08.09 Discussion with vendors

Clarifications during the tendering period

Potential bidders are allowed to submit questions and request clarifications about UNAIDS’ requirements prior to submitting an offer. UNAIDS must provide a period during which potential bidders can submit questions in all solicitation processes. 

All information shared by UNADS must be available to the same audience to avoid undue advantage for any particular potential bidder(s). In the case of RFPs and ITBs, UNAIDS’ responses must be made available to the same audience in the same manner as the solicitation documents (i.e. UNAIDS website). This must be done for a reasonable period prior to the closing deadline in order to allow potential bidders to consider the responses in their submissions.

UNAIDS staff involved in the procurement process in any way are not allowed direct contact with a potential bidder. 

For certain procurement actions, suppliers may be allowed to visit UNAIDS premises prior to submitting their offers. In these cases, the solicitation documents should inform suppliers that a site visit may be conducted prior to the submission of bids, and all potential bidders must be allowed fair opportunity to conduct this visit. All discussions with suppliers during these visits should be recorded in writing, properly documented and shared with other bidders.

Clarifications during the technical evaluation

Communication with bidders during the technical evaluation period is allowed under strict control, and all such communication must be documented properly to avoid the perception of unfairness, lack of transparency or favouritism.

The technical evaluation team is permitted to submit questions to bidders with the purpose of clarifying the submitted technical proposal. All requests for clarifications and responses must be in writing. Modifications to the technical proposal are not permitted. No information obtained from one bidder should be shared with the other competitors.

When solicitation documents allow for bidder presentations, they must be conducted following a defined agenda that is shared with the bidder early enough to allow for preparation. Such presentations must never be attended by a single UNAIDS representative. 

All interaction with bidders during these presentations must be documented, and the documentation must be made available for review in the procurement file. 

Presentations should be conducted on UNAIDS’ premises or remotely via web or teleconferencing, unless it can be clearly documented that it is important that the presentation be conducted at the bidder’s premises (usually for evaluation purposes). If a site visit to the bidder’s premises is required, all bidders must be given equal opportunity to arrange a visit to their respective premises; this will ensure a fair evaluation by the technical evaluation team. 

During the presentations, suppliers usually are asked to make a presentation about their offer. In order to ensure fairness, the same questions should be asked of all suppliers. 

Clarifications provided to questions submitted in writing or asked during the presentations should not change the substance of the proposal submitted.

Clarifications during the financial evaluation

Communications with the vendors during the financial evaluation are allowed for the exclusive purpose of requesting clarifications to the received financial proposal. All inquiries and responses must be in writing.

No changes to the financial proposal are allowed.

Contract negotiations before signing the contract

There shall be no negotiations before the award of the contract.

Negotiations are discussions with a potential supplier after recommendation for award of a contract to the supplier but before signature of contract. They are intended to ensure the best value for money for UNAIDS without compromising the principle of fair and equal treatment of all suppliers.

Negotiations must be authorized by the authority awarding the contract. An explicit request for negotiation must be made when submitting the recommendation for award of contract, and it must establish the justification and the objectives of the negotiation.
Negotiations regarding the detailed terms and conditions of a contract between UNAIDS and a supplier are treated as a separate issue.

In principle, negotiations usually are not undertaken when formal methods of solicitation (RFP/ITB) are used. In some situations, however, negotiations can be justified in order to ensure best value for money for UNAIDS (e.g. if only one bid has been received and the price is not deemed competitive).

When negotiations are authorized, it should be ensured that the requirements (specifications, TOR, SOW) and quantities are not changed substantially, as this would require cancellation of the tender process and the initiation of a new one.

Prior to submitting a final recommendation, the awarding authority can be asked to authorize a Best and Final Offer (BAFO) process among all technically qualified bidders. The BAFO process is an optional step in the selection of offers that seeks to enhance competition and ensure best value for money. The Procurement Coordinator in HQ must be consulted before a BAFO process takes place.

Negotiations can prove very effective in situations with directly negotiated contracts, as they can help to ensure competitive prices. Negotiations are confidential between UNAIDS and the supplier, and no information relating to the negotiations may be revealed by any party.