Can A Public Owner Ever Seek Clarification Of Ambiguous Pricing?

Recently, a public owner solicited bids for a university construction project. The bid form sought pricing for base bid work and alternate work. One of the bidders included ambiguous pricing for an alternate item, in that the pricing was Read more

Debriefing After Non-Selection Does Not Toll 7-Day Deadline For Bid Protest

The Pa. Procurement Code sets a strict deadline for bid protests - the protest must be filed within seven days after the protestant knew or should have known of the facts giving rise to the protest.  If the protest is untimely, it Read more

Does Separations Act Prohibit Use Of Best Value Contracting For Construction Of Philadelphia Public Buildings?

Now that "best value" contracting is officially the new game in town for City of Philadelphia procurement, with the issuance of the new best value regulations, it's worth asking whether the longstanding Separations Act precludes the City from using best Read more

Does PA Steel Act Prohibit Public Owner From Specifying Foreign-Made Cast Iron Boiler?

The PA Steel Products Procurement Act requires that all steel products (including cast iron products) supplied on a Pennsylvania public works project must be made from U.S.-made steel. Recently, a school district's contract specified a cast iron boiler manufactured in Europe as the Read more

Disappointed Bidder Lacks Standing To Challenge P3 Contract Award By Non-Commonwealth Entity

In a recent case of first impression, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has affirmed a lower court ruling that a disappointed bidder lacked standing to challenge a contract awarded by a non-Commonwealth entity under the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Act (P3 Act). In Read more

DGS Sends Violation Notices Concerning Non-Compliance With E-Verify

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E-verify, officially known as the Pennsylvania Public Works Employment Verification, Act 127 of 2012, has now been the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for more than two years, since January 1, 2013.  E-verify requires all public works contractors and subcontractors to utilize the federal government’s E-Verify system to ensure that all employees performing work on public works projects are authorized to work in the United States.  My earlier post on E-Verify can be found here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in E-Verify Leave a comment

Gov. Tom Wolf Signs Executive Order To Improve Participation Of Small & Diverse Businesses

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On September 23, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed an Executive Order solidifying his commitment to improving the participation of minority-owned, women-owned, LGBT-owned, veteran-owned, and disabled-owned businesses in state government contracting.

According to the official press release, Executive Order 2015-11, entitled “Diversity, Inclusion, and Small Business Opportunities in State Contracting and Pennsylvania’s Economy,”

directs a consistent and coordinated effort to ensure diversity and inclusion in all contracting opportunities for small and diverse businesses throughout agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction and promotes the creation of programs to better prepare those businesses to compete and succeed in Pennsylvania’s economy.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DBE/MBE/WBE, DGS Leave a comment

Continuing Pa. Budget Impasse Affects Payments To Contractors

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The current Pennsylvania budget impasse is now entering its fifth month.  How does the impasse and the lack of a state budget affect vendors and contractors holding contracts with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its departments, boards and agencies?

According to the FAQ webpage of the Office of the Budget, the following questions and answers address payments to vendors and contractors and future contracts:

Question 9: Will Commonwealth agencies process invoices from vendors?

Answer: Yes. Vendors with state contracts who continue to provide goods and services to commonwealth agencies can submit invoices and Commonwealth agencies will process all invoices received. All invoices held during the budget impasse will be sent promptly to the State Treasury for processing after the FY15-16 budget is enacted.

Question 10: How will the budget impasse affect existing contracts?

Answer: Most state contracts include language addressing this situation, which states that the commonwealth’s obligation to make payments shall be subject to the availability and appropriation of funds and that contractors may not stop work or refuse to make delivery because of non-payment. If the Commonwealth’s untimely payment results in a default situation, the contractor may pursue the remedies set forth in the contract.

Question 11: Can Commonwealth agencies enter into new contracts for 2015-16?

Answer: Agencies may enter into new contracts for FY 2015-16. The contracts will clearly state that payment is subject to appropriation.

The takeaway here is that vendors and contractors doing business with a public entity like the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should never forget that public contracts are unlike private contracts in many ways, not the least of which is that the payment obligations of the public entity are nearly always subject to legislative appropriation of the funds necessary for payment. So, while payment may be delayed due to non-appropriation, the obligation to perform the work covered by the contract continues even in the face of non-payment.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DGS, General Leave a comment

Contractor & Subcontractor Payment Act Does Not Apply To Public Projects In Pennsylvania

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In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has held that the Pa. Contractor and Subcontractor Payment Act (“CASPA”) does not apply to a construction project where the owner is a governmental entity.  CASPA is a Pennsylvania statute governing payments to contractors and subcontractors on construction projects located in Pennsylvania.  CASPA typically applies to private development projects, whereas the Pa. Procurement Code’s Prompt Pay Schedules apply to state or local public works projects.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Court Decisions, Public Works Payment Rules Leave a comment

Participation By Awardee In Bid Protest Hearing Not Improper Under Procurement Code

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In two, not-so-recent decisions involving bid protests filed under the Pa. Procurement Code, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has held that it was not improper to allow the awarded vendor to actively participate in the protests.

In the two cases, the aggrieved bidders filed protests with the Pa. Department of Corrections challenging awards for a contract for a secure telephone system for inmates housed at Department facilities.  In each case, the Secretary permitted the contract awardee to participate in the bid protest.  In one protest, the awardee was permitted to file a reply to the bid protest.

On appeal, the bidders argued in each case that the contract awardee’s participation in the protest and hearing was unlawful because, under section 1711.1 of the Procurement Code, the only proper parties to a protest are the protestant and the contracting officer, and the awardee may not participate because, under the statute, it is not an enumerated party to a protest.

The Commonwealth Court flatly rejected this argument, finding that there was no abuse of discretion in allowing the contract awardee to participate in the protest. This decision makes perfect sense.  The Procurement Code itself, at section 1711.1(e), provides that the person deciding the protest “may request and review such additional documents or information he deems necessary to render a decision and may, at his sole discretion, conduct a hearing.”  This could certainly include information from the vendor who has been awarded the contract.  In addition, as the Court noted, the Department of General Service’s Procurement Handbook permits such participation where “substantial issues are raised by the protest.”  Furthermore, by comparison, in an equity action filed to protest and enjoin a local contract award, the contract awardee is deemed to be an indispensable party and must be included in the proceeding.

So, if you intend to protest a bid or contract award under the Procurement Code, you are hereby forewarned: be prepared to fend off arguments by both the agency soliciting your bid and the entity who has been awarded the contract.

The two Commonwealth Court decisions can be found here and here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Bid Protests, Court Decisions, Procurement Code Leave a comment
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