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fair opportunity

Fair opportunity is a requirement that U.S. government agencies purchasing goods or services under a multi-award contract give every company that holds that contract an equal opportunity to respond to a request for proposal (RFP). 

Fair opportunity is intended to “level the playing field” so that agencies cannot give an unfair advantage to one contractor over another. It applies to orders that exceed $2,500.

The concept of fair opportunity is mandated by Federal Acquisition Regulation 16.505(b), however, it is up to individual agencies to determine how they will ensure that all contractors are treated equally. Contracting officers within each agency are responsible for documenting that fair opportunity has been carried out. 

In the case of an audit, documentation should be detailed enough to prove beyond doubt that the agency used fair opportunity practices during the procurement process. For example, if price is the sole criterion for a given acquisition, the documentation must include evidence that a pricing analysis was developed and used and evidence that the total lifespan of the product or service was taken into consideration.

Agencies can make award decisions based on price alone, but it is recommended that value, technical and past performance considerations are also taken into account. Agencies are advised to share their evaluation criteria with contractors, but they do not have to explain award decisions to those contractors that do not receive an order.

There are exceptions to fair opportunity. Orders over $2,500 can be excused from fair opportunity processes if the contracting officer determines that:

1.) The need for supplies or services are of  such urgency that fair opportunity processes would create unacceptable delays.

2.) The supplies or services are highly unique and only one contractor is able to deliver them. 

3.) The task order is a logical follow-on to an order obtained through fair opportunity practices.

4.) Placing the order with a particular contractor is necessary for meeting a minimum revenue guarantee. In each of these instances the rationale for foregoing fair opportunity processes must be adequately documented.

See also: Automated Best Value System, full and open competition, GSA Schedule 70, GSA SmartBuy, U.S. Navy purchasing abbreviations and acronyms

Dig deeper into fair opportunity:

Federal Acquisition Regulation 16.505 can be found online.

This was last updated in February 2011

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