Community Blog: The EDge

How much did cost factor into the WiFi contract decision?

On Wednesday, we broke the story that Education Networks of America landed the controversial multiyear high school WiFi contract, even though four bidders beat the company’s price.

The takeaway on what happened: The nine people who reviewed the 10 bids gave ENA a decided — and decisive — edge for experience and technology. The committee docked the company only slightly for a middle-of-the-pack cost proposal.

Now, let’s take a little deeper dive into the documents that explain the process.

Under the state public records act, Idaho Education News obtained the “scoring documents” used by the nine-member technical committee that reviewed the bids — and unanimously supported ENA’s proposal.

The committee used three metrics to grade the bids, and cost was just one factor. The committee also considered a category called “company overview and experience” and company technology. All three categories were worth one third of the total grade.

So now, let’s look at the scores. Bidders could receive up to 2,500 points in each category — for a perfect score of 7,500 points.

Vendor Cost Experience Technology Total
Education Networks of America 2348 1907.89 1944.44 6199.96
Tek-Hut, bid 1 2381 1394.74 1277.78 5053.52
Ednetics Inc. 2333 1526.32 1055.56 4914.98
Tek-Hut, bid 2 2359 1223.68 1277.78 4860.75
ID Consulting 2366 1039.47 1277.78 4682.92
Presidio 2233 1026.32 916.67 4175.74
Carousel Industries 1915 868.42 1277.78 4061.03
iSchool 2147 657.89 805.56 3610.25
Compunet 2067 671.05 472.22 3210.32
White Cloud Communications 2352 342.11 194.44 2888.41

 

As you see, four bids beat ENA’s score on costs — and they were the four bids that came in under ENA’s first-year price tag of $10,558,275.

But while the price tags on the 10 bids varied widely, the scores in the cost category didn’t vary nearly as much.

Twin Falls-based Tek-Hut submitted two bids, and both beat the Nashville, Tenn.-based ENA’s price. Its lower bid (Tek-Hut, bid 1, in the above table) came in at $8,245,000 — or 21.9 percent below ENA’S winning bid.

Despite this 21.9 percent gap in price, the scores between these two bids were close. Tek-Hut’s lower bid scored only 33 points better than ENA in the price category — a gap of 1.3 percent, on a 2,500-point scale.

Even Carousel Industries, the costliest bidder in the field, received 1,915 points in the cost category, a 76.6 percent score. This happened even though Carousel’s five-year costs bid came in at $40,546,733 — and its 2013-14 costs, $29,670,362, exceeding the $2.25 million allocated for the project by a factor of 13.

In other words, a company wasn’t rewarded very much for coming in with a low-cost bid, and companies weren’t punished too severely for coming in with a pricey bid.

This is especially evident when you look at the other categories: technology and experience. ENA beat all of its competitors in both categories. And as you can see, there were considerable scoring gaps between vendors on these categories.

What that means, in essence, is this: Bidders that scored low for experience and technology paid a very high price, in terms of their overall scores. And ENA’s top scores in both categories wound up carrying considerable weight.

 

 

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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