Receiving and opening tender submissions
Procedures to receive and open all submissions must guarantee fairness and impartiality and must treat all submissions in confidence.
"Secure facilities" (refer below) are not to be opened until the closing time set out in the procurement documentation. When opening an electronic "tender box" such as the lodgement facility on the Tenders website, the steps set out in the Agency User Manual for the Tenders website should be followed. For all other "secure facility" openings, the procedures outlined below would ensure probity and protect the individuals involved from claims of unfair practices.
For lockable tender boxes, physically lock the tender box as soon as the closing time has elapsed, to ensure that no late tenders are placed in the box.
Arrange for an appropriate number of officers to be present to witness the opening of the secure facility. Three officers, including two senior officers of the agency, are recommended. Consider the relevant levels of experience in the department in relation to procurement, the relative value of the procurement and the level of persons forming the evaluation panel for a guide to the appropriate seniority of the persons to witness the opening of the secure facility.
Open the secure facility.
Remove the submissions and check that the secure facility is empty.
Take the submissions to a secure location, and where necessary, open the envelopes. Ensure that all loose documentation is matched to the correct submission.
Stamp each submission with a date stamp or write on the document the date of the opening. Allocate a number to each submission, commencing at one through to the total number of submissions received. This number should be written on the document and the document should then be initialled by each of the officers attending the opening. The key sections of the submission (eg pricing schedules) should also be initialled or stamped. This adds a further security element, preventing pages being changed in the future.
Develop a minute of the opening and include details of the officers present, the date and time of the opening, and details of each submission and the number allocated. This record is then kept on file.
Secure facilities must be available at each designated lodgement location set out in the procurement document. A "secure facility" could include a lockable box/cabinet, an electronic tender box such as the lodgement facility on the Tenders website, or secure email/facsimile facilities.
Where a physical box is used then the facility should ideally be:
- a box or cabinet with an opening which allows large envelopes to be lodged, but which does not permit access to the contents;
- secured in a fixed position; and
- locked with two locks with different keys, maintained by two different officers.
If an email address is to be used, then the facility should be secure; access to the submissions should be controllable to prevent compromising security of responses / confidentiality and access should be auditable and/or documented.
If a facsimile machine is to be used then again, confidentiality should be able to be guaranteed. It should not be possible for anyone other than the supplier to know the details of the offer before the procurement is closed. When a facsimile number is nominated as the destination for bids, the receiving machine should be dedicated to the task of receiving the submissions and be in a secure location. Access to this location should be controlled to avoid security being compromised and access should be auditable and/or documented.
Some facsimile machines have sophisticated security and confidentiality functions built in. These may be adequate for receiving submissions in confidence. Where agencies expect a large number of submissions to be received by facsimile, a backup machine should be considered to accommodate the rush of faxes often encountered close to closing time.
It is advisable to check the times on any facsimile machine used to receive submissions close to the nominated closing time. Using the telephone recorded time for calibration will enable the time of receipt of any facsimile submission to be accurately determined. Digital timers on facsimile machines can lose or gain considerable time, even over short periods. A formal procedure should be followed before each submission closing time.
Note: the current Crown Solicitor RFT document notes that a submission submitted by facsimile before the closing time will be considered only if an identical submission is dispatched on the same day and is delivered to either the Tender Box (by hand), or the Department (by mail), within two Business Days after the closing time. If the RFT documents are issued without amendment, you should be aware of this requirement when receiving and assessing submissions.
It is not appropriate to use a Post Office Box nor an unsecured email address or facsimile machine as a "secure facility".
Dealing with late submissions
Ensure that any procedures set out in the Conditions of Tender for dealing with late submissions are followed.
If late submissions are allowed for, in determining whether to accept a late submission, ensure that you are not providing an advantage to that supplier over other suppliers.
Note: Where a procurement is impacted by a free trade agreement, late submissions cannot be accepted unless the delay is due solely to mishandling by the agency.
Ensure that sufficient security is in place for the remainder of the process, especially with regard to the physical security of the documents. This may mean that you may need a locked office or cabinet in which to keep the documents.
When documents are provided to the evaluation committee, a record should be kept of the document copy number that was provided to each evaluation committee member.
Whilst it is not mandatory, it is good practice to advise suppliers that you have received their submissions.