1. What is an RFP?
    1. Why is it Important?
    2. Overview of the RFP Process

What is an RFP?

A “Request for Proposal” (RFP) is a document used to request vendors to propose solutions for the delivery of complex products or services or to provide alternative options or solutions. It is a process that uses predefined evaluation criteria in which price is not the only factor. The RFP process brings structure to the procurement decision and is meant to allow the risks and benefits to be clearly identified at the beginning of the process. All notices of RFP opportunities are listed on an electronic tendering system known as MERX for a minimum of 25 calendar days.  Proponents and the evaluation team then utilize Bonfire to review and score proposals.

Why is it Important?

To be compliant with the university’s policy and the Broader Public Sector (BPS) Procurement Directive in the Province of Ontario, purchases exceeding $100,000 must be publicly tendered in a competitive bid process.

The university is required to engage in competitive purchasing – as the need for public transparency, combined with existing legal obligations (i.e. trade agreements, legislation, case law, etc.), have enshrined competitive bidding and the RFP process within the legal framework of public sector contracting.

Overview of the RFP Process

Identify your procurement need

Based on the dollar value, length of contract, complexity and need for public visibility, Procurement Services will work with you to determine the appropriate procurement process to initiate (e.g., RFP, RFI, RFSQ, etc.).  Please contact us at least 3 months prior to the date in which you will need the good or service – the timelines involved in drafting and releasing a competitive procurement can be lengthy, depending on the nature of the purchase and the number of stakeholders involved.
Planning Stage During the planning stage, a member of the Procurement Services team will work with you to define the scope of the procurement, the specifications, and begin assembling an evaluation team.  It is important to involve the appropriate stakeholders during this stage to ensure a smoother process and post-purchase implementation or delivery (i.e., Have the appropriate departments been consulted, such as ITS or FMP?)  Procurement Services will also provide you with a Scope of Work Worksheet to aid in developing the procurement scope and documents.
Bid Document Drafting Procurement Services will draft the appropriate procurement documents for your review, and will circulate the drafts to any stakeholders identified during the planning stage.  Further discussion will be had regarding the requirements and evaluation criteria, including posting timelines and the expectations of those involved.
Posting and Black-Out Period Once the final document has been publicly posted on MERX, the university enters a black-out period during which all communications from any potential vendor or vendor planning to submit a proposal will be prohibited.  During the black-out period, only the Procurement Services Contact will be able to communicate with potential vendors, including those that may submit questions during the proposal process.  Any communications or site visits must be coordinated through the Procurement Services Contact.
Evaluation Period Once the submission date has passed, Procurement Services will review the bid documents for compliance and then release the appropriate sections of the proposal to the evaluation team, following the schedule outlined in the RFP.  During this period, evaluation team members must review and score each proposal independently, ensuring a fair treatment of all proposals.  Once the evaluations are complete, the highest-ranking submission, based on the public evaluation criteria, is selected to enter into negotiations. *Note – the steps in this stage depend on the type of procurement process and the number of successful vendors previously identified in the posting document.


When negotiations are complete, a mutually acceptable formal agreement is signed by all applicable and authorized signing authorities.  Once the agreement becomes effective, a purchase order is issued to acquire the required goods and/or services.
Award Notification All participants are notified that the successful vendor(s) has been selected, and a formal Award Notice is posted on MERX and the university’s website(s).
Vendor Debriefing Any vendor that submitted a proposal may request a formal debriefing, led by a member of the Procurement Services team.

Questions?  Send an email to procurementservices@carleton.ca at any time to discuss your procurement needs or to clarify the process.