I unfortunately have to report to you that, once again, the Department of General Services (DGS) has failed to make an award for the statewide Paratransit Bus bid. DGS has officially rescinded their Notice of Intent to Award to Creative Bus Sales. A copy of the DGS letter we received attempting to explain their reasoning for their actions, which frankly we do not accept, can be found on our website here. They cite assertions from potential suppliers that the specifications improved from the previous bid but that they still "remained closed to a single bidder". This is an absolutely false statement. The so called restrictive requirements have been part of the statewide specification for years, including the last active contract which one of our competitors bid and was awarded. Now, somehow those same requirements are restrictive to the point where that same supplier cannot offer a bid.
Additionally, DGS specification compliant buses were offered by another competitor in response to the recent CalACT solicitation and they were awarded a contract for that specific product. However, that same competitor did not offer a bid response to the DGS solicitation, instead choosing to allege that the DGS specification was restricted to a single bidder. Of further interest, this will mark the third consecutive DGS paratransit bus bid that this same competitor has not responded to.
It is important to note that Creative submitted compliant bid offers from multiple bus manufacturers including; Starcraft, ElDorado and Supreme Bus. These three manufacturers supply over 80% of all paratransit buses built in the country on an annual basis. The vast majority of all paratransit buses operated in the country are built by these manufacturers and comply with the specification requirements of the DGS solicitation. These requirements which were deemed restrictive by DGS are actually the norm or standard of the industry. This fact could have been independently confirmed by DGS with minimal effort, if they so desired.
These same allegations were the foundation for the cancellation of the previous paratransit bus bid. During a face to face debriefing meeting with the executive management of DGS, they committed to me personally, that prior to releasing another bid DGS would undergo an exhaustive process. That process would insure the competitive nature of the specification, and provide a basis on which they could rely, defend and award. I stated in that meeting with DGS executive management that Creative would not participate in future DGS procurements without such a commitment, and we relied on DGS's commitment in responding to the latest paratransit bus bid.
At great cost to the state, DGS staff conducted the most thoroughly contemplated, scrutinized, reviewed and transparent solicitation process for paratransit buses that the department has ever undertaken. Creative Bus Sales respected and abided by the process, responding to the exhaustive requirements of the solicitation. Literally hundreds of man hours and tens of thousands of dollars have been invested by Creative Bus Sales and our manufacturers in the preparation, submittal and response to this solicitation. Our competitors chose not to respect or engage in the process, instead choosing to make assertions of restrictive specifications, a thinly veiled tactic to disrupt or impede any contemplated award. DGS management failed to honor their own policies, and did not require our competitors to follow their process for protest, which was defined in great detail in the solicitation. Due in part to these factors the State has been without a Paratransit Bus contract since June 30th, 2009.
The only logical conclusion is that influences outside of the process had great bearing on the DGS's decision to rescind the Notice of Intent to Award to Creative. Unfortunately, the presence of outside influence was confirmed in our review of the documents related to the previous bid process. The only purpose served by these actions was to prohibit your ability to procure buses through a statewide, competitive low price bid process. Of perhaps greater consequence is that by not awarding to Creative, DGS passed on the most aggressive price discounting levels we have ever received from our manufacturers. Those discounts were passed through to DGS in our bid price offer and represented unprecedented savings over any other like type procurement nationwide.
While we take issue with the actions of DGS executive management, we commend DGS staff and Caltrans staff for their efforts and professionalism during this extended and trying process. Their level of commitment to the process and public interest was evident at all times.
Given my recent conversation with DGS executive management, we do not believe future statewide bids for paratransit buses or vans will be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the multi-year CalACT Cooperative contract provides a viable alternative purchasing mechanism for all paratransit vehicle types, now and in the future. We are an active participant in this procurement and for all categories offer the lowest priced vehicles. Not only do we offer the lowest priced base vehicles we offer the lowest "complete bus" contract pricing, regardless of final configuration of the vehicle. Additionally, we offer products manufactured by experienced and established bus builders with a proven record of performance in the State and throughout the country. We encourage you to research your options under the CalACT Cooperative contract and fully support their efforts to serve your needs. We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming CalACT 2010 Conference & Expo, where we will have five buses on display for your review. For more information please visit creativebussales.com or calact.org.
As always, we remain committed to you, your clients, the industry and the tax-paying public. Without any endorsement, I believe the current campaign slogan offered by one candidate rings loud and true. "It's time for people to say what they mean and mean what they say".
President - Creative Bus Sales
Click Here to View a Copy of DGS' Letter to Creative Bus Sales