If you are closing a bid, tender or RF(x) and the closing time is 2:00 PM, when is that? That’s easy, it’s when the clock says 2:00 PM, right? Not necessarily. Which clock, the one on the wall, the one on your phone, the watch on your wrist or the official national time clock? Any one of them could be correct but what matters is what you stated in your Instructions to Bidders.
It is important to think about exactly what you are saying is the closing time. I am referencing 2:00 because it is a common choice but it could be any time of course. Let’s consider a few descriptions that I have seen in bid documents over the years.
- at 2:00 PM
- up to 2:00 PM
- prior to 2:00 PM
- before 2:00 PM
- not later than 2:00 PM
Consider this; 2:00 is an instant in time not a period of time. With that in mind (and using seconds as the smallest measure of time for this discussion) is a submission that arrives precisely at 2:00:00 PM on time or late? We can likely agree that 1:59:59 is on time in all cases. We can also likely agree that 2:00:01 is late in all cases. I would argue that a bid received exactly at 2:00 PM is only valid when the Instructions stated closing would be at either “at 2:00 PM” or “not later than 2:00 PM”. The other descriptions describe a time that has expired at 2:00 PM.
So, who cares? Does anyone with 1 second more time actually have a practical competitive advantage? I say not really. The issue is about the integrity and fairness of the process. If all bidders are to be treated equally, with no unfair advantage given to any, then the details of the process matter. Otherwise, bidders begin to mistrust the process. If you let a submission stand that was only 2 seconds late then why not 2 minutes late. I have heard of cases when submissions were allowed several days late. Why weren’t all bidders afforded that extra time if the specified date and time didn’t really matter?
This discussion might seem a bit silly but I have been an expert witness on this exact question on two occasions. People actually sue over this issue. Fortunately, there are solutions to this question that render the entire issue irrelevant. An effective online system that incorporates a reverse countdown clock with clear instruction as to the specific closing time that is visible to all bidders equally and is automatically enforced ensures that every bidder has precisely the same time and opportunity to put forward their best submission. This is just one example of dozens of process related errors or omissions that are virtually eliminated through the use of online bid and RF(x) submission technology.