Contracting is the final (and ongoing) phase of any procurement. It can also be the most challenging. As with the solicitation phase, having a clear, precise, unambiguous and realistic performance work statement (PWS) is the foundation for effective contract negotiation and ongoing vendor contract/vendor management.
The first thing to keep in mind about contracts is that they are legal documents, putting not only the contractor but your health department, and by extension your jurisdiction, under certain obligations for which failure to perform can include specified liabilities.
As with the entire procurement process, it is important for you to learn early on and to understand the full process, requirements and timelines for contract creation, review and approval, including who has what roles and responsibilities in the creation and approval of the contract.
As with the RFP and PWS artifacts, clarify early which contract template you need to use, where you have to use boilerplate narrative, and whether you are responsible for crafting the narrative. Also as with the RFP, make sure you understand all of the provisions in the contract.
Tips for successful contracting
Early on, make sure you fully understand all of the provisions of the contract and all of the steps in creating and approving it.
Ensure the provisions on penalties for non-performance are clearly stated. Regular check-ins with senior staff from the program and the contractor to discuss what is going well and what can be improved can help to avoid situations where you consider invoking the penalty provisions.
Generally speaking, the contractor’s duties will fully or closely mirror the PWS from the solicitation document. However, it is possible that some negotiation with the selected contractor will result in changes that are reflected in the contract.
A common mistake made in IIS procurements is assuming the selected bidder will perform tasks (testing, cleansing and migrating data, providing a training environment) not specified in the solicitation document or contract, or assuming the program will have direct access to the data for data cleansing or other purposes without actually requiring such a function in the RFP or contract.
Another common mistake is over-specification of either tasks or timelines by an IIS program that constrains the selected bidder’s ability to innovate in proposing or providing the best, most cost-effective solution.
The guidance in this phase will provide instructions for evaluating responses, negotiating the contract and awarding the contract.