1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Mayville, New York

    Default question about DHS involvement in the biddng process

    Does the DHS have the authority to make you accept the low bid on items. We were awarded a grant for a vehicle exhaust system. The long story shortened is that the project went out to bid, and the when the bids were comparred (only two bids), the low bidder was thronw out for many reasons.

    The low bid company filed a formal protest, and we were forced to re-bid the project, and this time have a DHS member directly involved in the process. We have now gotten the bids back again, and the results were the same. The kicker is we want the system that was the high bid, but is still below our award amount. We feel that that the system we want is a much better systrem and a better use of FEMA and our matching money. The difference in the low vs. high bid is 3K. Can DHS tell us that we have to accept the low bid?

    The orginal protest was because we were acused of having to tight of bid specs on our project, and this casued us to re-bid the project with a really wide out spec. The DHS representative told us that if our spec was not extremly wide open for bidding he would not allow any funding.

    Obviosly fair practice needs to prevail, but we also want a system that will last, and not a new un-proven system that is being offered.

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Pt. Beach, NJ


    DHS is giving you the money, therefore, you need to play by their rules.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  3. #3
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Florida's Space Coast


    Do you have a documented procurement process?
    Your objective bid evaluation process can certainly score and weight factors besides initial cost.

    You can, and should consider maintenance and sustainment costs, how well the bid satisfies not only the "must-haves", but things like quality of materials, availability of parts and service, past performance of the bidders, technical support, power/fuel consumption, impacts to your staffing or training, ease and/or convenience of use, expected longevity, etc, etc.
    All those things impact the overall cost of ownership and should be weighted appropriately and considered.

    With a weighted scoring system for these types of important factors, it will become evident when a more expensive procurement may in fact be the better buy.

    Good luck!

  4. #4
    FH Mag/.com Contributor

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Cypress, TX


    Short answer: no you do not have to take low bid and there is nothing illegal about writing tight specs (see below for caveat). So there is no basis for the other company to file a protest.

    Long answer: You are required to write bid specs that conform to your local/state regulations or DHS regs if you don't have any.

    Legally you can write bid specs at tight as you want them, mentioning part numbers, models, brand names, service location limitiations (within 50 miles for example) or anything else you want to put in there. DHS cannot dictate how to write them since federal bidding laws are loose and allow this. The feds write them all the time this way.

    If you write tight specs including a mention of Brand X, legally you cannot award a bid for Brand Y, hence the reason there may be no basis for a protest. Now your local laws may require receipt of two or more bids that meet the spec. So if you only get one bid for Brand X you may have to rebid. That is a local requirement then, DHS still cannot force you to rebid. Especially since a manufacturer's rep or a vendor in another state can write you a bid also so you can always get two bids that meet the spec in order to satisfy both local and DHS regs.

    The low-bid requirement of DHS is that they are only going to reimburse you for the low-bid that meets the legal spec. So for example (names just for illustration purposes) if you bid Scott SCBA and you get one from the local vendor for $5000 a pack, one from Scott themselves for $5200, and one from MSA for $4800 since you requested a Scott spec the MSA bid cannot legally be accepted since it doesn't meet it. Scott could/would protest the awarding of the bid to MSA and win. You could take the Scott manufacturer bid of $5200 if you didn't like the local vendor but DHS would only reimburse for their part of the $5000 ($4750 at 95%), not 95% of $5200. The extra $200 is on you. MSA could file a protest but would lose since you can't award a bid that doesn't meet the spec.

    Now if you bid just 4500psi, 30min SCBA then all bids from any manufacturer can be accepted so the above 3 plus one from Draeger would all be legal bids. If you go through a series of tests and decide on Draeger at $5100 instead of MSA at $4800, Scott at $5000, then because all 3 met the bid spec DHS would only reimburse 95% of the $4800, the extra $300 would be on you to meet. As long as your testing process is documented on why you choose who you choose you're fine.
    Last edited by BC79er; 10-20-2008 at 09:49 PM.

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jan 2005


    44 CFR 13.36: Procurement - explains the fed requirements for bids etc.


  6. #6
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Upstate (Albany area), NY


    One of the vendors of the lower cost (and less effective) exhaust systems is notorious for screeming about specs that are "too tightly written" and that prohibit them from bidding witout exception. They are also known for threatening all kinds of legal actions for disagreeing with their position.... Just the kind of firefighter friendly company that we all like to deal with, right???

    Re-write your spec as tight as you need it to be to meet the health and safety needs of your firefighters. If you want a specific kind of pipe clamping system so that it better protects your firefighters, so be it. If you want a track system less suceptible to jamming aor "hanging-up" and breaking, then that's good too!

    If you read my previous comments in these forums, you will find that I'm a full believer in the benifits of competitive bidding. But don't allow your department to be sold something that is less that what their need is, just because you knockled under to the treat of legal action, and wrote a spec so loose that it no longer has any strength.

    We rebid ours, regardless of this supposedly "firefighter friendly" company's threats to sue us...

    One other thing to consider: Do any of your Mutual Aid companies have the same system that you want? If so, compatibility in the connectins allows interoperability during MA cover assignments....
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

    George S. Patton

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    medic190's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Stuyvesant Falls, NY


    I had exactly the same incident with the same vendor. The individual came into our station to get a bid package, saw how we wrote it, proceeded to throw it across the room YELLING at our District Secretary that the package was illegal because it was "written so only one company can provide it" and that the company would sue us unless we rewrote our specs to fit their product (although that company does offer a system as we specified - much more costly which is why they wanted to sell the package they wanted)

    Our District stood it's ground - the package as written did not have any special provisions that could not be met by other vendors IF they wanted to follow our specs or document how their system met our specs. The threat tactics were actually a severe detriment to this vendor: the District felt if this is how they sold the product, we wouldn't receive any support later on (an important factor written into our specs) On the bid day, it turned out that their package wasn't even there. Problem solved.

    By standing our ground, we got the system we felt was best. We feel it was the best use of the grant money (as compared to the other company) and would do it all the same again today.

    Remember: you write the specs that will best suit your needs (nobody else can tell you what you need) and then the vendor works for YOU to supply what you specified, NOT the other way around. Any deviation from this and you'll likely spend twice as much to correct the problems you encountered (not to mention all the headaches) Just keep clear documentation along the way and you should be fine.

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