. Is your organization of similar size? What are some things you wish the vendor did differently? Does the vendor work well with deadlines? Where deliverables met?
  6. Copies of the Contracts: Attach a sample copy of your agency’s contract to the solicitation. This will allow potential vendors to submit any exceptions to your agency’s standard terms and conditions.
    By adhering to these practices, agencies can reduce contractor risk and awards will be less susceptible to scrutiny and protests.

*The views and opinions expressed in the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) blogs are those of each respective author. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRIMA.*

By: Suzanne Reister, PHR, ARM-P
Executive Director, HR, Workers' Compensation, Unemployment, North Central Educational Service District

Summary of Qualifications

Suzanne is a director for a self-insured workers' compensation pool that covers over 29 school districts. She is also a director of a self-insured unemployment pool for 26 school districts as well as an HR director.

Responsibilities

Suzanne is responsible for the day-to-day operations for her workers' compensation pool as well as her unemployment pool. She manages and directs strategic goals, risk management services, budgets, contracts and arrangements with third-party administrators. She works closely with 29 districts to manage and control claims. Suzanne is also responsible for monitoring all expenses, proposing annual budgets, hiring staff and maintaining a healthy fund balance.

Business Experience

Suzanne has spent 20 years in private industry managing the business side of up to five franchise businesses. Roles include marketing, payroll and all aspects of accounting. She also spent 19 years with North Central Educational Service District. Her current roles are in self-insured pools, human resources and other programs.

Professional Affiliations

PRIMA
SHRM
WSPA

Education

ARM-P, PHR and SHRM-CP designations

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