RFx - Competitive Bidding

Competitive Bidding

As a public university, all procurement activities must be conducted in an open and fair environment that promotes competition among prospective Suppliers.

When a department is not using a BearBuy catalog or a pre-negotiated existing Agreement with a Supplier, competitive solicitations may be required. Competitive solicitations (RFx) can be characterized as either “informal” or “formal.”

An informal solicitation may be conducted by UC employees, principal investigators, a Supply Chain Management (SCM) Buyer, etc. often via phone call or by e-mail to multiple suppliers. Suppliers should be provided the same request for requirements by UC so that each bidder is informed equally and so UC can evaluate the responsive quotes fairly. 

A formal solicitation is conducted by an SCM Buyer in coordination with the requesting department's Subject Matter Expert(s) (SMEs). The SME provides expertise in some aspect related to the RFx document drafting process and often writes the majority of Statement of Work (SOW). SMEs are often UC employees or an independent contractor can be hired to provide expert advice related to a complex project. The finalized RFx document is then posted to UC's public bid site, CalUSource.net, for qualified Suppliers to respond to the solicitation. The SCM Buyer administers the formal bidding process to ensure impartiality and to avoid any conflicts of interest. 

The following table provides dollar thresholds for when an informal or formal solicitation may be required or you can print this guide:

Funding Source  $0 - $10,000.00  $10,000.01 - $99,999.99   $100,000.00 or more $100,000.00-$250,000.00
Federal No competition required if the price is reasonable (informal competition encouraged) Informal competitive proposals required from three or more sources* Formal RFx solicitation conducted by Supply Chain Management required** Certified Diverse Business informal competitive proposals required from 2 or more like diverse classifications.  FAR (15 U.S.C. 631)
Non-Federal No competition required if the price is reasonable (informal competition encouraged) Informal competitive proposals encouraged from three or more sources Formal RFx solicitation conducted by Supply Chain Management required** Certified Small Business (Diverse) informal competitive proposals required from 2 or more like diverse classifications. PCC (10508.5)

As required by 2 CFR § 200.320, departments must obtain three (3) competitive quotes, bids or proposals for a purchase transaction more than $10,000.00.  

**California Public Contract Code (PCC), sections 10507.7 et seq., requires the University of California to formally competitively bid the purchase of goods and/or services that exceed ≥$100,000 per annual year unless an exception applies and the basis for the award is documented in writing. Requirements for goods and services should be publicly advertised. 

UC Formal Competitive Bid Evaluation Types

Request for Information (RFI)

An RFI may be used to “survey” the marketplace to understand what products or services are available and the approximate the dollars that may be needed for a purchase/contract.  A contract may not be awarded from an RFI. An RFI is used to help develop an RFQ or RFP.

Request for Quote (RFQ) using Lowest Cost Evaluations 

Suppliers are invited to submit quotes for standard goods or services where the award is primarily based on the lowest cost as long as the quotes, bids, or proposal is in substantial conformance with the specifications, delivery requirements, and conditions prescribed in the RFQ.

Request for Proposal (RFP) using Best Value Evaluations

Suppliers are invited to submit proposals demonstrating their technical expertise or specialization in services where the award is primarily based on the most advantageous balance of quality, service, performance, cost and other elements as defined by UC by using the Best Value evaluation method.   The lowest responsive and responsible proposal received from Bidders meeting the quality criteria elements listed in the RFP will be awarded the contract.

To take advantage of the above types of bidding events for transactions between $10,000 - $100,000+ contact your SCM Buyer. Bidding can often provide the following benefits:

  • Improves customer service - Existing suppliers get complacent, the bid process motivates and attracts suppliers that want our business.

  • Innovation is fostered - The market is ever-changing, the bid process brings in the latest technology or knowledge.

  • Cost savings - The bid evaluation process will identify the best quality solution for the best cost.

  • Best-in-class supplier - Identifies strengths and weaknesses in the supply base.

  • Shows UC is being responsible stewards of the taxpayers' funds.

Exemptions to Competitive Bidding

The UC is committed to a policy of competitive procurement and contracting when competition is known to exist. However, there are certain cases where departments may be granted a bid exemption.

A UCOP Source Selection & Price Reasonableness (SSPR) Justification Form must be completed by the requesting department to substantiate the appropriateness of a bid exemption request for all Federally Funded purchases ≥$10,000 and Non-Federally Funded purchases ≥$100,000 for federal and state audits. Possible bid exemption scenarios include:

I. For Federal awards ≥ $10,000, Uniform Guidance’s acceptable sole source justifications are as follows:

  1. Sole source:  A “sole source” is a rare occurrence in the marketplace that can be defined as any contract entered into without a competitive process, based on a justification that only one known source exists or that only one single supplier can fulfill the requirements.  
  2. The item is available only from a single source; one‐of‐a‐kind/unique
  3. The Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity expressly authorizes noncompetitive proposals in response to a written request from the non-federal entity
  4. After public solicitation (RFQ/P) of a number of sources, competition is not achieved. 
  5. Emergency (The emergency must be an imminent threat to property or human life)

Supplemental forms may be required for the SSPR Justification Form as well:

a)      UCOP Cost and Profit Analysis Form – The department will need to complete this form when UC uses Federal Grant funds that do not have price competition (Sole Source / 1 bid response) and the cost will be ≥$250,000.

b)      UCOP Certified Cost or Pricing Data for Federal Contract Purchases – The Supplier will need to complete this form when UC uses Federal Non-Commercial Contract funds for sole-sourced goods/services purchases that are ≥$750,000.

6Certified Diverse Businesses: Orders less than $250,000 can be exempt from formal competition as long as there are 2 or more quotes from businesses within the same diverse classification.  FAR Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 631)

    • Small business concerns
    • Small disadvantaged businesses (SDB) - businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
    • Women-owned small businesses (WOSB)
    • Historically underutilized business zone businesses, (HUBZone)
    • Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI)
    • Veteran-owned small businesses (VOSB)
    • Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB) and
    • Alaska Native Corporations and Indian Tribes

II. For non-federally funded purchases ≥$100,000, four justifications may be considered for a bid exemption (these exemptions do not apply for federally-funded purchases):

  1. Sole source:  A “sole source” is a rare occurrence in the marketplace that can be defined as any contract entered into without a competitive process, based on a justification that only one known source exists or that only one single supplier can fulfill the requirements.  Compatibility to match existing equipment.
  2. Professional or personal services:  Professional services include: medicine, medical services, legal, accounting, architectural, or engineering services. (Supplier has a professional license; is licensed by a regulatory body; and/or is able to obtain professional errors and omissions insurance).  Personal services that are technical or unique functions that are distinctly qualified to render the services; such as performing arts or artists.
  3. Unusual & compelling urgency:  Failure to act immediately might result in significant bodily harm, significant property loss or damage, violations of law or of University policies or cause significant liability to the UC or to members of the UC community.
  4. Certified Small Business (Diverse) Businesses: Orders less than $250,000 are exempt from formal competition as long as there are 2 or more quotes from businesses within the same diverse classification. California Public Contract Code (10508.5).

Requirements for purchasing shall not be artificially divided into separate transactions to avoid competition as defined in BFB-BUS-43 Purchases of Goods and Services; Supply Chain Management "exceptions."

Contact your Buyer for assistance with any competitive bidding questions.