Tips and Advice for State Social Services EBT Procurements
Because every state has, or is currently implementing electronic benefit transfer (EBT) for processing social services payments, many government agencies are starting to investigate what they will need to help improve service delivery in the years ahead.
With multiple state government EBT renewal procurements expected in the next two years, it makes sense to take a closer look at how to optimize the number and quality of responses agencies can expect to receive in those upcoming RFPs.
I recently spoke about what it takes to get the most from a state’s EBT procurement in a session at EBT Next Gen 2019 in Orlando. I was one of four EBT processing experts who, along with a USDA Federal Nutrition Service (FNS) representative, described for state agency leaders how specific requirements impact proposal responses and pricing.
Here are a few important tips to keep in mind as you get started on EBT renewal procurement initiatives.
- Start the process early enough to give bidders enough time to respond. The USDA Federal Nutrition Service (FNS) recommends that agencies incorporate 90 days for the procurement process.
- Include time prior to RFP release for FNS review of the RFP document, so that it doesn’t impact the agency’s 90-day RFP procurement plan.
- Timing is important. Keep an eye out for other similar procurement initiatives, as multiple open SNAP/WIC procurements under way simultaneously may impact the number and quality of responses you collect.
- Additional time must also be included in the procurement planning schedule if your state requires Minority/Women/Small Business Enterprise, and/or Disabled Veteran-Owned Business participation. Be sure to provide direction on participation requirements and how that will be evaluated as part of the proposal.
- Remember to allot time for contract negotiation into the state’s procurement schedule.
Procurement Best Practices
To help health and human services agencies gain strong, competitive RFP responses, it’s also a good idea to consider incorporating the following procurement best practices:
- Use two rounds of questions and answers to allow for follow-up questions and provide ample time for bidders to integrate their answers before the agency’s final RFP due date.
- Make sure your evaluation process includes the four following elements: Scoring; Clarifications; Best and Final Offers (BAFOs); and Oral Presentations.
- Keep in mind that contract implementation schedules with fewer than nine months allotted to complete a conversion will infer that the agency does not want to change its current provider.
- Be as specific as possible with each operational requirement or need, and allow vendors the flexibility to describe how this need will be met by the proposed solution.
- For re-procurements, revise requirements based on lessons learned from the previous procurement and be sure to align with current needs.
- Avoid situations in which multiple deliverables are due at the same time. Each state’s agency team will require time to review each deliverable. It’s important to note that the review time required for each deliverable will add a month to the contract implementation schedule.
This advice is not intended to influence agency procurement requirements, but simply to help public sector agency leaders better understand how certain parameters or stipulations may increase costs, and could have an impact on the number and quality of RFP responses received.
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