Secrets of Bonding #76: The Second Bidder’s Second Chance

In this article we will talk about some opportunities that may exist for second bidders.  These are the contractors who have come in 2nd on a competitively bid project, such as a federal or state contract.  These projects are typically awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder” (meaning they must have the proper credentials and meet other requirements.)  As for the 2nd bidder, they get nothing.  They were close, but did not win.  It’s a 100% waste of time and money – unless they DO ultimately acquire the project.  A contract may be awarded to the second bidder under certain circumstances – such as a defect in the low bidder’s paperwork.

There are many documents required in a typical bid proposal: Licenses, certifications, references, non-collusion affidavits, business registration, consent of surety, bid guarantees, etc.  If documents are missing, or issued with defects, the low bid can be declared “non-responsive” at the discretion of the project owner.  The 2nd bidder then becomes the lowest responsible bidder and may receive the contract award.

Here are some of the technical areas to check that can cause bids to be rejected:

  1. Mandatory forms Failure to use mandatory forms, use of obsolete / expired forms, or not following a stipulated format.  Does the bid invitation contain a bid bond form described as mandatory? Bid bonds are all similar but the failure to use the right format or document is a potential cause for rejection.
  2. Bid bond details Check all the typed information for accuracy.
    1. Bidders name
    2. Obligee’s name
    3. Job description and project number
    4. Bid bond percentage or dollar amount
  3. Capped bid bonds If a “capped bid bond” is used, a proposal amount that exceeds the bid bond maximum would invalidate the instrument.  (More info in Secret #68)
  4. T-List requirement If a “Treasury Listed” surety is required, does the bonding company appear on the list, and for a sufficient amount?  http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/fsreports/ref/suretyBnd/c570.htm
  5. Power of Attorney Is one attached, in the correct name, properly executed and for a sufficient amount?
  6. Notary Acknowledgment Needed for both the surety and the contractor, properly executed.  Is the notary’s commission for the correct state and not expired?
  7. Execution Signed and sealed with the correct seals?
  8. Financial Statement Attached for the surety?  Is it for the correct surety name? Is it as of an appropriate date (not obsolete)?
  9. Consent of Surety This is not always required. However, if stipulated, failure to provide it can cause a rejection. Are all the details on the consent accurate? Properly executed including correct seal?  If there are stated conditions, does the proposal comply? (Example: The Consent may only be valid up to a stated bid amount.)

On public bids (municipal, state and federal), the bid documents are normally available for public review.  Second bidders may be surprised to learn they have a second chance if the low bid is defective.

Another second chance may arise if the low bidder falters on the project after commencing work.  In the event of default, the bonding company must come to the rescue and they want an efficient (fast, economical) way to complete the job. Who better to call than the 2nd bidder?  The 2nd is the natural “completion contractor” to finish the job for the surety.  They already know the project and presumably offered a price close to the low bidder. The 2nd should contact the claims department of the surety that holds the Performance Bond if they see the project is in trouble.

Now a parting comment for LOW BIDDERS: Keep in mind that 2nd bidders don’t give up easily.  They, too, spent time and money pursuing the work, and want to win the contract.  Be sure your quality control prevents bid errors that cause bid bond claims and open the door for 2nd bidders.

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