Unless you’ve lived a very charmed existence, or perhaps just haven’t participated in fundraising all that much, as a seasoned development or aid professional you’ve seen things like:
- An RFP for a very complex piece of work that is released on a Wednesday afternoon with a due date 48 hours later on a Friday;
- A bid that includes a requirement that is embarrassingly tailored to someone (or some company’s) experience (e.g. 5 years of experience living in San Pedro, Costa Rica working with Pani at a Director level); or
- A bid that is released, then disappears, then reappears, then disappears, then reappears again.
These and other signs are hallmarks of one of the more frustrating phenomena of development and humanitarian aid work: The Cooked Bid. The Cooked Bid is somewhat akin to the Bid Black Hole, but is uniquely uncomfortable because it’s obvious that someone, or some company, will actually be getting the work … it just won’t be you.
At ISG, we experience our fair share of Cooked Bids. Most recently, we had the pleasure of committing serious staff time and effort to the preparation of a bid for a donor-that-shall-not-be-named. We unwittingly went down the rabbit hole because we had actually been shortlisted for the work via an EOI process; its rare that a donor will bother with the two-step process (indeed, this is a transparency mechanisms designed to prevent bid cooking). However, after submitting our 150+ page proposal, we saw an award notice issued less than 24 hours later. To say the least, reading the required three 100+ page submissions, contacting the parties, negotiating a final deal and then committing the institution – within 24 hours – is … um … highly irregular.
The Cooked Bid highlights one of those messy flaws in the blind tendering process that is used by essentially all donors: there are times when the process needs to be short-circuited because there is already a vendor that is the best fit for the job and it doesn’t make sense to bring in a new company or consultant. However, they are still required to walk through the tendering process. As a pragmatist, I understand this – but it still stings when you don’t sniff out a Cooked Bid before wasting your time with it.