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Policies

This document provides an overview of how 18F Micro-purchase works and a set of rules to which our administrators will refer while running auctions.

How auctions work

Most auctions follow a pretty standard process:

  1. Pre-bidding period ("coming soon"): Auctions are posted to the Micro-purchase Platform (and announced via our newsletter and Twitter accounts) before bidding begins. This gives prospective vendors time to estimate the effort that it might take to meet their acceptance criteria.
  2. Bidding period ("open"): Eligible vendors can place bids on the auction from the time it "opens" (its "opening date") until the time it "closes" (its "closing date"). At that time, the lowest bidder wins and must deliver the code by the auction's delivery deadline.
  3. Delivery period: The winning vendor indicates that they've begun work by issuing a pull request, referencing the issue associated with the auction, and clicking the "Start work" button on the auction's page. At that point the conversation moves to the pull request itself, wherein the winning vendor can update 18F and our customer on their work in progress, ask questions, etc. Once the vendor believes their pull request meets the auction's acceptance criteria, they'll return to the auction page and indicate that they've finished their work by clicking the "I'm done" button.
  4. Acceptance period: 18F works with our customer to evaluate the winning vendor's code against the auction's acceptance criteria. If the code meets the criteria, it's accepted. Otherwise, it's rejected.
  5. Payment period: If their solution is accepted, the winning vendor will receive payment at the payment URL specified in their profile.

That's the process in a nutshell. Additional details, including deviations from this process, are covered below, under "source-selection method" and "delivery and acceptance policy."

Code of conduct

Users of 18F's Micro-purchase Platform agree to abide by the 18F Code of Conduct.

Transparency policy

18F will publish, on a publicly available website (https://micropurchase.18f.gov), data associated with each auction (including the auction description, acceptance criteria, amendments, etc.) and other relevant information that is neither confidential or proprietary in nature nor source-selection sensitive information that would otherwise implicate procurement integrity concerns.

Auctions on 18F Micro-purchase are run according to a set of rules, either as a sealed-bid auction or a (standard) reverse-auction. If an auction is run as a sealed-bid auction, the total number of bids, the identity of any vendor who places a bid, and the dollar amount of each bid placed will be recorded but will be hidden from public view until the auction closes and a winner is chosen.

If an auction is run as a reverse auction, any bids placed on that auction are immediately made public, including the identity of the vendor who placed it and the dollar amount of their bid. Making this information public enables vendors to know if they are the low bidder and if they've been outbid.

Once a winner is chosen, 18F will publish the final bid of each auction and specific source-identifying data; for example, the quantity and amount of any bids placed, the names of vendors who've placed bids, etc. During the delivery period of each auction, 18F will collaborate with vendors in a publicly visible GitHub issue and/or pull request, sharing any data related to project management (for example, user stories, milestones, test scores, and performance metrics).

Premature closing

18F reserves the right to delete an auction, prohibit bidding, and forego delivery at any point in the pre-bidding, bidding, delivery, and acceptance processes outlined above. 18F will not issue payment to a vendor until that vendor's code has been deemed acceptable (see "Delivery and acceptance policy," below) and their pull request has been merged.

Eligibility to bid

Vendors must have a GitHub account to register and sign into the Micro-purchase Platform. In order to place a bid, vendors must obtain a DUNS number and register in SAM.gov. Finally, auctions with a starting bid greater than $3,500 are limited to those vendors whose SAM.gov profile indicates that they are registered as a small business.

Source-selection method

18F Micro-purchase uses reverse-auctions to determine the source for any given procurement. Eligible vendors can place bids on an auction during its bidding period. Once that period ends, the vendor with the lowest bid is deemed the winner. In the event of a tie, the first vendor to place the bid is deemed the winner.

In the event that a winner is either (a) unable to deliver on an auction by the delivery deadline assigned to them or (b) delivers code that is deemed unacceptable, 18F reserves the right to reject the auction, choose a new winner, or re-run the auction. If 18F chooses a new winner for an auction, that winner will be either a vendor that tied with the original winner (but who placed their bid just after the original winner) or the next-highest bidder — with preference given to the former.

Bid acknowledgement and communication

18F will contact the winning bidder within 24 hours of the end of the auction. We require a timely response to acknowledge and confirm the bid amount. The code requested in the auction will be due as explained in the acceptance criteria of each specific auction.

Delivery and acceptance policy

18F gives every auction a delivery period; that is, a rough estimate of how long we think it'll take vendors to complete the work. The default delivery period is five business days.

An auction's delivery deadline is set whenever a winner is chosen. Delivery deadlines are based on an auction's delivery period, but exclude holidays and weekends. For example, if an auction's delivery period is three business days, and that auction ends the Friday before Labor Day, then the delivery deadline will fall on the following Thursday.

We realize that unanticipated issues may arise during the delivery period that need to be resolved in order for winning vendors to successfully deliver. We encourage winning vendors to submit their work, even if it's incomplete, and ask questions early and often.

In some cases, 18F may, at its discretion, agree to an extension of the delivery period, known as a "cure period." During the cure period, vendors are required to fix any bugs or otherwise refine their pull request so that it can be accepted and merged. The length of the cure period will vary depending on what is needed, but will not exceed five (5) business days.

Payment

Payments are usually made promptly after winning vendor's pull request has been merged. Unless otherwise indicated in writing, payments will be made to the payment URL specified in the winning vendor's account. To ensure timely payment, vendors should specify their payment URL before placing a bid. Any and all fees associated with the credit card payment are the responsibility of the winning vendor (that is, they will come out of the award).

Micro-purchase (platform) fee

18F charges its customers a platform fee of $1,000 per auction to help cover our operational expenses. This fee is assessed whenever an auction is successfully completed; that is, whenever a vendor's work is accepted.

A platform fee is not assessed whenever an auction ends without a winner or whenever an auction ends because its winning vendor's work was rejected. In these instances, our team will likely work to collaboratively revise our customer's acceptance criteria and relist their auction.

At this time, 18F waives the platform fee for any office within GSA's Technology Transformation Service (TTS).