Seminar seeks to help small businesses avoid public bid pitfalls

As city-parish officials prepare to ramp up activity on the $1.1 billion MovEBR road improvement program, they’re trying to address a problem they’ve increasingly encountered this year in bidding public works projects: a lot of small, local contractors don’t know how to correctly submit public bids.

More than 40% of the 28 public works projects the city-parish put out to bid in 2020 received at least one bid that had to be tossed out for being “nonresponsive,” meaning documents were either filled out incorrectly or were missing necessary information, according to director of purchasing Kris Goranson.

On one project, all three bids were disqualified and the city-parish had to reissue the procurement.

The nonresponsive bids cost the city-parish more than $125,000 and cost the bidders that submitted them an estimated 500 lost man hours, which is why the city-parish is conducting a virtual seminar at 5 p.m. today to educate potential bidders on city-parish bid laws and make them aware of the common pitfalls.

“As we continue to progress in our contracting schedule, there are more and more opportunities for local businesses and this is the first experience a lot of businesses have had with the city-parish,” Goranson says. “So we’re trying to help them understand the city-parish bid law.”

The most common mistake bidders make is in incorrectly filling out or failing to submit 1A documents, which certify a business as minority-owned or disadvantaged, Goranson says.

Potential vendors and contractors also frequently make simple clerical mistakes—misspelling a key word or dollar value, omitting a signature, or failing to enclose required licenses and proof of insurance.

A total of 33 bids on public works projects have been disqualified this year.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration has made creating opportunities specifically for minority and disadvantaged businesses a goal of the MovEBR program, which is preparing to let an estimated $50-$60 million in construction projects in 2021, plus millions more in engineering and design work.

Goranson says minority and disadvantaged businesses are not inherently more likely than other businesses to submit a nonresponsive bid. Because many of them are small, however, they are not as familiar with the public bid process, which is very different than bidding on private sector jobs.

Today’s seminar is not geared toward DBEs in particular but to any business that is interested in bidding on MovEBR projects and may not feel comfortable with the public procurement process.

“If you’re a Turner Industries or a CSRS, you’ve done this before,” Goranson says. “If you’re smaller, this may be your first foray into government procurement and there are a lot of forms to fill out that you would not find in the private sector.”

For more information on tonight’s seminar click here