SC RIA Releases SCIIP Clarifications on Procurement and Updated FAQ
SC RIA recently published clarification on three common procurement questions for SCIIP and an updated FAQ. A summary follows:
Would an engineering firm that prepares preliminary cost estimates, maps or other information for a project would be prohibited from competing for the final design and project engineering contract? The guidance SC RIA has received is that this would not be allowed if SCIIP funds are used to cover any part of an engineering contract. The relevant federal requirement is found in 2 CFR 200.319, which states in part:
“In order to ensure objective contractor performance and eliminate unfair competitive advantage, contractors that develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work, or invitations for bids or requests for proposals must be excluded from competing for such procurements.”
All grantees will be required to certify that they have followed all applicable federal procurement requirements for purchases or contracts funded in whole or in part by SCIIP funds, and documentation may be reviewed by RIA.
If engineering services will be covered entirely by non-RIA (local) funds, these procurement requirements will not apply and RIA will not review the procurement process for those services.
Alternative Delivery Methods
Should applicants consider entering into CMAR or design-build contracts prior to receiving a SCIIP grant award? As outlined in SCIIP's program guidance, non-construction project costs incurred after March 3, 2021, but prior to a grant award may be eligible for SCIIP reimbursement as long as those costs meet SCIIP guidelines and federal requirements. Upon grant award, any pre-award procurement that the grantee would like to cover with SCIIP funds will be thoroughly reviewed by RIA staff to ensure compliance prior to determining eligibility. Although SC RIA is able to offer this pre-agreement flexibility in order to facilitate efforts to meet the required federal timelines and overcome current market challenges, counties are cautioned that if they proceed with procurement prior to award, they do so at their own risk, since there is no guarantee of funding and no pre-review in advance of the contract.
Therefore, RIA encourages counties to carefully review SRF project eligibility guidelines, federal procurement requirements laid out in 2 CFR 200 and the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act. One key procurement requirement is that both CMAR and design-build contracts must be procured using a request for proposals that includes cost as one of the evaluation criteria. If counties need more specific guidance on procurement through alternate delivery methods, please review the SC Office of the State Engineer’s Manual, particularly Chapters 11 and 12. Counties that document following procedures primarily consistent with the state guidelines should be in compliance with federal requirements.
Is there allowance of federal reimbursement for certain pre-award costs as long as the appropriate federal requirements have been followed? There has been a push for pre-determination of whether actions being taken are consistent with such federal requirements. Given that RIA will be unable to conduct a pre-review of expenses incurred in advance of a grant agreement, it may be more appropriate for local investment funds to be used on some expenses that were incurred prior to grant award.
Version 3 of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the SC Infrastructure Investment Program (SCIIP) has been published on the SCRIA website. Questions that are new in Version 3 are at the end of each section of the document and labeled with a green band.