(a) General. The following requirements are applicable to all procurement methods specified in paragraph (f) of this section.

Terms Used In 7 CFR 4280.124

  • Agency: The Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) or successor agency assigned by the Secretary of Agriculture to administer the Rural Energy for America Program. See 7 CFR 4280.103
  • Applicant: (1) Except for EA and REDA grants, the Agricultural Producer or Rural Small Business that is seeking a grant, guaranteed loan, or a combination of a grant and loan, under this subpart. See 7 CFR 4280.103
  • Capacity: The maximum output rate that an apparatus or heating unit is able to attain on a sustained basis as rated by the manufacturer. See 7 CFR 4280.103
  • Contract: A legal written agreement that becomes binding when signed.
  • Damages: Money paid by defendants to successful plaintiffs in civil cases to compensate the plaintiffs for their injuries.
  • Escrow: Money given to a third party to be held for payment until certain conditions are met.
  • Evidence: Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.
  • Immediate Family: Individuals who are closely related by blood, marriage, or adoption, or who live within the same household, such as a spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, grandchild, niece, or nephew. See 7 CFR 4280.103
  • Inspector: A Qualified Consultant who has at least 3 years of experience and completed at least five inspections on similar type projects. See 7 CFR 4280.103
  • Oversight: Committee review of the activities of a Federal agency or program.
  • Remainder: An interest in property that takes effect in the future at a specified time or after the occurrence of some event, such as the death of a life tenant.
  • Settlement: Parties to a lawsuit resolve their difference without having a trial. Settlements often involve the payment of compensation by one party in satisfaction of the other party's claims.
  • State: Any of the 50 States of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U. See 7 CFR 4280.103
  • Total Project Costs: The sum of all costs associated with a completed project. See 7 CFR 4280.103

(1) Maximum open and free competition. All procurement transactions, regardless of procurement method and dollar value, must be conducted in a manner that provides maximum open and free competition. Procurement procedures must not restrict or eliminate competition. Competitive restriction examples include, but are not limited to, the following: Placing unreasonable requirements on firms in order for them to qualify to do business; noncompetitive practices between firms; organizational conflicts of interest; and unnecessary experience or excessive bonding requirements. In specifying material(s), the grantee and its consultant will consider all materials normally suitable for the project commensurate with sound engineering practices and project requirements. The Agency will consider any recommendation made by the grantee’s consultant concerning the technical design and choice of materials to be used for such a project. If the Agency determines that a design or material, other than those that were recommended, should be considered by including them in the procurement process as an acceptable design or material in the project, the Agency will provide such Applicant or grantee with a comprehensive justification for such a determination. The justification will be documented in writing.

(2) Equal employment opportunity. For all construction contracts and grants in excess of $10,000, the contractor must comply with Executive Order 11246, as amended by Executive Order 11375 and Executive Order 13672, and as supplemented by applicable Department of Labor regulations (41 CFR part 60). The Applicant, or the lender and borrower, as applicable, is responsible for ensuring that the contractor complies with these requirements.

(3) Surety. Any contract exceeding $100,000 for procurement will require surety, except as provided for in paragraph (a)(3)(v) of this section.

(i) Surety covering both performance and payment will be required. The United States, acting through the Agency, will be named as co-obligee on all surety unless prohibited by State or Tribal law. Surety may be provided as specified in paragraphs (a)(3)(i)(A) or (B) of this section.

(A) Surety in the amount of 100 percent of the contract cost may be provided using either:

(1) A bank letter of credit; or

(2) Performance bonds and payment bonds. Companies providing performance bonds and payment bonds must hold a certificate of authority as an acceptable surety on Federal bonds as listed in Treasury Circular 570 as amended and be legally doing business in the State where the project is located.

(B) Cash deposit in escrow of at least 50 percent of the contract amount. The cash deposit cannot be from funds awarded under this subpart.

(ii) The surety will normally be in the form of performance bonds and payment bonds; however, when other methods of surety are necessary, bid documents must contain provisions for such alternative types of surety. The use of surety other than performance bonds and payment bonds requires concurrence by the Agency after submission of a justification to the Agency together with the proposed form of escrow agreement or letter of credit.

(iii) For contracts of lesser amounts, the grantee may require surety.

(iv) When surety is not provided, contractors must furnish evidence of payment in full for all materials, labor, and any other items procured under the contract in an Agency-approved form.

(v) Applicants may request exceptions to surety for any of the situations identified in paragraphs (a)(3)(v)(A) through (D) of this section. Applicants must submit a written request to the Agency.

(A) Small acquisition and construction procedures as specified in §4280.118(c) and (d) or §4280.119(c) and (d) as applicable are used.

(B) The proposed project is for equipment purchase and installation only and the contract costs for the equipment purchase and installation are $200,000 or less.

(C) The proposed project is for equipment purchase and installation only and the contract costs for the equipment purchase and installation are more than $200,000 and the following requirements can be met:

(1) The project involves two or fewer subcontractors; and

(2) The equipment manufacturer or provider must act as the general contractor.

(D) Other construction projects that have only one contractor performing work.

(4) Grantees accomplishing work. In some instances, grantees may wish to perform a part of the work themselves. Grantees may accomplish construction by using their own personnel and equipment, provided the grantees possess the necessary skills, abilities, and resources to perform the work and there is not a negative impact to their business operation. For a grantee to provide a portion of the work, with the remainder to be completed by a contractor:

(i) A clear understanding of the division of work must be established and delineated in the contract;

(ii) Grantees are not eligible for payment for their own work as it is not an Eligible Project Cost;

(iii) Warranty requirements applicable to the technology must cover the grantee’s work; and

(iv) Inspection and acceptance of the grantee’s work must be completed by either:

(A) An Inspector that will:

(1) Inspect, as applicable, and accept construction; and

(2) Furnish inspection reports; or

(B) A licensed engineer that will:

(1) Prepare design drawings and specifications;

(2) Inspect, as applicable, and accept construction; and

(3) Furnish inspection reports.

(b) Forms used. Technical service and procurement documents must be approved by the Agency and may be used only if they are customarily used in the area and protect the interest of the Applicant and the Government with respect to compliance with items such as the drawings, specifications, payments for work, inspections, completion, nondiscrimination in construction work and acceptance of the work. The Agency will not become a party to a construction contract or incur any liability under it. No contract will become effective until concurred in writing by the Agency. Such concurrence statement must be attached to and made a part of the contract.

(c) Technical services. Unless the requirements of paragraph (c)(4) of this section can be met, all RES and EEI projects with Total Project Costs greater than $400,000 require:

(1) The design, installation monitoring, testing prior to commercial operation, and project completion certification be completed by a licensed professional engineer (PE) or team of licensed PEs. Licensed PEs may be “in-house” PEs or contracted PEs.

(2) Any contract for design services must be subject to Agency concurrence.

(3) Engineers must be licensed in the State where the project is to be constructed.

(4) The Agency may grant an exception to the requirements of paragraphs (c)(1) through (3) of this section if the following requirements are met:

(i) State or Tribal law does not require the use of a licensed PE; and

(ii) The project is not complex, as determined by the Agency, and can be completed to meet the requirements of this program without the services of a licensed PE.

(d) Design policies. Final plans and specifications must be reviewed by the Agency and approved prior to the start of construction. Facilities funded by the Agency must meet the following design requirements, as applicable:

(1) Environmental requirements. Actions taken under this subpart must comply with the environmental review requirements in accordance with 7 CFR part 1970. Project planning and design must not only be responsive to the grantee’s needs but must consider the environmental consequences of the proposed project. Project design must incorporate and integrate, where practicable, mitigation measures that avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts. Environmental reviews serve as a means of assessing environmental impacts of project proposals, rather than justifying decisions already made. Applicants may not take any action on a project proposal that will have an adverse environmental impact or limit the choice of reasonable project alternatives being reviewed prior to the completion of the Agency’s environmental review. If such actions are taken, the Agency has the right to withdraw and discontinue processing the application.

(2) Architectural barriers. All facilities intended for or accessible to the public or in which physically handicapped persons may be employed must be developed in compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 4151 et seq.) as implemented by 41 CFR 101-19.6, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (42 U.S.C. 1474 et seq.) as implemented by 7 CFR parts 15 and 15b, and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.).

(3) Energy/environment. Project design shall consider cost effective energy-efficient and environmentally-sound products and services.

(4) Seismic safety. All new structures, fully or partially enclosed, used or intended for sheltering persons or property will be designed with appropriate seismic safety provisions in compliance with the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977 (42 U.S.C. 7701 et seq.), and EO 12699, Seismic Safety of Federal and Federally Assisted or Regulated New Building Construction. Designs of components essential for system operation and substantial rehabilitation of structures that are used for sheltering persons or property shall incorporate seismic safety provisions to the extent practicable as specified in 7 CFR part 1792, subpart C.

(e) Contract methods. This paragraph identifies the three types of contract methods that can be used for projects funded under this subpart. The procurement methods, which are applicable to each of these contract methods, are specified in paragraph (f) of this section.

(1) Traditional method or design-bid-build. The services of the consulting engineer or architect and the general construction contractor must be procured in accordance with the following paragraphs.

(i) Solicitation of offers. Solicitation of offers must:

(A) Incorporate a clear and accurate description of the technical requirements for the material, product, or service to be procured. The description must not, in competitive procurements, contain features that unduly restrict competition. The description may include a statement of the qualitative nature of the material, product or service to be procured, and when necessary will set forth those minimum essential characteristics and standards to which it must conform if it is to satisfy its intended use. When it is impractical or uneconomical to make a clear and accurate description of the technical requirements, a “brand name or equal” description may be used to define the performance or other salient requirements of a procurement. The specific features of the named brands which must be met by offerors must be clearly stated.

(B) Clearly specify all requirements which offerors must fulfill and all other factors to be used in evaluating bids or proposals.

(ii) Contract pricing. Cost plus a percentage of cost method of contracting must not be used.

(iii) Unacceptable bidders. The following will not be allowed to bid on, or negotiate for, a contract or subcontract related to the construction of the project:

(A) An engineer or architect as an individual or entity who has prepared plans and specifications or who will be responsible for monitoring the construction;

(B) Any entity in which the grantee’s architect or engineer is an officer, employee, or holds or controls a substantial interest in the grantee;

(C) The grantee’s governing body officers, employees, or agents;

(D) Any member of the grantee’s Immediate Family or partners in paragraphs (e)(1)(iii)(A), (B), or (C) of this section; or

(E) An entity which employs, or is about to employ, any person in paragraph (e)(1)(iii)(A), (B), (C), or (D) of this section.

(iv) Contract award. Contracts must be made only with responsible parties possessing the potential ability to perform successfully under the terms and conditions of a proposed procurement. Consideration must include, but not be limited to, matters such as integrity, record of past performance, financial and technical resources, and accessibility to other necessary resources. Contracts must not be made with parties who are suspended or debarred.

(2) Design/build method. The Design/Build Method, where the same person or entity provides design and engineering work, as well as construction or installation, may be used with Agency written approval.

(i) Concurrence information. The Applicant will request Agency concurrence by providing the Agency at least the information specified in paragraphs (e)(2)(i)(A) through (H) of this section.

(A) The grantee’s written request to use the Design/Build Method with a description of the proposed method.

(B) A proposed scope of work describing in clear, concise terms the technical requirements for the contract. It shall include a nontechnical statement summarizing the work to be performed by the contractor, the results expected, and a proposed construction schedule showing the sequence in which the work is to be performed.

(C) A proposed firm-fixed-price contract for the entire project which provides that the contractor will be responsible for any extra cost which result from errors or omissions in the services provided under the contract, as well as compliance with all Federal, State, local, and Tribal requirements effective on the contract execution date.

(D) Where noncompetitive negotiation is proposed and found, by the Agency, to be an acceptable procurement method, then the Agency will evaluate documents indicating the contractor’s performance on previous similar projects in which the contractor acted in a similar capacity.

(E) A detailed listing and cost estimate of equipment and supplies not included in the construction contract but which are necessary to properly operate the project.

(F) Evidence that a qualified construction Inspector who is independent of the contractor has or will be hired.

(G) Preliminary plans and outline specifications. However, final plans and specifications must be completed and reviewed by the Agency prior to the start of construction.

(H) The grantee’s attorney’s opinion and comments regarding the legal adequacy of the proposed contract documents and evidence that the grantee has the legal authority to enter into and fulfill the contract.

(ii) Agency concurrence of design/build method. The Agency will review the material submitted by the Applicant. When all items are acceptable, the Agency approval official will concur in the use of the Design/Build Method for the proposal.

(iii) Forms used. Agency approved contract documents must be used provided they are customarily used in the area and protect the interest of the Applicant and the Agency with respect to compliance with items such as the drawings, specifications, payments for work, inspections, completion, nondiscrimination in construction work, and acceptance of the work. The Agency will not become a party to a construction contract or incur any liability under it. No contract shall become effective until concurred, in writing, by the Agency. Such concurrence statement must be attached to and made a part of the contract.

(iv) Contract provisions. Contracts will have a listing of attachments and must contain the following:

(A) The contract sum;

(B) The dates for starting and completing the work;

(C) The amount of liquidated damages, if any, to be charged;

(D) The amount, method, and frequency of payment;

(E) Surety provisions that meet the requirements of paragraph (a)(3) of this section;

(F) The requirement that changes or additions must have prior written approval of the Agency as identified in the letter of conditions;

(G) Contract review and concurrence. The grantee’s attorney will review the executed contract documents, including performance and payment bonds, and will certify that they are in compliance with Federal, State, or Tribal law, and that the persons executing these documents have been properly authorized to do so. The contract documents, engineer’s recommendation for award, and bid tabulation sheets will be forwarded to the Agency for concurrence prior to awarding the contract. All contracts will contain a provision that they are not effective until they have been concurred, in writing, by the Agency;

(H) This part does not relieve the grantee of any responsibilities under its contract. The grantee is responsible for the settlement of all contractual and administrative issues arising out of procurement entered into in support of Agency funding. These include, but are not limited to, source evaluation, protests, disputes, and claims. Matters concerning violation of laws are to be referred to the applicable local, State, Tribal, or Federal authority; and

(3) Construction management. Construction managers as a constructor (CMc) acts in the capacity of a general contractor and is financially and professionally responsible for the construction. This type of construction management is also referred to as construction manager “At Risk.” The construction contract is between the grantee and the CMc. The CMc in turn subcontracts for some or all of the work. The CMc will need to carry the Agency required 100 percent surety and insurance, as required under paragraph (a)(3) of this section. Projects using construction management must follow the requirements of (e)(2)(i) through (iv) of this section.

(f) Procurement methods. Procurement must be made by one of the following methods: competitive sealed bids (formal advertising); competitive negotiation; or noncompetitive negotiation. Competitive sealed bids (formal advertising) are the preferred procurement method for construction contracts.

(1) Competitive sealed bids. In competitive sealed bids (formal advertising), sealed bids are publicly solicited and a firm-fixed-price contract (lump sum or unit price) is awarded to the responsible bidder whose bid, conforming with all the material terms and conditions of the invitation for bids, is lowest, price and other factors considered. When using this method, the following will apply:

(i) At a sufficient time prior to the date set for opening of bids, bids must be solicited from an adequate number of qualified sources. In addition, the invitation must be publicly advertised.

(ii) The invitation for bids, including specifications and pertinent attachments, must clearly define the items or services needed in order for the bidders to properly respond to the invitation under paragraph (f)(1) of this section.

(iii) All bids must be opened publicly at the time and place stated in the invitation for bids.

(iv) A firm-fixed-price contract award must be made by written notice to that responsible bidder whose bid, conforming to the invitation for bids, is lowest. When specified in the bidding documents, factors such as discounts and transportation costs will be considered in determining which bid is lowest.

(v) The Applicant, with the concurrence of the Agency, will consider the amount of the bids or proposals, and all conditions listed in the invitation. On the basis of these considerations, the Applicant will select and notify the lowest responsible bidder. The contract will be awarded using an Agency-approved form.

(vi) Any or all bids may be rejected by the grantee when it is in their best interest.

(2) Competitive negotiation. In competitive negotiations, proposals are requested from a number of sources. Negotiations are normally conducted with more than one of the sources submitting offers (offerors). Competitive negotiation may be used if conditions are not appropriate for the use of formal advertising and where discussions and bargaining with a view to reaching agreement on the technical quality, price, other terms of the proposed contract and specifications are necessary. If competitive negotiation is used for procurement, the following requirements will apply:

(i) Proposals must be solicited from two qualified sources, unless otherwise approved by the Agency, to permit reasonable competition consistent with the nature and requirements of the procurement.

(ii) The Request for Proposal must identify all significant evaluation factors, including price or cost where required, and their relative importance.

(iii) The grantee must provide mechanisms for technical evaluation of the proposals received, determination of responsible offerors for the purpose of written or oral discussions, and selection for contract award.

(iv) Award may be made to the responsible offeror whose proposal will be most advantageous to the grantee, price and other factors considered. Unsuccessful offerors must be promptly notified.

(v) Owners may utilize competitive negotiation procedures for procurement of architectural/engineering and other professional services, whereby the offerors’ qualifications are evaluated and the most qualified offeror is selected, subject to negotiations of fair and reasonable compensation.

(3) Noncompetitive negotiation. Noncompetitive negotiation is procurement through solicitation of a proposal from only one source. Noncompetitive negotiation may be used when the award of a contract is not feasible under small acquisition and construction procedures, competitive sealed bids (formal advertising) or competitive negotiation procedures. Circumstances under which a contract may be awarded by noncompetitive negotiations are limited to the following:

(i) After solicitation of a number of sources, competition is determined inadequate; or

(ii) No acceptable bids have been received after formal advertising.

(4) Additional procurement methods. The grantee may use additional innovative procurement methods provided the grantee receives prior written approval from the Agency. Contracts will have a listing of attachments and the minimum provisions of the contract will include:

(i) The contract sum;

(ii) The dates for starting and completing the work;

(iii) The amount of liquidated damages to be charged;

(iv) The amount, method, and frequency of payment;

(v) Whether or not surety bonds will be provided; and

(vi) The requirement that changes or additions must have prior written approval of the Agency.

(g) Contracts awarded prior to applications. Owners awarding construction or other procurement contracts prior to filing an application, must provide evidence that is satisfactory to the Agency that the contract was entered into without intent to circumvent the requirements of Agency regulations.

(1) Modifications. The contract shall be modified to conform to the provisions of this subpart. Where this is not possible, modifications will be made to the extent practicable and, as a minimum, the contract must comply with all State and local laws and regulations as well as statutory requirements and executive orders related to the Agency financing.

(2) Consultant’s certification. Provide a certification by an engineer, licensed in the State where the facility is constructed, that any construction performed complies fully with the plans and specifications.

(3) Owner’s certification. Provide a certification by the owner that the contractor has complied with applicable statutory and executive requirements related to Agency financing.

(h) Contract administration. Contract administration must comply with 7 CFR 1780.76. If another authority, such as a Federal, State, or Tribal agency, is providing funding and requires oversight of inspections, change orders, and pay requests, the Agency will accept copies of their reports or forms as meeting oversight requirements of the Agency.

[79 FR 78255, Dec. 29, 2014, as amended at 81 FR 11052, Mar. 2, 2016]