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City of Knoxville's Policy for Requests for Proposals

City government issues requests for proposals (RFPs) in order to solicit suggestions and possible solutions to a variety of problems and opportunities. This process, which is by nature competitive, may ultimately lead to contractual relationships between the public and private sectors. Therefore it must be conducted in a manner such that the public has the highest degree of confidence that its interests are protected. This can best be achieved if the city ensures fairness among those offering competing proposals while placing the city in the strongest possible negotiating position. The city must also see that citizens and their representatives are informed to the greatest degree possible.

Unfortunately, the goals of fairness, effectiveness, and openness sometimes conflict in this context. For this reason and concerns about collusion, coercion and other forms of illegal procurement tampering, state law and the city code allow for nondisclosure of information during the time period between the submission of proposals and the final negotiated outcome so that any entity whose proposal is selected for further negotiation does not have information regarding offers proffered by others. Such knowledge could both facilitate procurement tampering and damage the city's ability to negotiate the best contract, thereby significantly increasing the cost of the product or service to the government, and ultimately, the cost to its citizens and taxpayers.

The position of the city is to maximize openness to the extent that fairness and the public interest are not unduly compromised. Assigning hard-and-fast rules is difficult because each project may have unique elements. In general the following guidelines will apply:

1. Proposals for products and services other than engineering or architectural services:

  • Products and services other than engineering or architectural services are easiest to compare and proposals are evaluated primarily based on financial considerations. Thus, proposals will not be made public until the proposer has committed to the terms of a contract and it has been submitted to Council for review. At this time all proposals, evaluation committee members and the recommended negotiated contract will be available to the public for review.

    2. Proposals for architectural, design and engineering services and proposals for planning and development, that require Council approval:

  • While such proposals have a financial component they often involve elements about which stakeholder groups and the general public have great interest. The objective of this process is to select the "most qualified firm" rather than "most responsive low bid." The names of evaluation committee members and the proposals will be available for public review following the deadline for submission. Exceptions to this process will be when price, rather than the scope or nature of the service provided, is central in the evaluation criteria. Finalists' presentations will be held in public when the administration deems there is a significant public interest in the selection. Evaluation committee deliberations and negotiations with proposers will be private to ensure the most effective deliberations regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each and the best outcome for the taxpayer.
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