Pre-Bid Meetings and Site Visits – Why and How?
Pre-bid meetings are usually held, if previously mentioned in the solicitation documents, during the bid/proposal preparation period. Their purpose is to clarify any concerns bidders may have with the solicitation documents, scope of work and other details of the requirement. These meetings are formal and the results are made available in writing to all prospective bidders that registered interest in the requirement, be it through requesting, buying or downloading the solicitation documents from an official website. Prospective bidders are permitted to request clarifications by a date and time stipulated in the solicitation documents.
It is most beneficial to hold pre-bid meetings prior to formally responding to the request for clarifications, that way the responses to the requ
est for clarifications can be sent along with the results of the pre-bid meeting, including a copy of the minutes of the pre-bid meeting.
Although prospective bidders should be encouraged to get as much information as possible (including visiting the site) on a specific or upcoming requirement of a procuring entity, formal site visits are usually planned and carried out for works procurement and more complex goods requirements.
When a site visit is planned, the details of the date and time must be stated in the solicitation documents. And the site visit should take place before (but not too far in advance of) the pre-bid meeting. The results are also formally sent to all prospective bidders that expressed interest in the requirement, by way of minutes of the site visit and pre-bid meeting, including consolidated responses to request for clarifications, also from prospective bidders.
The pre-bid meeting is usually open to all interested prospective bidders; however, in cases where pre-qualification or short-listing is carried out, only pre-qualified or short-listed bidders are invited to attend the pre-bid meeting.
Site visits, as mentioned above, can and should preferable be held prior to the pre-bid meeting. The reason for this preference is because after the site visit, bidders may have additional queries and these can be addressed at the pre-bid meeting and formally sent (with the minutes) to all prospective bidders that expressed interest in the requirement, or those that were short-listed through a pre-qualification exercise or restricted bidding process. The time and venue of these meetings are addressed in the solicitation documents, and attendance is usually not obligatory.
During the site visit the prospective bidders survey the site and ask questions to clarify any doubts or information provided in the solicitation documents. Sometimes, as a result of the site visit/pre-bid meeting there might be a need to extend the bid/proposal submission date by way of Addendum to the solicitation documents to give bidders sufficient time to address any changes made to the solicitation documents as a result of the site visit and/or pre-bid meeting.