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Selecting a Consultant

Selecting a Consultant Project Classification
Capital Improvement Projects Safety Projects Asset Management Projects Maintenance Projects
1. Prequalification x x x
2. Advertise x x x
3. Selection Process x x x
x = Information from the topic may be applicable for the project classification.

1. Prequalification

A consultant must meet KYTC’s prequalification requirements for the engineering and engineering-related services it will provide. Consultants apply for and maintain prequalification status through the Division of Professional Services (see Professional Services Guidance Manual, PS-15-03). The Division of Professional Services website maintains a current list of prequalified firms in 15 service areas (e.g., roadway design, geotechnical services) and over 70 prequalification categories.

Based on the resource determination and identified project needs, the Project Manager (PM) should assemble an appropriate Project Development Team (PDT).  Building a PDT whose expertise and availability can accomplish project goals in a timely manner will help identify the prequalification requirements.  For more information, see the HKP article Build Your Team and Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-205, Consultant Contract Administration).

Red Flag

A consultant must be prequalified in a given service area to perform work for KYTC in that area.

Red Flag

Any modification to an existing service contract is limited to services for which the prequalification was sought in the original advertisement. If services were not included within the original advertisement, the Cabinet must either perform the services in-house, assign the services under a statewide contract, or readvertise for additional services. 

Red Flag

If a prequalified service is potentially needed but uncertainty remains over whether it will ultimately be required, include the following note in the advertisement: 

These prequalifications are not required with the initial proposal as it is uncertain to the extent practicable if they are necessary.  Should these services become necessary during the delivery of the project in this or future phases, the selected Consultant team must obtain the required qualifications before providing those services or bring on a prequalified subconsultant at that time.

2. Advertise 

KYTC hires consultants when in-house staff cannot perform work due to unavailability, time restrictions, or lack of specialized skills. After the project is scoped and a decision is made by the District Project Development Branch Manager or the PM to use a consultant, the first step is to advertise with a bulletin issued by the Division of Professional Services. Bulletins are typically released on the second Tuesday of each month at 9am ET. These monthly collections of advertisements are also referred to as Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Their purpose is to educate consultants about the scope, schedule, and approximate fee of the advertised project(s).

The Cabinet uses a Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) process as defined by the Brooks Act of 1972 to select the consultant best qualified to deliver the requested services. A QBS process employs evaluation criteria such as:

  • Relative experience of consultant personnel assigned to the project team
  • Capacity to adhere to the project schedule
  • Past record of performance on projects of a similar type and complexity
  • Project approach and proposed procedures to deliver the services
  • Special or unique expertise
  • Special or unique equipment
  • Knowledge of the locality and familiarity of the general geographic area

The PM, in conjunction with the division the consultant will work on behalf of (i.e., the user division), may recommend different evaluation factors and assign relative weights to these factors. If this occurs, the evaluation factors and their relative weights must appear in the advertisement.

Red Flag

 KYTC uses a QBS process to select the firm best qualified to perform the work on a project based on demonstrated competence and qualification for the required type of professional services. As regulated by the Federal Brooks Act of 1972, 23 CFR § 172.7, the Kentucky Model Procurement Code (KRS 45A), and Title 600 KAR Chapter 6, the fee for the service is negotiated independently of the selection and should not be a criterion for choosing the most qualified firm.

Red Flag

The number of projects that can be advertised each month is limited. The Division of Professional Services works with the State Highway Engineer’s Office, District Project Development Branch Managers, and User Divisions to publish a biennial list of potential project advertisements which is constantly updated. These lists are posted on the Division of Professional Services website. Districts routinely advertise for project-specific contracts, which are funded by the Enacted Highway Plan, while Central Office Divisions typically offer statewide service contracts for specific services. PMs should contact the Division of Professional Services when they know consultant services are needed and work with division staff to start the process. Otherwise, a project could be delayed by the advertisement and selection process. Typically, four months elapse between advertisement and KYTC issuing a notice to proceed.

The Division of Professional Services prepares the procurement bulletin with input from the PM and user divisions. The bulletin may contain one or more advertisements for services. The advertisement must include:

  • The general project scope
  • Procedures to follow when submitting a proposal
  • An anticipated project schedule
  • Any requirements for DBE utilization
  • Deadline for filing a response
  • Evaluation factors and their relative weights selection committee members will use to evaluate responses
  • An anticipated procurement schedule, including a timetable for the selection committee’s meetings
  • Prequalification requirements, including a list of services the consultant must be prequalified in by the response due date
  • A list of selection committee members

The PM should provide, at a minimum, the following information for the advertisement as it helps communicate the project scope:

  • County
  • Route
  • District
  • Item number (if known)
  • Project description
  • PM name
  • User Division(s)
  • Approximate fee or maximum fee, if applicable
  • Type of contract
  • Purpose and need
  • Scope
  • Method of design
  • Available pertinent KYTC studies
  • Funding source
  • Deliverables
  • Special instructions
  • Project schedule milestones
  • Environmental information
  • Evaluation factor recommendations (when appropriate)

Sample Procurement Bulletin Listing.                   

3. Selection Process 

Once consultants submit their responses, the selection committee proceeds with the selection process. The selection committee has five voting members:

  • Two (2) professional engineers from the Secretary’s pool
  • Two (2) professional engineers from the User Division (the PM is typically one of these)
  • One (1) member from the Governor’s pool

In addition, a merit employee from the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts may serve as a non-voting member of the committee.

Red Flag

Consultants shall have no contact with selection committee members concerning the projects advertised once the bulletin is made public. Selection committee members must sign a Certification of Confidentiality for each project to affirm they have had no contact with respondents.

At a minimum, the selection committee usually meets twice. These meetings are now typically held virtually. During the first meeting, the PM presents a brief overview of project details that will help the group evaluate proposals, answers questions from committee members, and explains the requested services. Division of Professional Services staff are available to answer procedural questions from the committee and to document the process. Committee members receive a link through the Consultant Portal to each consultant response when the deadline closes. They also receive a rating sheet with qualification factors and relative weights as well as Confidentiality (TC 40-4) and Ex-Parte Disclosure (TC 40-6) forms.

Before the second meeting, each committee member reviews proposals and develops a preliminary evaluation with a numerical rating for each consultant. During the second meeting, the committee discusses the responses and their evaluations in an executive session. Each member submits their top three (3) firms and any ties. For statewide contracts where the committee will select multiple firms each member submits the total number of firms to be selected plus their next two firms. After all necessary discussions and voting concludes, the committee identifies and ranks the winning firm(s), the runner up, and the second runner up. Next, the committee chair notifies the Director of Professional Services or their designee of the selection results. The chair or their designee notifies the selected consultant(s) of their selection. The PM and PDT next begin negotiating the contract.  

Note:  The process described in this article applies to the typical consultant advertisement and selection process for project-specific and statewide contracts.  The process differs for alternative delivery projects.  KYTC’s Design-Build Guidance includes information on advertising for and selecting a design-build team.  Consult the Alternative Delivery Program Manager in the Division of Construction for more information on other types of alternative delivery projects.   

Tips for Evaluating Consultant Response

 

  • Consider weighted evaluation criteria when evaluating and rating firms.
  • Each selection committee member’s vote is weighed equally. However, PMs are contractually bound to the selected consultant for the life of the contract. When evaluating a response, it is important to be aware of past consultant performance.
  • Develop justifications for consultant(s) endorsements to share with the committee. Remain open to other perspectives and give them an impartial hearing. Selection committee members may need to adjust their top selection(s) based on discussions at the final meeting.
  • If selections for other projects have been made prior to the selection committee meeting, determine which firm(s) were selected, the project complexity, and how it would affect the capacity of the selected firm(s) to carry out the work on the project under consideration.
  • Secretary’s Pool and Governor’s Pool members serve to support the User Division and ensure the PM is satisfied with the selected consultant(s) although the User Division is strictly forbidden from lobbying for any firm(s).
  • Consultants that are not selected may request a debriefing with the selection committee. Questions from the consultant are provided in advance to the committee and are limited to the consultant’s capabilities and the proposal being addressed.  Be prepared to discuss potential concerns with consultants.

4. Associated Articles 

Project Management Guidebook Intro and Overview (coming soon)

Knowledge Book – Administration of Consultant Contracts

Build Your Team

5. Reference Documentation 

Administration of Consultant Contracts Knowledge Book:

Access the complete Knowledge Book here:  Administration of Consultant Contracts Knowledge Book

Next Article: Understanding a Consultant Contract

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