View Section II to determine what to include in your purchase description and scope of services.

Section II, Purchase Description & Scope of Services, should provide bidders with the essential physical and functional characteristics of the supply or a detailed description of the service you wish to purchase. You should also include any other necessary terms and conditions of the contract, such as delivery or performance dates and warranties.

In many cases, purchasing officials do not write the technical specifications for an IFB. When a requisitioning department or a consultant provides specifications, it is important that purchasing officials review the specifications to ensure that they both meet the purchaser's goals and comply with the law.

Remember that unnecessary exactness is expensive: the more restrictive the specifications, the less competition they will generate. However, imprecision can also be costly. Vague specifications often result in bids that are inflated to cover unknown costs. The challenge in writing good specifications is to find the appropriate balance -- to provide sufficient detail to ensure that you will get what you want at a fair price, while omitting unnecessary details that unduly limit competition.

When you are drafting this section of your IFB, you should think about including the following elements for either supply contracts or service contracts:

  • General description of the supply or services required
    A general product or service description.
  • Contract term length and renewal options
    All contracts must specify the exact contract term length and any renewal or extension options. The IFB must state that an option to renew or extend the contract is exercisable at the sole discretion of your jurisdiction.

Example: The contract will run from the date of the contract award until December 31, 2005.

Example: The contract term will be July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2008, with an option to renew for an additional year from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009. This option is exercisable solely at the Town's discretion.

  • Pricing and pricing formats
    It may make sense to require bidders to submit price information in a particular format, such as providing both unit or hourly rates and total prices. (See Section VI Bid Pricing Sheet .) You must require that prices remain firm throughout the contract period, or specify how they will be adjusted. (See Section V Rule for Award :Multi-Year Contracts.)

Example: All bidders must provide both a unit price and a total price for each item listed on the attached bid pricing sheet.

Example: All bidders must provide a separate hourly rate for each task listed on the attached bid pricing sheet.

Example: All bid prices must remain firm throughout the contract term.

Supply Contracts
For supply contracts, you should consider including the following additional elements:

  • Method of acquisition
    You must inform bidders if the procurement is an outright purchase, lease, lease-purchase, or other type of acquisition.
  • Actual or estimated quantities
    You must inform bidders of the actual or estimated quantities that you intend to purchase. When you know the actual number of items you need, simply state the amount in your IFB. If you are not sure what your actual needs will be, you must provide bidders with an estimate. You can use past years' amounts, or averages over a period of years, to determine a reasonable figure. Your IFB should specify a maximum quantity large enough to meet your needs under reasonably foreseeable circumstances. In this manner, you can be assured that you will have the benefit of a competitive price should you need to purchase more than originally estimated. Your IFB should also state that you will only purchase the quantity actually needed.
Example:: The Town estimates that it will need 3,000 cubic yards of road sand, up to a maximum of 4,000 cubic yards, from September 1, 2005 until May 1, 2006. The Town will only purchase the quantity of sand actually needed, but may purchase up to 4,000 cubic yards under this contract.
  • Description of quality requirements
    You should state any minimum or maximum performance standards and operational, compatibility, or conversion requirements. For commercially available supplies, including equipment, you should use performance specifications rather than design specifications whenever possible.
  • Government or Industry Standards
    If the item you are purchasing must comply with an established standard, it should be listed here.

Example: The apparatus must meet the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), as stated in current Pamphlet 1901 for Pumper Fire Apparatus.

Example: All office copy paper must meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard D 3460.

  • Sampling, inspection, or test criteria
    The use of samples or the demonstration of equipment can be a valuable tool in the procurement process. When you request sample equipment, bidders are required to submit a product sample that matches your descriptive specification. If the items will be tested, the test methods should be outlined in the IFB.
Example: All bidders must demonstrate the model of rider mower offered in their bids. The demonstration must show that the rider mower can be safely operated on the hilly areas that surround the school building. Each mower will be driven over a designated area on the school property in order to assess its safety and compliance with this requirement.
  • Service and warranty terms
    If you are requiring bidders to provide a warranty and/or service agreement in conjunction with bids for supplies, you should specify both the length and the scope of coverage required.

Example: All bid prices must include a two-year warranty for all parts and on- site labor. Service personnel must respond within 48 hours of notification, excluding weekends or holidays.

Example:: All bid prices must include a three-year service agreement covering all parts listed in Attachment A and on-site labor. Service personnel must respond within 48 hours of notification, excluding weekends or holidays.

  • Delivery terms
    You should include where and when items should be delivered, and who bears the risk of loss while the items are en route.
Example:: All computers must be delivered by October 1, 2005 to the appropriate site inside the building as designated by a school employee. All prices must be F.O.B. Whitman School, Boston, MA, freight prepaid.
[Note: In a sales price quotation, F.O.B. ("free on board") generally means that the seller assumes all responsibilities and costs up to the point of delivery, including insurance and transportation.]
  • Training or ongoing technical support
    If you are buying equipment such as computers and you also want the vendor to provide training or ongoing technical support, your purchase description should define all requirements.

Example: All contract prices must include a minimum of six (6) hours of on-site training for school department staff.

Example: All contract prices must include telephone technical assistance 24 hours per day, seven days per week, at no additional cost, for a minimum of two(2) years from the date the computers are delivered.

Service Contracts
For service contracts, you should consider including the following additional elements:

  • Contract type
    You should inform bidders whether this is a fixed-price contract (firm fixed-price or fixed-price with price adjustment) or cost reimbursement contract (time and materials or cost plus fixed fee.)
  • Detailed description of services
    You should provide bidders with a comprehensive description of the services required, sometimes referred to as a statement of work. Generally, you begin by developing a task description which details the tasks, the personnel, and the material resources required to perform the contract. After you have developed your task description, you define performance standards and identify objective measures to evaluate whether those standards are being met. One way to measure performance under a service contract is to identify an acceptable error rate or range of acceptable performance. For example, a school may require its school bus contractor to adhere to a time schedule. The school might establish an acceptable error rate based on the number of times buses can fail to arrive within 10 minutes of their scheduled times.
  • Itemizing Tasks in a Contract
    Some contracts require highly itemized task descriptions. These are appropriate when you want to ensure that specific activities are performed under the contract. For example, you may want to specify a list of tasks that must be performed every night by your janitorial service contractor, rather than leave the cleaning method to the vendor's discretion. However, for other contracts, you may be more interested in outcome, not how the contractor arrives at that outcome. For these contracts, your task description will be more result-oriented. For example, if you are hiring a consultant to do a written study, your focus will likely be on the finished product rather than the consultant's process.

Sample task descriptions

Example: All floors must be swept to remove visible dirt and debris; removal of gum, tar, and similar substances from the floor surface is required. Cleaner must be applied with a mop and scrubbed with an electrical polishing machine with scrub brush.

Example: The final report must include an inventory of all current hardware and software and the proposer's recommended upgrades.

Performance standards and measures

Example: The food service company must serve varied and appealing menu offerings. The contractor's average student participation rate may not fall below 75% in any school year.

Example: Service personnel must respond to all service calls within 48 hours of notification. The contractor may not fail to respond within this time limit more than four (4) times over the contract term.

  • Actual or estimated hours
    If you are requiring vendors to bid an hourly rate for a service contract, you must inform bidders of the actual or estimated hours the contract will require. In most cases, you will be providing an estimate. If you have bid the contract before, you can use past years' experience to determine a reasonable estimate.
  • Performance deadlines
    You should identify any time restrictions, such as deadlines for submission of a written report.
Example: The final report must be submitted to the City Council no later than January 30, 2006.