Acquisition of Consultancy Services - Firms
What opportunities are available for consultants to work on Bank-financed projects?
Opportunities for consultants are available in many areas. In the early stages of Project preparation, for example, consultants may be required to prepare pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, environmental assessments or pre-investment studies; as well as to prepare engineering, project design and cost estimates or detailed design studies. During the implementation phase, consulting services are frequently necessary to prepare bidding documents, evaluate bids, supervise and control the construction or installation contracts. Consultants are also engaged to conduct studies in areas such as, preparation of master plans, aerial photography etc. There are also opportunities to prepare feasibility studies for follow-on projects and to provide all types of training and advisory services needed by the Borrower. The selection of consultants for any Bank financed project services is the responsibility of the Borrower/ Executing Agency. The Bank’s role is to “monitor” the selection process in accordance with its Rules and Procedures.
What is the policy of the Bank in the selection of consultants?
The governing principles underlying the “Rules and Procedures for the Use of Consultants” by Borrowers are:
- Economy and efficiency in the process;
- Equal opportunities for all consultants from member countries;
- Encouragement of the use of national and regional consultants to develop the capacities of the regional member countries; and
- Transparency in the procurement process.
The consideration of economy and efficiency, principle of equal opportunity of access to Bank financed services for all consultants from member countries, forms the basis of the types of selection procedure for consultants, as set out in the Rules.
Through what sources, can information concerning consultancy services for Bank-financed projects be obtained?
Information concerning consultancy services under Bank-financed projects can be found in the (i) Bank’s Quarterly Operational Summary of Project (QOS); (ii) AfDB Business Bulletin compiled monthly by the Bank; (iii) Press releases containing general project information published by the Bank; and (iv) UN Development Business (UNDB) Journal published by United Nations. These can also be accessed through the respective websites.
How does anyone find the name of the implementing or Executing Agency?
The name and address of the implementing /Executing Agency for any project is given in the Bank’s Quarterly Operational Summary (QOS), General Procurement Notice (GPN), Specific Procurement Notice (SPN), AfDB Business Bulletin as well as in the Requests for Expressions of Interest published in the UNDB, the Bank’s Website and in the respective local press.
Can the Bank be open about the potential competitors or partners in the shortlist?
Consulting firms that are short-listed for an assignment will be given the names of the other short-listed firms by the Borrower/ Executing Agency in the RFP.
Are there any preferences for Regional or National consultants?
In order for the Bank to encourage the utilization of national and regional consultants, in specific cases where the qualifications of a regional consultant or a joint-venture of regional and non-regional consultants are determined to be equal to that of a non-regional consultant, preference in the selection will be given first to the regional consultant and second to the joint-venture of regional and non-regional consultants. The Rules also stipulate that there should be at least one regional consulting firm, and when possible, at least one regional or national firm in joint-venture or association with a non-regional firm on the shortlist prepared by the Borrowers.
Can a firm make any corrections for mistakes after submission of its proposal?
No. Only clear and unequivocal arithmetical errors can be corrected by the Borrower/ Executing Agency concerned, when once a bid is opened. Altering any other elements of a bid is not permitted either by the Borrower or the bidders.
How does a firm raise questions or issues about a particular proposal?
Consulting firms are free to raise questions and or issues with the Borrower/ Executing Agency in writing. Copies of this communication can also be sent to the Bank. If the Borrower/ Executing Agency does not respond promptly, the firm can contact the Bank’s Operations Department Director or the Project Task Manager.
Can consultants that have worked during project preparation subsequently provide consulting services during implementation?
A consultancy firm may be involved in the preparation of tender documents or subsequent supervision of the project, provided it is technically qualified. But such consultants shall not be involved in the supply of goods or the actual works as contractor, as this will constitute a conflict of interest.
If a Consulting firm accepts a contract to provide services on a project, can it bid to supply goods or participate in the works under the same project?
No. The firm would have prior knowledge that might give it an unfair advantage over other bidders. In order to avoid conflict of interests, any firm providing goods, works and services in which a short-listed firm is affiliated or associated, is not eligible to participate in bidding for goods, works or services, other than the services and continuation thereof. The Bank would not object, if the firm accepts an assignment to, for example, prepare the engineering design for a project and, in a follow-on assignment, prepare the bidding documents, evaluate the bids, and supervise the contract for the Borrower. Likewise in a turnkey contract, consulting firms and suppliers may be associated in a joint-venture.
What types of contracts do the Bank’s Borrowers normally enter into with consulting firms?
The contract that the Bank’s Borrower enters-into with the selected firm would be a “Lump Sum Remuneration Contract” for the duration of services specified in the RFP. However, if the services are extended beyond the specified duration of the contract, this will be examined on a case-by-case basis, and if reasonable and justifiable reasons exist, and, it is within the allowable limits, it may be continued under the same terms and conditions as the initial contract.
Though some MDBs prefer “Time based Contracts” instead of “Lump Sum Contracts”, the Bank is in the process of examining the issue of “Time Based Contracts” as a test case.
Can a firm protest a procurement decision by the Borrower/ Executing Agency?
Yes. Consulting firms have the right to protest freely throughout the procurement process, by submitting a complaint letter to the Borrower or the Bank. Complaint letters may be forwarded to the appropriate Bank’s Operations Director indicated in the QOS.
Expression of Interest (EOI)
What is an “Expression of Interest”?
An “Expression of Interest”(EOI) is a demonstration of the readiness of a candidate (firm, organization or individual) to participate in the execution of a project or study. It provides an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate interest in a project and therefore a desire to be considered for inclusion in the short-list of consultants eligible for the selection process. The EOI facilitates, and is one of the sources of information, for preparation of the final short-list that will be invited to submit proposals for consultancy services for a particular Bank-financed project.
Where and when is the Expression of Interest (EOI) for Bank-financed consultancy services notified?
The information is normally notified in the GPNs and SPN (Requests for Expression of Interest) advertised in the UN Development Business (UNDB) published bi-monthly by the United Nations and also in the AfDB Business Bulletin and Website of the Bank. EOIs should include the relevant details such as the type of organisation, experience in similar projects, experience of key personnel, contact information etc. All Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for consultancy services should be submitted to the Borrower’s/ Executing Agency’s address given in the GPNs and SPNs.
What information is required to make a good EOI?
An EOI should contain the following:
- A summary of similar projects undertaken as a lead partner;
- A summary of projects undertaken in the project country and in similar Countries;
- Client name, year in which the project was carried out;
- Experience of key personnel; and
- Any other information that may be relevant in support of the EOI.
The information should be restricted to the above, and should not include promotional or financial considerations at this stage of selection process.
How can a Consulting firm send an EOI?
Consulting firms should submit the EOI directly to the Borrower or the Executing Agency for the services required under a Bank-financed project. The Borrower’s/ Executing Agency’s address will be as shown in the GPN or SPN that appears in the UNDB or the AfDB Business Bulletin or Website.
Are amendments possible to an EOI?
Yes. An EOI can be amended, updated or modified, if new information is available.
Is there a system instituted by the Bank for its Borrowers to acknowledge EOIs?
The consultants’ selection process for all the Bank-financed projects is the responsibility of the Borrower/ Executing Agency. EOI’s should therefore, be submitted directly to the Borrower/ Executing Agency who has the responsibility to respond. Some Borrowers usually acknowledge the EOIs received by them, from consultants. Consultants’ selection by the Bank arises when it carries out the recruitment process for services required under bilateral cooperation funds. In such cases EOIs submitted to the Bank will be acknowledged by it.
Can a firm join in association with another firm in the submission of an EOI?
Yes. A firm submitting an EOI may associate with any other firm(s) it chooses. The associate firm may be from the same country or from any other eligible member country of the Bank. Association may be defined in the form of a joint-venture, in which each partner inputs more than 25% of the contract amount, or in the form of sub-consulting in which all sub-consultants input less than 25% of the contract amount. For the selection of the short-list, in the case of the joint-venture, the sum of the partners’ capacity, and in the case of sub-consulting the main consultant’s capacity to carry out the consultant’s responsibilities related to the project, will be the determining factor.
Can a consulting firm associate with two or more short-listed firms?
Yes. The Bank has no objection, and its interest is to have the best combination of qualified and capable firms.
Is there a limit of associate firms for a given project?
No. There is no maximum and the choice depends on the firms. However, the Borrower and the Bank would ensure that association does not result in reduced competition.
Can a firm associate with a lead firm without proposing experts or other services?
No. If an associate firm does not provide personnel or services, such association is not valid and would not be considered in the evaluation of the technical proposals.
How many firms are usually short-listed for an assignment under a project?
The Bank’s “Rules and Procedures for the Use of Consultants” issued by the Board of Directors, specifies that the number of short-listed consulting firms should be 6, drawn from a wide geographic field of member countries with not more than two firms from the same country.
Is a firm permitted to transfer an invitation to submit a proposal to another firm?
No. Only short-listed firms will receive the Request for Proposals (RFP) to submit technical and financial proposals for the required consulting services under a project. An Invitation given to a firm to submit a proposal cannot be transferred to another firm or to the associate or to a joint venture-partner.
What are the main considerations for the preparation of a short-list of consultants?
The Bank’s “Rules and Procedures for the Use of Consultants” stipulates that the technical qualifications of the consultant, i.e. capabilities and experience to deliver the specific services required for a project, as well as eligibility, are the main and most important criteria for preparation of the short-list.
Is the country of origin of a firm a consideration in the make up of a short-list?
Yes. The “Rules and Procedures for the Use of Consultants” stipulate that consultants should be selected, by Borrowers, in a reasonably balanced manner in the sense that they must be drawn from a wide geographic field of member countries of the Bank with not more than two firms from the same country
Are there any restrictions in short-listing a firm in a calendar year?
There are no restrictions on the number of times for short-listing the same firm in a calendar year. However, the Bank prefers that all consultants who expressed their interest in providing the services for a project shall be given the opportunity. This would also assist Borrowers to avoid receiving complaints by the other consulting firms from other member countries.
Are there any advantages for a lead firm to be associated with other firm(s)?
It depends on whether the association is a sub-consulting or joint-venture situation. In the short-listing process, the experience of the associate firm (s) that are sub-consultants, will not be generally considered at that stage. The concept of “lead firm” exists, in Bank literature, only in the joint-venture situation. In such a case, the qualifications and experience of all joint-venture partners will be considered in the short-listing.
What does the Bank expect out of the short-listed lead firm?
The concept of “lead firm” does not exist in Bank literature except in a joint-venture situation. The Bank expects the short-listed firm to:
- have relevant experience and resources to carry out the project with or without associate firms;
- submit its proposal with a significant number of man-months allocated to international experts that are required for the services under the project.
- be able to provide adequate project backup and back-stopping capacity throughout the project life.
When are the results of short-listing of firms made available?
After the Bank approves the short-list of consulting firms submitted by the Borrower, the Borrower notifies the approved firms, followed by a Request for Proposal (RFP) containing full details of the project with all requirements and instructions for submission.
Is there a record maintained by the Bank on short-listings?
Yes. The Bank maintains a record of all short-listings in the calendar year for Individual Consultants, as well as for Consulting Firms retained by the Bank.
If a consulting firm has been awarded a contract for feasibility studies, will it be permitted to continue to undertake detailed design and subsequent Supervision?
Yes. In accordance with the Bank’s “Rules and Procedures for the Use of Consultants” the Bank usually insists that the consultant who carried out the detailed engineering design and tender documents should appear on the shortlist for supervision and control of works. It further adds that the Bank has no objection for award of supervision and control to the same consultant who did the detailed engineering design and tender documents, upon a justified request by the Borrower.
Methods of Selection
What are the methods of selection for consulting firms?
The Bank’s Rules stipulate three principal types of selection procedures which shall be applied depending on the types of services required; they are:
- selection procedure based solely on technical quality, that is, the evaluation of the firms competence and experience, the technical quality of the proposal and the quality and experience of the staff to be assigned to the assignment - Price shall not be a factor;
- selection procedure based on technical quality with price consideration; that is a combination of technical quality and price - Price is a factor; and
- selection procedure which establishes the comparability of technical proposals and makes a decision on the basis of the lowest price - Lowest price for comparable services.
All three procedures involve the use of two-envelope systems – technical and financial- the technical envelope is opened first and technical evaluation is carried out independently, without opening the financial envelope. In all cases a minimum technical score –pass mark- is established in the RFP.
In the first procedure, which is used for complex assignments or those with high impact in the event of failure, technical quality, experience and competence are given priority consideration in the selection. The consultant with the best technical proposal and highest technical ranking would be selected without consideration of the price offer. The financial envelope would then be opened, discussed, negotiated and the contract award would follow if agreement was reached.
In the second procedure, the results of the independent technical evaluation would be combined with the financial scores for all firms passing the minimum technical score. While the technical aspect is weighted between 0.7 and 0.9, the financial aspect is weighted between 0.3 and 0.1, and the firm with the highest combined score is invited for negotiations.
In the third procedure, which is for simple assignments, the technical proposals will be evaluated and ranked in order, with the highest first. For the financial evaluation, only the proposals for those firms that have passed the minimum mark and with technical scores falling within 10% of the highest ranked technical score, would be considered, and amongst these, the firm that submitted the lowest price would be considered for award of contract.
Which method of selection is usually preferred?
The adoption of any of these three principal types of selection procedures will depend on the complexity of the assignment; the assignment’s impact on the end-product; and the probability that the proposals submitted by firms would lead to comparable outputs. In general Borrowers have the option to choose any selection procedure, based upon the factors enumerated above, but the most popular selection procedure is the combination of technical quality and price (Price is a factor).
Request for Proposals (RFP)
How are the technical and financial proposals evaluated?
Proposals - technical and financial - submitted by short-listed consulting firms are evaluated following the criteria laid down in the LOI / RFP.
Is there any difference between RFP and LOI (Letter of Invitation)?
The consultants Letter of Invitation (LOI) is also the Request for Proposals (RFP) addressed to the approved short-listed consultants, requesting them to submit proposals for a given assignment for which they are short-listed. The “Request for Proposals” is merely another name used for the set of invitation documents (including the LOI itself) inviting the short-listed firms to submit proposals (both technical and financial).
How and when are RFPs dispatched to Short- listed firms?
For the projects in which the Borrower is responsible for short-listing, the Borrower generally through Courier service, or through electronic means, would send the RFPs to all short-listed firms after its approval by the Bank. For assignments in which the Bank is the Executing Agency, RFPs are sent by courier or by electronic means to all approved short-listed firms.
What does the RFP contain?
An RFP or LOI basically contains:
- The standard letter of invitation containing the Instructions to Offerors for the preparation and submission of proposals as well as the basis for evaluation (both technical and financial):
- LOI Data sheet containing details of the specific assignment:
- Terms of Reference
- Draft Form of Contract
- Appendix 1: Formats for Technical proposals
- Appendix 2: Formats for Financial proposals
Does the firm need to indicate its intention to submit a proposal?
Yes. It is advisable that the short-listed firm indicates to the Borrower whether they would be submitting the proposal or not, by the stipulated deadline, as indicated in the RFP.
Can evaluation be undertaken before the stipulated closing date for submission of proposals?
No. The evaluation would be undertaken only after the closing date as stipulated in the RFP, has passed, even if all proposals are received prior to that closing date. This is because any of the short-listed firms that have submitted proposals may choose to submit an amendment, before the proposal’s closing date.
Are financial considerations to be included in the technical proposal?
No. In accordance with the Instructions to Offerors in the LOI / RFP, technical and financial proposals should be submitted in two separate envelopes. Inclusion of financial considerations in the technical proposal would automatically lead to disqualification.
Can associate arrangements in the technical proposal differ from those proposed in the EOI?
Yes. A firm can modify its association arrangements presented earlier with Expression of Interest (EOI). But any association information included in the technical proposal cannot be amended/ modified, once the proposal is submitted.
Is there any preference given for the personnel proposed by the lead firm?
An international consultant or expert proposed for the assignment must have the requisite qualifications and experience and must be a national from a Bank member country. A national/ domestic consultant/ expert must be a national of the borrowing country.
Is the experience of an associate firm considered in the technical evaluation?
Yes. Experience of the associated firm(s) and their proposed field experts are generally considered in the evaluation of the Technical proposals.
Are there minimum qualifications for a technical proposal?
Yes. A technical proposal is considered “technically qualified” if the technical score determined during the evaluation of the technical proposals exceeds the pass-mark stipulated in the LOI / RFP. The evaluation committee of the borrowing country will evaluate the proposals based on the criteria indicated in the Instructions to Offerors in the LOI / RFP.
Are the details of evaluation communicated to the non-successful firms?
No. In accordance with the Bank’s Rules, the Borrower should promptly inform the non-successful firms of their non-selection within one week after concluding the contract with the selected consulting firm. Other than this, the non-selected firms will not be informed on the basis of evaluation.
Is there any provision for employment of a former member of Bank staff as consultant?
No. There is no specific provision in the Bank’s Rules for the employment of a former member of the Bank’s Staff by any consulting firm.
In general, a former member of the Bank’s staff can be a consultant provided he/ she has:
- Retired or resigned;
- No previous direct involvement of matters relating to the technical assistance; and
- Satisfactory performance during the previous service with the Bank.
However, a restriction exists for those Bank staff members who retired during the period 1995/96, to be employed as “Individual Consultants”. But this restriction does not apply to the same individual being used by a consulting firm. The Bank’s “Procurement Unit” and the “Human Resources & Career Management Department” should be consulted in case of doubt.
When are financial proposals required?
Financial proposals are required for all three options and are to be submitted along with the submission of technical proposals in separate sealed envelopes. This would also be stated in the Instructions to offerors of the LOI / RFP.
When are financial proposals opened?
Financial proposals are opened, after the evaluation of technical proposals has determined the technically qualified consultants that have passed the minimum pass-mark stated in the LOI / RFP, and that are retained for financial evaluation. All firms that are technically qualified may be invited to be present at the opening of the financial proposals, but this is not a requirement of the Bank’s Rules. If the Borrower chooses to undertake a public opening of the financial proposals, the following may be publicly announced:
- Technical score of firms evaluated (i.e. for proposals considered technically qualified)
- Overall price submitted in their financial Proposals
- Any discounts to the cost proposal
- Conditions (if any) for the proposal
When are contract negotiations held? Are they done by fax/ E-mail?
Once the Bank approves the consulting firm selected and recommended by the Borrower, the selected firm will be invited for face-to-face contract negotiations and this takes place in the Borrower’s designated premises. The Consulting firm would bear the cost of its expenses for contract negotiations. No negotiations are conducted either through Fax or E-mail.
Can a firm other than the lead firm negotiate the contract?
No. Only the winning firm selected through the evaluation process and approved by Bank is permitted to enter into contract negotiations and sign the contract for the specific assignment.
Is performance evaluation always conducted after an engagement?
Yes. A performance evaluation of the consulting firm, is carried out by the Borrower, upon completion of each assignment, and the report is submitted to the Bank for information and record purposes.
Is there a “blacklist” of firms kept by the Bank?
Yes. The Bank maintains an “Exclusion List”. These are firms that have been involved in fraud, corruption or very poor performance, in the view of the Bank, and it has concluded that it shall not finance any contract to be executed by them, for a determined period of time. In such an event, the Bank would communicate to the firm accordingly.
Where should a firm address additional inquiries?
All enquiries in respect of a project funded by the Bank, shall be addressed to the Borrower/ Executing Agency concerned, with a copy to the appropriate Director of the Operational Department of the Bank.
Is there a glossary of terms, in case of clarifications?
The glossary of definitions and terms used in procurement is generally given in the Bank’s “Rules and Procedures for the use of Consultants”. However, for any specific term(s), the Procurement Unit of the Bank may be contacted.