This post is one in a continuing series on the basics of public bidding in Pennsylvania. The topic of this post is “responsiveness.”
The term “responsiveness” refers to whether a bid is compliant with the requirements specified in the invitation to bid. For a public bid to be accepted, it must be “responsive” to the bidding instructions, meaning that it must satisfy the mandatory terms, conditions, and instructions contained in the bid invitation. If a bid fails to adhere to the mandatory bidding requirements, the bid is considered “non-responsive.”
Mandatory compliance with bidding instructions guarantees that contract awards will be made fairly and economically. First, with clear-cut ground rules for vendor competition, none of the bidders will obtain an unfair advantage from a special knowledge of the bidding requirements. Second, the principle of strict adherence to the bid instructions reduces the possibility of fraud or favoritism in favor of one bidder over another.
Examples of non-responsive bids are those that are missing critical pricing information, or an authorized signature of the bidder. A non-responsive bid may be missing a bid bond, may contain a counter-offer that deviates from the specifications of the bid, or may be missing a required form, such as a signed addendum. A determination that a bid is non-responsive is typically final and is normally not subject to any review or administrative appeal by the rejected bidder. The concept of bid responsiveness was noted and explained in Nielson v. Womer, 46 Pa. Cmwlth. 283, 406 A.2d 1169, 1171 (1979).
Whether a bid which is non-responsive can nonetheless be accepted by waiving the bid defect was addressed in my earlier post on the “Hall of Fame” decision in Gaeta v. Ridley School District.