Evaluation committees of procuring entities are established in terms of section 18 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDPA) Act.
Subject to this section, for each procurement above the prescribed threshold, the accounting officer of a procuring entity shall appoint an evaluation committee in accordance with this section.
An evaluation committee shall consist of one member of the procuring entity’s procurement management unit and at least three other members, including the person responsible for preparing the requirements and additionally, or alternatively, the technical specifications for the procurement concerned, or a person with equivalent technical expertise, a financial officer of the procuring entity and one or more other members to provide technical, legal, financial or commercial expertise, as appropriate.
The member of the procurement management unit shall attend meetings of the evaluation committee as an adviser and shall not have a vote on any issue to be decided by the committee.
Functions of an evaluation committee
The PPDPA Act provides strict application by all procuring entities when it comes to evaluation of bids above the threshold where the use of RFQ method is provided for under section 34 of the Act as read with section 17 of the PPDPA regulations.
The RFQ method of procurement is effected in accordance with such procedures that are prescribed under section 17 of the Public Procurement Regulation. Whereas, pre-conditions necessary for the receiving from the procurement management unit the bid opening records and bids becomes the prerogative of the evaluation committee.
The Act requires that the evaluation of bids and preparing the bid evaluation report and recommendations for award of a contract be the responsibility of the evaluation committee as this will bring about the aspects of transparency and fairness in the procurement. After completion of the reports, the evaluation committee will submit its evaluation reports to the procurement management unit whose responsibility is to ensure that these reports meet technical and legal requirements of public procurement.
If they are satisfied, the unit will forward the report to the accounting officer. Hence, by design, in the exercise of its functions, an evaluation committee shall be answerable to the procurement management unit or accounting officer of its procuring entity.
Evaluation of bids
Section 30 of the regulations states that a procuring entity shall complete the evaluation of bids within 15 days after the end of the bidding period. Provided that an extension of the time for evaluation may be authorised in writing by the procuring entity’s accounting officer, where the procurement contract does not require prior review by the Special Procurement Oversight Committee.
The procuring entity shall evaluate all bids that have not been rejected as non-responsive under section 28, to determine whether the bids are responsive and where the bids are found to be responsive, to evaluate the bid prices.
For the purposes of evaluation, bids shall be regarded as substantially responsive where the bidders fulfil the conditions of eligibility, if any, laid down in the bidding documents and the bids are administratively compliant, in that they are complete with the required information and duly filled in forms prescribed in the bidding documents and the bids comply substantially with the terms and conditions set out in the bidding documents.
If in evaluating a bid, the procuring entity finds a minor deviation between the bid and the requirements of the bidding documents which did not merit rejection of the bid when it was initially examined, the quantum and associated cost of the deviation shall be ascertained, and the evaluated cost of the bid shall then be compared to those of other bids to determine the lowest bid.
In competitive bidding with pre-qualification, once the procuring entity has ascertained the lowest responsive bid, it shall verify again the qualifications of the bidder to take account of any change since the original pre-qualification.
Correction of arithmetical errors in bids
The evaluation committee plays a critical role in this aspect. Section 51 of the Act provides that a procuring entity through verification by the evaluation committee, shall correct arithmetical errors in bids on the following basis if there is a discrepancy between the unit price and the total price that is obtained by multiplying the unit price and quantity, the unit price shall prevail and the total price shall be corrected, unless in the opinion of the procuring entity, there is an obvious misplacement of the decimal point in the unit price, in which case the total price as quoted shall govern and the unit price shall be corrected.
Where a bid price has been corrected, the corrected price shall be the basis for evaluating the bid, awarding the procurement contract and performing the contract.
Where a bid is ambiguous, whether due to error or otherwise, so that the bid price cannot be ascertained with certainty, the bid shall not be capable of correction under section 51 of the Act and the procuring entity shall reject it.
Scrutiny by Special Procurement Oversight Committee
Where procurement is of a class specified under section 10(5) of the regulations and subject to scrutiny by the Special Procurement Oversight Committee, the procuring entity shall submit to the authority relevant documents including evaluation report signed by all members of the evaluation committee as evidence that due process was followed and adhered to by the procuring entity.