Small Purchases (Phone or Fax bids under $100,000)

Before the printer signs and returns a PO or begins work GPO Printing Procurement Regulations (GPO PPR) provide that a contract on a small purchase is formed only when the printer either signs the purchase order (PO) or begins work on the job.  GPO PPR, Chapter XII, Section 6.5.  Prior to that time, even though a printer submitted a quote and the GPO issues a purchase order, there is still no contract.  As a result, a printer has a right to change his quote price or withdraw his quote at any time before he signs the purchase order or begins work on the job.  The best procedure to follow is to contact the office that issued the small purchase by phone, and advise them of an error in your price which you want to change, or that due to some other problem (equipment failure, schedule, etc.) you cannot accept the job, and wish to withdraw your quote.  This conversation typically occurs when the GPO calls the printer to advise them that they are low bidder, and that copy is ready to be picked up.  The printer should confirm the conversation in writing, by faxing a note to the contracting officer or his contract administrator. 

 When the contracting officer receives notice that a printer wishes to change or withdraw a quote, he has three options:  1) allow the printer to withdraw its quotation; 2) accept a corrected price; or 3) negotiate some alternative price.  GPO PPR Chapter XII, Section 6.5(a)(2). 

After the issuance of a PO – but before the contractor signs the print order or begins any work – the contracting officer can allow the printer to correct its price, but PPR limits that correction to an amount below the next low quote.  PPR also warns the contracting officer that they need to be concerned about the integrity of the competitive bidding system, when allowing a contractor to change his price after other quotes have been exposed.  Obviously, if GPO did this regularly, it would give everyone a chance to raise their price when they left too much money “on the table”. 

After the printer has signed and returned the print order, or has begun work on the jobIn a situation where the printer has signed and returned the purchase order or has begun work on the job, a contract has been formed.  GPO PPR Chapter XII, Section 6.5(a).  Because of this, requested corrections of errors in quotes or requests to withdraw or cancel the contract are treated the same as they are for formal jackets and programs outlined below. 

Formal Jackets and Programs

Before the date and time of bid openingA printer can withdraw its bid on a formal jacket or program anytime prior to the time of bid opening by sending a written notice to the GPO office that issued the solicitation.  The request should be sent by fax, since time is critical.  The GPO does accept notices to withdraw a bid on a formal jacket or program by fax, even though the bid was not permitted to be sent by fax.  A printer can also change its bid at any time before bid opening by simply submitting a revised or corrected bid.  Revised or corrected bids can only be sent by fax if the solicitation allows bids to be sent by fax.

 After bid opening, but prior to award of a contract.  Requests by a printer to change its bid price or withdraw its bid are handled under two general categories:  clerical mistakes; all other mistakes.

Apparent Clerical MistakesA clerical mistake (such as an obvious misplacement of a decimal point) which is apparent on the face of the bid may be corrected by the contracting officer prior to award. GPO PPR Chapter XII, Section 6.2.   In the past, the GPO has also treated math errors within the bid as clerical errors, assuming that a reasonable person can determine the correct price from the bid information.  

Mistakes other than “Clerical” Mistakes.  If a printer recognizes a mistake after bid opening, but before award, the GPO allows correction of the mistake only where there is clear and convincing evidence proving both that a mistake was made – and, more importantly, what bid price the bidder actually intended. GPO PPR Chapter XII, Section 6.3.  This evidence usually consists of the printer’s bid and original estimate or bid work papers.  In general, the GPO will not make a correction that will result in displacing one or more lower bidders. 

If the printer can show that it made a mistake, but is unable to provide adequate proof of the price it actually intended to bid, the contracting officer will not change the price, but can permit the printer to withdraw its bid.

The GPO has an “error in bid” form affidavit for printers to complete where they wish to correct or withdraw their bid.

 After Award of the Contract.  GPO PPR allows the Contract Review Board (CRB) Chairperson to rescind a contract, or correct a mistake in contract pricing only where the printer can show clear and convincing evidence not only that a mistake was made, but also that:  1) the mistake was mutual (made by both the printer and the GPO); or 2) that the mistake was so apparent that the contracting officer should have known when he saw the bid that there was a probability of mistake, and advised the printer.  GPO PPR, Chapter XII, Section 6.4.  This is an extremely difficult standard to meet, and as a result, there are very few situations in which a printer has been able to change or withdraw its bid after award a formal jacket or program. 

Because the standards for changing a bid price or withdrawing a bid after award are very strict, printers should always carefully check their bid prices at the time of the GPO’s review and confirm (R & C) in order to make any claim of error in bid at that time.  This does not mean that correction of an error or allowing a printer to withdraw his bid is easy after bid opening but before award of a formal jacket or program – it is not.  However, the printer has a reasonable chance of having his bid changed or being permitted to withdraw it if he can present the required “clear and convincing evidence.” 

Copyright © 2000-2007 Frederic G. Antoun Jr.  All rights reserved.