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Request for proposals a tutor for the governments and its ministries

by Musa Carter



In the tendering circles and in newspapers, people usually come across adverts that specifically state that a request for proposal (RFP) is required by different organisations or Government ministries.
This week, we look at what  the whole process is about and the reasons for Government or companies requesting for proposals rather than just avoiding this long approach and save time so that projects are finished within the time-frame or even earlier and move on to the next one.
To start it off, I might as well explain what an RFP is. It is basically a method that an organisation or Government uses when it needs to review and implement different and new solutions to a problem, project or a business process. An RFP document provides proponents with an overview of the expected requirements. It does not give a detailed project plan, as it is expected that this is what the proponent will develop in response to the RFP.
The proposal is evaluated to determine if the company has the necessary understanding of the ministry or company that would have put out the tender. And if they can deliver a completed project in accordance with such needs. The evaluation would be based on several criteria that would be used to evaluate additional aspects of the proposal, such as quality of the proposed solution and the qualifications of the proposed team.
An RFP is different from a tender in the sense that in a tender, the Government or its ministry already knows what it wants and would even have drafted specifications of the requested goods and is basically looking for a fair and best price. As for the proposal, it would be fishing for the best value solutions to a problem it does not know how to fix and then the consulting companies can best suggest or give it a solution to its problem.
For example, UNDP and GEF, both non-governmental organisations, recently put out an RFP for development of a Fire Management Strategy for Namibia’s Protected Areas.  This came in the wake of published pictures of burnt animals in these protected areas in the local media last year.
With that in mind, they now require proposals from different organisations on how to tackle the fires and prevent the diverse areas with flora and fauna from being damaged of which are all encompassed in the management part of the RFP.
So for aspiring companies or Government ministries, the trick for determining whether to put out a tender or put an RFP is basically on what each thing reveals. In tenders, you have to make sure you use it when you have a problem and know how to handle it and how you want it solved specifically, hence the specifications. And for the RFP, you will know what the problem is but how to tackle the issue.
In Namibia, it is advisable for companies or Government ministries to put out RFPs before the actual tender so they can get a range of solutions and then later put out the tender when they are sure they can tackle the problem in the way they prefer. Even if the process is time consuming, they are guaranteed a better set of results in the tender documents.