B-118653, OCT. 17, 1960

B-118653: Oct 17, 1960

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ROBBINS: THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 6. THE MATTER WHICH YOU ARE CONCERNED RELATES TO COMMENTS IN OUR REPORT ON THE PRACTICE FOLLOWED BY THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OF CIRCULATING AMONG CONSULTANTS. PROPOSALS THAT SET FORTH THE AMOUNT OR THE PERCENTAGE RATE OF ESTIMATED CONSTRUCTION COSTS THAT THE STATE WAS WILLING TO PAY FOR CONSULTANT SERVICES. IN YOUR LETTER YOU INDICATE AGREEMENT THAT THE PRACTICE FOLLOWED BY THE STATE IS UNDESIRABLE. IT IS YOUR VIEW THAT THE MOST QUALIFIED FIRM SHOULD BE SELECTED BEFORE NEGOTIATION OF A FEE. THEREBY INSURING THAT THE SELECTION WILL BE BASED UPON PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE RATHER THAN PRICE. WE BELIEVE THAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH CONSULTANT SERVICES ARE OFTEN BEING USED IN THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM ARE SUCH THAT THE COST OF THESE SERVICES SHOULD NOT BE DISREGARDED BUT SHOULD RECEIVE PROPER CONSIDERATION WITH AN EVALUATION OF THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE CONSULTANTS.

B-118653, OCT. 17, 1960

TO MR. PAUL H. ROBBINS:

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 6, 1960, CONCERNING A MATTER INCLUDED IN A REPORT TO THE CONGRESS DATED JULY 29, 1960, BY THIS OFFICE ON OUR REVIEW OF THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM IN REGION 6--- FORT WORTH, TEXAS. THE MATTER WHICH YOU ARE CONCERNED RELATES TO COMMENTS IN OUR REPORT ON THE PRACTICE FOLLOWED BY THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OF CIRCULATING AMONG CONSULTANTS, PROPOSALS THAT SET FORTH THE AMOUNT OR THE PERCENTAGE RATE OF ESTIMATED CONSTRUCTION COSTS THAT THE STATE WAS WILLING TO PAY FOR CONSULTANT SERVICES.

IN YOUR LETTER YOU INDICATE AGREEMENT THAT THE PRACTICE FOLLOWED BY THE STATE IS UNDESIRABLE, BUT YOU RAISE A QUESTION WITH RESPECT TO OUR SUGGESTION THAT, WITHIN THE STATE AND BUREAU POLICY OF NOT SOLICITING BIDS FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING SERVICES, IT WOULD BE ENTIRELY PROPER TO CIRCULATE PROPOSALS AMONG CONSULTANTS AND THAT, UPON RECEIPT OF REPLIES FROM INTERESTED CONSULTANTS, A SELECTION SHOULD BE MADE FROM AMONG QUALIFIED FIRMS AFTER NEGOTIATION OF THE FEE. IT IS YOUR VIEW THAT THE MOST QUALIFIED FIRM SHOULD BE SELECTED BEFORE NEGOTIATION OF A FEE, THEREBY INSURING THAT THE SELECTION WILL BE BASED UPON PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE RATHER THAN PRICE. WE BELIEVE THAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH CONSULTANT SERVICES ARE OFTEN BEING USED IN THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM ARE SUCH THAT THE COST OF THESE SERVICES SHOULD NOT BE DISREGARDED BUT SHOULD RECEIVE PROPER CONSIDERATION WITH AN EVALUATION OF THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE CONSULTANTS. FURTHER, FOR COMPARATIVE PURPOSES, PRELIMINARY CONTACT WITH CONSULTANT FIRMS IN THE FORM OF QUESTIONNAIRES, INVITATIONS TO SUBMIT PRELIMINARY PROPOSALS, AND POSSIBLY SUBSEQUENT INTERVIEWS IS A KEY REQUISITE IN OBTAINING THE MOST ADVANTAGEOUS CONTRACT TO THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS IN TERMS OF TECHNICAL COMPETENCE, SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE, AND ECONOMICAL COST. SUCH CONTRACT HAS ADDITIONAL BENEFITS IN THAT IT HELPS TO PREVENT POSSIBLE FAVORITISM, TO EVALUATE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF PROSPECTIVE CONSULTANTS, AND TO BRING OUT ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL DATA LEADING TO A MORE COMPLETE AND REALISTIC DETERMINATION OF CONTRACT REQUIREMENTS.

WE RECOGNIZE THAT PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS OBJECT TO THE USE OF COMPETITIVE BIDDING FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES. WE DID NOT INTEND TO CONVEY THE IMPRESSION IN OUR REPORT THAT WE EITHER ENDORSE THIS POLICY, AS CONCLUDED IN YOUR LETTER, OR OBJECT TO IT. IN THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM, THE ENDORSEMENT OF SUCH A POLICY IS DISCRETIONARY WITH THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC ROADS. WE BELIEVE, HOWEVER, THAT EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SHOULD BE GIVEN TO ALL QUALIFIED ENGINEERING FIRMS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE HIGHWAY PROGRAM WHERE THE SERVICES OF SUCH FIRMS ARE REQUIRED AND THEIR USE IS PERMITTED UNDER FEDERAL LAW AND REGULATIONS. SUCH OPPORTUNITY CAN BEST BE PROVIDED, IT WOULD APPEAR, THROUGH SOME METHOD OF SOLICITATION OR INVITATION.

WE FULLY AGREE THAT CONSIDERATION SHOULD BE GIVEN TO OBTAINING THE SERVICES OF A FIRM ADEQUATELY QUALIFIED TO BE ENTRUSTED WITH THE PROPOSED WORK. MUCH OF THE WORK FOR WHICH THE SERVICES OF PRIVATE CONSULTANT ENGINEERING FIRMS ARE ENGAGED ARE THE USUAL TYPES OF SERVICES FOR WHICH THERE ARE USUALLY A NUMBER OF QUALIFIED FIRMS AVAILABLE. IN SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, WE BELIEVE THAT THE MATTER OF FEES IS AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN DETERMINING A PROPER SELECTION OF THE CONSULTANT.