Step 3: Commission the evaluation project
This step covers preparing a Request for Tender (RFT) that requires detailed, rigorous, feasible and ethical submissions from tenderers.
Preparing the Request for Tender
The Request for Tender (RFT) builds on the evaluation brief and the evaluation design. The RFT will detail whether the project is done internally or by an external provider for all or part of the evaluation project.
If you are contracting out the project to external evaluation providers, you will need to prepare an RFT. For large-scale evaluations, you may also want external evaluation providers to develop the evaluation design, either:
- as part of the RFT
- through a separate contract.
If you're managing an internal evaluation project, you'll create the internal project team and discuss the project requirements together.
An RFT should give prospective evaluators all the information they need to decide if they will tender, including contractual requirements. It should explain the purpose of the evaluation and the questions to be answered. To help bidders understand the project or program you can include the program logic and assess needs. You may have already developed an evaluation design and proposed methods, as outlined in Step 4. Manage development of the evaluation design, and these should be included in the RFT. If you have not yet developed the evaluation design then this should be stated in the RFT as a task that needs to be done.
The RFT should include information about key program stakeholders (internal and external) and the anticipated involvement of these groups. For evaluations which have a partnership between commissioners and evaluators, the RFT and contract should state the approach and expected responsibilities of each.
The RFT should specify the criteria for selecting the successful tenderer.
Sample RFT template for evaluation project
Your RFT could include:
- policy context
- program description and key stakeholders
- the evaluation:
- required scope
- evaluation questions
- indicative design and methods
- available data.
- reporting requirements
- indicative budget
- selection process and criteria.
Ensuring quality and rigorous designs in proposals
The evaluation should show tenderers the expected standards for rigorous designs that show the program is:
- feasible and ethical
- its scale and significance.
Tenderers need to understand the program's timeframe and budget for the evaluation brief.
The RFT should seek a program evaluation that is rigorous, and measures program outcomes, as appropriate and feasible. External evaluation providers responding to the RFT need to know these expectations, and any work involved in developing the evaluation design.
Programs may have:
- evaluation consultants engaged to develop the evaluation design as part of the program design, or
- the scope for rigorous outcome evaluations is limited by the program design or lack of early data collection.
Procurement: seeking competitive responses
Your agency will have business rules about how tenders are advertised to prospective providers. Business rules about tenders are usually based on the dollar value of the work. You should refer to, and comply with your agency's specific requirements.
The NSW Government's prequalification scheme for Performance and Management Services offers a pool of service providers that can provide performance review and program evaluation services.
Throughout the procurement process, encourage tenderers to ask questions about the evaluation to clearly understand your requirements. Your agency may have rules about how this process is managed, which relate to the type of tender (open or select) and the scale of the work.
Answers to tenderers' questions are usually shared with all prospective bidders during an open or panel process, but may not always be shared in a select process. Sharing your answers to tenderers' questions increases the transparency of the tender process.
Choosing the right consultant
Proposals for evaluation in response to the RFT can come from very different organisations, such as:
- sole or small organisations with expertise in the area
- specialist evaluation companies
- large consultancy or market research companies
- research or university groups.
Each organisation will have its own methods for conducting program evaluation and expectations about contracting and management of the project.
Carefully reviewing responses to the RFT against key selection criteria is fundamental to the evaluation's success. You will need to decide the importance of each of the criteria. For example, is it more important for a consultant to have broad evaluation experience, specific content area expertise, or skills in a particular context?
Other questions you could consider include:
- The knowledge and experience of the bidder, such as, do they have market, industry and professional experience to meet your needs?
- The composition of the team, such as, are the team members listed in the proposal the people who will do the work, and are the team known to you or your agency?
- The business values and policies of the bidder, such as do they reflect your business values and expectations of quality?
- How well the bidder understands the size and scope of the job, for example, are they up to the challenge?
- Whether the bid demonstrates innovative and creative thinking, such as will they be able to respond to emerging issues throughout the evaluation?
To assist with the tender process, consider using a selection committee that includes relevant internal or external stakeholders. For significant evaluations, consider inviting a representative from the Centre for Program Evaluation.
Where the evaluation has established a governance mechanism such as a steering committee or advisory group, selecting a preferred tenderer can be one of its first tasks. The benefits of doing this include a greater range of perspectives and expertise in the selection process, as well as greater ownership of the evaluation process by key stakeholders.
The product of the selection committee is a recommendation of the preferred evaluation group.
Your agency will have clear guidelines for contracting and a contract template or pro forma to use. Contracts for evaluation may differ from regular normal contracting arrangements. You may need to consider the following issues:
- The contract should be equal to the scale and risks of the evaluation.
- The contract should allow for some flexibility—evaluation projects always involve some degree of uncertainty or delay and often rely on the expertise of the evaluators to deal with situations as they arise. The focus should be on getting the required deliverables to the agreed quality.
- When contracting with some organisations such as universities, ownership of intellectual property may be an issue — you should be prepared to negotiate this, and seek advice from your procurement section.
- Ensure the contract specifies how you will manage any disputes with the winning bidder and, if necessary, discontinue the contract.
- Always get appropriate in-house legal advice when negotiating amendments to standard contracts.