3. Commission the evaluation project

This step covers preparing a Request for Tender (RFT) that requires detailed, rigorous, feasible and ethical submissions from tenderers. It builds on the evaluation brief and the evaluation design including whether to do the project internally or to seek an external provider for all or part of the evaluation project. 

Preparing the RFT

If you are contracting out the project to external evaluation providers, you will need to prepare a RFT. For larger scale evaluations, you may also want external evaluation providers to develop the evaluation design, either as part of the RFT, or through a separate contract. If you are managing an internal evaluation project, your key task at this stage is to set up the internal project team and bring them together to discuss the project requirements.

A RFT should include all the information a prospective evaluator needs to decide if they will tender for the work and, relevant contractual requirements. It should explain the purpose of the evaluation and the questions to be answered. A good way to help bidders understand the project or program is to include the program logic and assess needs. In some cases, you will have developed an evaluation design and proposed methods Step 4. Manage development of the evaluation design and these should also be included in the RFT. In other cases, developing an evaluation design and methods will be one of the tasks you require doing and specify in the RFT.

It is also important to include information about key program stakeholders (internal and external) and the anticipated involvement of these groups. For evaluations where a partnership between the commissioners and the evaluators is proposed, the approach and expected responsibilities of each party should be indicated in the RFT and written into the contract. You should also specify the criteria for selecting the successful tenderer

Sample RFT template for evaluation project

Policy context

Program description,  key stakeholders

The evaluation – purpose, required scope, evaluation  questions, indicative design and methods,  available data

Reporting requirements

Indicative  budget

Timeframe

Selection process and criteria

Ensuring quality and rigorous designs in proposals

The evaluation should indicate to tenderers the expected standards for rigorous designs that are feasible, ethical, reflect the scale and significance of the program, and can meet the timeframe and budget for the evaluation brief.

In particular, the RFT should seek a program evaluation that is rigorous, and measures program outcomes whenever feasible and appropriate. External evaluation providers responding to the RFT need to be aware of these expectations, and any work involved in developing the evaluation design.

For some new programs, evaluation consultants may be engaged to develop the evaluation design as part of the program design step. In other cases, the scope for rigorous outcome evaluations may be limited by the program design or by lack of early data collection.

Procurement: seeking competitive responses

Your agency will have business rules about how tenders are advertised to prospective providers; typically these are based on the dollar value of the work. You should refer to your agency's specific requirements and ensure these are complied with.

The NSW Government's prequalification scheme for Performance and Management Services offers a pool of service providers capable of providing performance review and program evaluation services.

Throughout the procurement process, you should encourage tenderers to ask questions about the evaluation to clarify their understanding of your requirements. Your agency may have rules about how this process is managed, which typically relate to the type of tender (open or select) and the scale of the work.

Answers to tenderers' questions are usually shared with all prospective bidders during an open or panel process, but may not always be shared in a select process. Sharing your answers to tenderers' questions increases the transparency of the tender process.

Choosing the right consultant

Proposals for evaluation in response to the RFT can come from very different organisations: sole or small organisations with expertise in the area; specialist evaluation companies; large consultancy or market research companies; and research or university groups. Each organisation will have its own methods for conducting program evaluation, and may also have different expectations about contracting and management of the project.

Carefully reviewing responses to the RFT against key selection criteria is fundamental to the evaluation's success. You will need to consider the relative importance of the criteria: for example, is it more important for a consultant to have broad evaluation experience, specific content area expertise, or skills in a particular context?

Other things you may wish to consider include:

  • The knowledge and experience of the bidder (Do they have market, industry and professional experience to meet your needs?).
  • The composition of the team (Are the team members listed in the proposal the people who will do the work, and are the team known to you or your agency?).
  • The business values and policies of the bidder (Do they reflect your business values and expectations of quality?).
  • How well the bidder understands the size and scope of the job (Are they up to the challenge?).
  • Whether the bid demonstrates innovative and creative thinking (Will they be able to respond to emerging issues throughout the evaluation?).

To assist with the tender process, consider using a selection committee that includes relevant internal or external stakeholders. For significant evaluations, consider inviting a representative from the Centre for Program Evaluation. Where the evaluation has established a governance mechanism such as a steering committee or advisory group, selecting a preferred tenderer can be one of its first tasks. The benefits of doing this include a greater range of perspectives and expertise in the selection process, as well as greater ownership of the evaluation process by key stakeholders.

The product of the selection committee is a recommendation of the preferred evaluation group.

Contracting

Your agency will have clear guidelines for contracting and a contract template or pro forma to use. Contracts for evaluation may differ from regular normal contracting arrangements. You may need to consider the following issues:

  • The contract should be commensurate with the scale and risks of the evaluation,
  • The contract should allow for some flexibility—evaluation projects always involve some degree of uncertainty or delay and often rely on the expertise of the evaluators to deal with situations as they arise. The focus should be on getting the required deliverables to the agreed quality
  • When contracting with some organisations such as universities, ownership of intellectual property may be an issue —you should be prepared to negotiate this, and seek advice from your procurement section
  • Ensure the contract specifies how you will manage any disputes with the winning bidder and, if necessary, discontinue the contract
  • Always obtain appropriate in-house legal advice when negotiating amendments to standard contracts

Products –

Request For Tender (RFT)  (external evaluation)

Evaluation contract (external evaluation)

Evaluation agreement (internal evaluation)