(1) "Competitive sealed proposal" is a procurement option allowing the award to be based upon an evaluation process using stated criteria to arrive at a contract that will be the most advantageous to the state.
(2) Competitive sealed proposals, solicited through a request for proposals, may be practical when one or more of the following conditions exist:
(a) the contract needs to be other than a fixed-price type;
(b) oral or written discussions may need to be conducted with offerors concerning technical and price aspects of their proposal;
(c) offerors may need to be afforded the opportunity to revise their proposal, including prices;
(d) award may need to be based upon a comparative evaluation as stated in the request for proposals of differing price, quality, and contractual factors in order to determine the most advantageous offering to the state. Quality factors include technical and performance capability and the content of the technical proposal; or
(e) price will only be one of the criteria considered in determining an award.
(3) The request for proposals must be prepared in accordance with ARM 2.5.601 and must also include:
(a) a statement that discussions may be conducted with one or more offerors who submit proposals, but that proposals may be accepted and a contract issued without such discussions; and
(b) the criteria that will be used to evaluate the proposals.
(4) An evaluation committee may be utilized to evaluate the proposals.
(5) Facsimile transmission of a proposal is only acceptable on an exception basis with prior approval of the procurement officer.
(6) Proposals shall be time-stamped upon receipt and held in a secure place by an employee of the agency until the due date specified in the request for proposals.
(7) After the time established for receipt of proposals, a procurement officer shall open the proposals and inspect the proposals for material not available for public inspection pursuant to 18-4-304 and 18-4-308, MCA. The procurement officer will remove this material and then make the remainder of the proposal available for public inspection. Offerors submitting a proposal containing a claim to shield confidential information pursuant to 18-4-304, MCA, must include a statement that attests to the offeror's acceptance of the legal and financial responsibility for defending the claim. In addition, any claim to shield trade secret material must be made by an offeror's legal counsel using the affidavit form prescribed by the division.
(8) For the purpose of conducting discussions, proposals shall be initially classified as responsive or nonresponsive.
(a) Proposals may be found nonresponsive any time during the procurement process if:
(i) any of the required information is not provided;
(ii) the submitted price is found to be excessive or inadequate as measured by criteria stated in the request for proposals; or
(iii) the proposal is not within the plans and specifications described and required in the request for proposal.
(b) Nonresponsive proposals will be eliminated from further consideration.
(9) Discussions including oral presentations, interviews, demonstrations, responses to specific questions, modifications, and negotiations may be held with one or more offerors to:
(a) promote understanding of the state's requirements and the offerors' proposals; and
(b) facilitate arriving at a contract that will be most advantageous to the state taking into consideration all criteria set forth in the request for proposals.
(10) At the discretion of the procurement officer, one or more offerors may be provided an opportunity to submit a best and final offer if additional information is required in order to reach a final decision. Unless the request for proposals so states, a best and final offer may not be requested from the offeror(s) on price alone.
(11) References and the credit and financial responsibility of the offerors may be verified as appropriate.
(12) The evaluation shall be based on the evaluation criteria set forth in the request for proposals. The evaluators shall exercise discretion in assigning points or value to a proposal, which involves a judgmental assessment of the evaluation criteria. If an award is made, it must be made to the responsive and responsible offeror whose proposal best meets the evaluation criteria.
(13) The department reserves the right to negotiate with one or more offerors for the award of a contract that is most advantageous to the state. The department reserves the right to award a contract without negotiations or to reject any or all proposals.
(14) Interested parties are responsible for making their own arrangements to make copies of proposal materials.
(15) Multiple award contracts are allowable if determined to be in the best interest of the state.
(16) The state may create a roster of contractors to provide supplies and/or services on an "as needed, if needed" basis. In this situation, contractors have no guarantee that any supplies or services will be purchased by the state. The solicitation document will establish the method to be used to select contractors for the roster.