On February 9, 2012, Washington’s Capital Projects Advisory Review Board (“CPARB”) voted unanimously to approve revisions to its “Suggested Guidelines for Bidder Responsibility” that apply to public works projects.  The Guidelines are available online, click here.

Bidder responsibility has been a hot button topic for construction contractors who remain concerned that misinformed public works owners may use narrowly crafted responsibility criteria to restrain competition and use the Bidder Responsibility Statute, RCW 39.04.350 (see Ahlers & Cressman’s blogs August 9, 2011 and August 11, 2011 for an analysis of this statute), as a means to subjectively select contractors.  The CPARB Suggested Guidelines for Bidder Responsibility provide the public works owners with tools, examples and provisions to ensure that bidders on public works projects are indeed responsible and that the projects will nevertheless be completed on time and on budget.

CPARB’s Task Force responsible for publishing the Suggested Guidelines for Bidder Responsibility included Mike Purdy, a renowned and well respected public works contract consultant, who publishes a popular construction blog.  Mike has summarized the changes to the Suggested Guidelines for Bidder Responsibility succinctly; we will refer you to his blog of February 26, 2012 for details.

Closely related to the subject of bidder responsibility is the issue of obtaining qualified subcontractors on GC/CM projects (referred to as “subcontractor eligibility”).  Mike Purdy has also summarized those issues.  Our readers are referred to Mike’s summary posted on March 25, 2012.

Occasionally we come across public contract invitations in which public works owners use prequalification or responsibility criteria in a manner contrary to Washington statutes.  The following is an example from Eastern Washington (the name of the public works owner has been redacted):

Eastern Washington Public Works Advertisement

In this particular contract, the owner is requiring that bidders be “prequalified” to bid on a municipal street project.  There is no legal basis for the municipality demanding that contractors prequalify for the work.  The same objective could be obtained by an appropriate use of bidder responsibility criteria, consistent with the Suggested Guidelines for Bidder Responsibility.  If our readers come across public works bids which contain responsibility criteria that unreasonably restrain competition and/or public works invitations that are contrary to the law, as the one cited above, please bring those examples to the attention of Bidder Responsibility Task Force, CPARB, Washington State Department of Enterprise Services, PO Box 41401, Olympia, WA 98504-1401.

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