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FAQs

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Doing Business with the Commonwealth

Q. How do I register to do business with the Commonwealth?

A. Begin by registering as a vendor through the PA Supplier Portal. After registration, you will be able to access available opportunities to do business with the Commonwealth by accessing eMarketplace, JAGGAER and e-Builder systems.

Q. Where do I register to do business with the Commonwealth?

A. All vendors register with:

  • PA Supplier Portal – a self-service website for vendors to manage and update their accounts;
  • Supplier Service Center – assists with registration, bidding, and account management;
  • eMarketplace – for bidding opportunities (no registration required); and
  • e-Alerts – for automated notifications of contract information and procurement opportunities.

PennDOT vendors register with:

  • ECMS – PennDOT business partner registration.

Construction vendors register with:

  • e-Builder – Public Works' construction management system.

Materials and Services Vendors register with:

  • JAGGAER – Commonwealth vendor management system.
Q. What is the PA Supplier Portal?

A. The PA Supplier Portal is a website for companies to register as a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vendor to begin responding to opportunities to do business with the Commonwealth.

Q. How do I register as a new vendor?

A. To register as a vendor go to the PA Supplier Portal and select "supplier registration" from the left sidebar menu.This will take you through the process of becoming a registered PA vendor. Additional information is available in the New Vendor Registration Guide.

Q. How do I log-on to the PA Supplier Portal?

A. After completing the registration process, you will be able to select the "Log on" button at PA Supplier Portal home page and enter your User ID and password that was supplied to you during the vendor registration process. For additional resources go to Supplier Service Center.

Q. What is a Vendor Number?

A. A Vendor Number is a unique six-digit number assigned to a registered Commonwealth Vendor. This is sometimes referred to as a Supplier Number or SAP number.

Q. How do I find out if I have a Vendor Number?

A. You will need the assistance of the Customer Services Call Center. Please call the Customer Services Call Center at (717) 346-2676 (Harrisburg area) or (877) 435-7363 (toll free) and select option 1.

Q. If I have a Vendor Number but I am not registered online what do I need to do?

A. Register as an Existing Supplier on the PA Supplier Portal.

Q. How do I know if I'm registered on-line?

A. If you are not sure whether you are registered on-line, please call the Customer Services Call Center at (717) 346-2676 (Harrisburg area) or (877) 435-7363 (toll free) and select option 1.

Q. Why do I have to register on-line if I already have a Vendor Number?

A. Your company may already have a Commonwealth Vendor Number, but may not be registered on the PA Supplier Portal. The benefits of being registered in the Commonwealth's procurement system are the ability to:

  • submit electronic bids;
  • monitor your invoice status within the payment process and to secure invoice remittance information; and
  • manage your company's information, including Users, Banking, Ship-From Addresses, Ordering Addresses and a Remit to Address.
Q. Where can I find additional help on registering?

A. To obtain assistance for Supplier Registration, call the Customer Services Call Center at (717) 346-2676 (Harrisburg area) or (877) 435-7363 (toll free). You may also reference the DGS Registering as a Supplier Guide. For additional resources go to Supplier Service Center.

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Bidding Opportunities – General Information

Q. What is eMarketplace?

A. Pennsylvania's eMarketplace portal is the internet site for bidding, award and contract information. The system allows registered suppliers to search for business opportunities with the Commonwealth.

Q. How do I access the eMarketplace system?

A. eMarketplace can be accessed at eMarketplace. Note: You must register as a vendor in the PA Supplier Portal PRIOR to doing any business with the Commonwealth.

Q. How do I find out who in state government purchases what I have to offer?

A. BDISBO has Procurement and Construction Liaisons to assist vendors in navigating the procurement landscape; contact BDISBO at 717-783-3119 for their assistance. The Bureau of Procurement has a team of procurement professionals

Q. What is an e-Alerts?

A. e-Alerts is a subscription service that notifies vendor by email of procurement opportunities. This program can be accessed by both registered suppliers/vendors and the general public by creating an e-Alert account at e-Alerts.

Q. What is COSTARS?

A. COSTARS is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's cooperative purchasing program and serves as a conduit through which registered and eligible local public procurement units (LPPUs) and state-affiliated entities (together "Members") are able to leverage contracts established by DGS to cost-effectively and efficiently identify vendors with whom to do business. COSTARS.

Q. What is an RFP?

A. A Request for Proposal (RFP) encompasses all the documents, including those either attached or incorporated by reference, that are utilized for soliciting proposals.

Q. What is an ITQ?

A. An Invitation to Qualify (ITQ) Contract is the name given to certain multiple award contracts issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pursuant to Section 517 of the Procurement Code. ITQ Contracts allow vendors to become pre-qualified to participate in restricted procurements issued under the ITQ. ITQ Documents and Information.

Q. What is ECMS?

A. Engineering and Construction Management System (ECMS) is the communication portal between PennDOT and their Business Partners for conducting transportation projects; bidding through construction close-out process. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ECMS has changed the bid package process from paper-based to electronic-based and makes the process more open and transparent. Please see additional information on ECMS at PennDOT ECMS.

Q. What are Pre-Bid/Quote/Proposal Conferences or Meetings?

A. A public meeting scheduled approximately two weeks after issuing the solicitation. It will address the following issues.

  • Provide background information – the Issuing Officer will present the basics of the project to the attendees and describe any special aspects of the project.
  • Answer Bidder/Offeror/Proposer's Questions on the RFP – the Issuing Officer may present answers to the questions that have been submitted in writing prior to the meeting. To facilitate addressing other questions, Bidder/Offeror/Proposers may complete question forms that are distributed at the conference. It is important to note that although the Professional may respond to questions at the meeting, answers are not binding on the Issuing Office until the answer is confirmed in writing and issued in an addendum. The questioner will not be identified.
Q. What is an Agency Liaison?

A. An Agency Liaison is a designated employee within each Commonwealth agency selected to work with BDISBO to address the need for better agency coordination. The Agency Liaison assists the agency by placing a continuous focus on increasing opportunities for Small, Small Diverse, and Veteran Businesses.

Q. What are UNSPSC codes?

A. The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is an indexing system used by the Commonwealth to classify all products and services. The Commonwealth uses this coding system to assist the vendor in finding opportunities for those same products and services. It is very important for suppliers/vendors to accurately list all applicable codes when registering with the Commonwealth to ensure that the e-Alerts notifications are accurate for the products and/or services they provide.

Q. What are Supplier Forums?

A. A Supplier Forum event is a form of a Request for Information (RFI).The event usually occurs prior to the development of a solicitation. The Supplier Forum is an open discussion with procurement staff, program/project manager and/or subject matter expert regarding the upcoming procurement.This forum is tailored to both potential prime and small, small diverse and veteran business subcontractors. Typically, the Supplier Forum is a three-hour event, divided into two sessions. The first session is an open discussion to include industry standards, supplier community insight and expertise, best practices, and current/future technology enhancements. The second session includes a presentation on the Commonwealth's Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunity programs and a discussion relative to potential subcontracting opportunities. Networking time for prospective prime and small, small diverse and veteran business subcontractors will be available at the end of the forum. It is highly recommended for businesses to take advantage of these free forums when they are offered.

Q. As an SDB, must I always be a sub-contractor, or may I bid as a prime contractor?

A. Submissions will be accepted from all responsive, responsible bidders/offerors/proposers whose bid is received prior to the time and date established for receipt of the submissions regardless of whether they're an SDB. A governmental unit shall evaluate any submission that meets the solicitation requirements and is timely submitted by a qualified bidder/offeror/proposer.

  • "Responsible bidder/offeror" A bidder/offeror that has submitted a responsive bid and that possesses the capability to fully perform the contract requirements in all respects and the integrity and reliability to assure good faith performance.
  • "Responsive bid/offer" A bid/offer which conforms in all material respects to the requirements and criteria in the solicitation. Any vendor may respond to a public solicitation they possess the requisite skills and experience as requested in the solicitation technical requirements.

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Bidding Opportunities – Materials and Services

Q. What is JAGGAER?

A. JAGGAER is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Supplier Management System for non-construction materials and services. The system is used for responding to procurement opportunities such as: Requests for Proposals (RFPs), Invitations to Qualify (ITQ), and Requests for Quotations (RFQs).

Q. How do I access the JAGGAER system?

A. Go to the DGS Supplier Service Center weblink at JAGGAER Supplier Register and Log-in Page. Please Note:You must register as a supplier in the PA Supplier Portal PRIOR to accessing the JAGGAER system. JAGGAER Registration Guide.

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Bidding Opportunities – Construction Procurement

Q. What is e-Builder?

A.e-Builder is a cloud-based construction management software system used by the Department of General Services to manage Capital Construction Projects.The system was put in place as a tool to more effectively and efficiently run Capital Projects by automating processes, standardizing the storage of documents, distributing bid documents, accepting bids electronically and reporting out project information instantaneously.

Q. How do I find building construction opportunities?

A. Suppliers/vendors interested in construction contract opportunities must first complete the PA Supplier Portal registration process. Upon successful completion of the process, they may view bidding opportunities on e‑Builder.

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Certifications and Verifications

Q. What is BDISBO?

A.BDISBO is an acronym for the Department of General Services' Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities. The vision of BDISBO is to facilitate an open, inclusive and accessible business environment where small businesses can develop or expand their competency, capacity and footprint in the Commonwealth marketplace.BDISBO is responsible for assisting small, small diverse (which include Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises, Disability-Owned Business Enterprises, and LGBT Business Enterprises), and veteran- and service-disabled-owned businesses with competing for Commonwealth business opportunities.

Q. How do I become certified as a Small Business (SB)?

A. Small business self-certification, a two-year certification which requires biennial renewal, is a prerequisite for verification as a Small Diverse Business and Veteran Business Enterprise. After registering as a vendor through the PA Supplier Portal, visit the PRiSM System at PRiSM to complete the application for self-certification. This is a free program.

Q. What are the Small Diverse Business (SDB) and Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE) Programs?

A. The Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities (BDISBO) verifies self-certified small businesses that wish to participate as Minority, Woman, LGBT, and Disability-Owned Business Enterprises through the SDB program and Veteran, and Service-Disabled Veteran through the VBE program. Eligible small businesses must hold certifications with one of the Department's approved third-party certification entities. Service-Disabled veterans possessing a third-party verification from the Vets First Verification Program at vetbiz.gov are considered both SDBs (because of their disabled status) and VBEs (because of their veteran status). After becoming a certified small business, visit PRiSM to complete the application for diverse or veteran verification.

Q. Who can participate in the SDB Program?

A. Successfully registered small businesses are offered the opportunity to verify as a Small Diverse Business during the SB certification process. The applicant must hold certification as diverse with one of the Department's approved third-party certification entities:

Q. Who can participate in the VBE Program?

A. Successfully registered small businesses are offered the opportunity to verify as a Small Diverse Business during the SB certification process. The applicant must hold certification as diverse with the Department's approved third-party certification entity:

Q. How do I apply for verification as an SDB or a VBE?

A. After obtaining certification as diverse or veteran with one of the Department's approved third-party certification entities, please visit PRiSM to complete the application for diverse or veteran business verification.

Q. Is there a cost to certifying my business as a SB, SDB, or VBE?

A. DGS does not charge any fees to become certified as a small, small diverse, or veteran business. However, third-party entities may charge fees to obtain their required diverse certification.

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Disparity Study

Q. What is a Disparity study?

A. A Disparity study examines whether there are any disparities between the utilization and the availability of small diverse businesses on government contracts. In addition to the data analysis, the study also evaluates all findings and makes recommendations to correct any disparities. The study period included contracts that were awarded across a five-year period.

Q. How can I see the Commonwealth's Disparity Study?

A. The Commonwealth's 2018 Disparity Study is located on BDISBO's Disparity Study page under the heading Study Results.

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Goal Setting

Q. How are Small Diverse Business (SDB) goals determined on contract by contract basis?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. SDB goals are calculated using a mathematical formula that considers SDB availability from the Disparity Study, project work scopes developed by the procuring agency, and an assessment of market pressures and past performance. For more information, read Understanding Goal Setting.

Q. How are Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE) goals determined on contract by contract basis?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. VBE goals are determined by considering VBE availability, the work scopes of the project, and an assessment of market pressures and past performance.

Q. What does "Aspirational Goal" mean?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. As a result of the Disparity Study, the Commonwealth has determined overall target goals of 26.3% and 4.6% for participation by Small Diverse and Veteran Owned Businesses, respectively. These goals are "aspirational" because these targets are what we aspire to achieve collectively among all agencies. A "solicitation" or "Project" specific goal is "narrowly tailored" to the market availability of SDBs or VBEs for an individual solicitation.

Q. Will every procurement have a 26.3% overall SDB goal?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. No. In order to ensure that the program meets the constitutional requirement that it be narrowly tailored, BDISBO and the Issuing Agency will calculate a separate SDB participation goal for each procurement. The procurement-specific goal will be based upon the following factors: the available subcontracting opportunities for the procurement, the availability of SDB firms to perform those subcontracting opportunities, the expected dollar value of those subcontracting opportunities, SDB utilization on past contracts, and other market factors. As long as the calculated SDB participation goal is not de minimis, it may be included as part of the procurement.

Q. Will every procurement have a 4.6% overall Veteran goal?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. No. BDISBO and the Issuing Agency may determine a separate VBE participation goal for each procurement. Each procurement-specific goal will be based upon the following factors: the available subcontracting opportunities for the procurement, the availability of VBE firms to perform those subcontracting opportunities, the expected dollar value of those subcontracting opportunities, VBE utilization on past contracts, and other market factors.

Q. What does Commercially Useful Function (CUF) mean?

A. An SDB/VBE performs a commercially useful function when it is responsible for execution of the work of the contract and is carrying out its responsibilities by actually performing, managing, and supervising the work involved.

Q. As a non-SDB or non-VBE Prime, what if I can't meet the goal(s) set on a solicitation either in part or full?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. If, for any reason, a bidder or offeror believes they will be unable to achieve the SDB or VBE participation goal(s) set for the procurement, the bidder or offeror may request a full or partial Good Faith Efforts Waiver from either (or both) of the participation goals. A bidder or offeror must indicate on the SDB Participation Submittal and/or VBE Participation Submittal that they are requesting a Good Faith Efforts Waiver and must also include supporting documentation as set forth in the Good Faith Efforts Documentation to Support Waiver Request.

Q. What is a request for a Good Faith Effort (GFE) waiver?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. A request for a GFE waiver occurs when a bidder or offeror believes they cannot meet either all or part of the established goal. The bidder or offeror must demonstrate, as set forth in the solicitation document, that they took all the necessary and reasonable steps to achieve the goal. The request for a GFE waiver is then reviewed by the Commonwealth and either approved or denied.

Q. What constitutes GFE documentation?

A. Pilot projects are in effect, full implementation expected Spring 2020. A request for a GFE Waiver must also include supporting documentation as set forth in the Good Faith Efforts Documentation to Support Waiver Request, to include the following:

  • A detailed statement of the efforts made to select portions of the work proposed to be performed by SDBs or VBEs in order to increase the likelihood of achieving the stated goals;
  • A detailed statement of the efforts made to contact and negotiate with SDBs and/or VBEs, including:
    • The names, addresses, dates, telephone numbers, and classification of SDBs and/or VBEs contacted, and
    • A copy of the information provided to SDBs and/or VBEs regarding the plans, specifications, and anticipated time schedule for portions of the work to be performed;
    • As to each SDB or VBE that placed a subcontract quotation or offer that the bidder or offeror considers not to be acceptable, a detailed statement of the reasons for this conclusion with supporting documentation;
    • A list of SDBs and/or VBEs found to be unavailable, which shall be accompanied by an SDB or VBE unavailability verification form signed by the SDB or VBE as applicable, or a statement from the bidder or offeror that the SDB or VBE refused to give the written verification; and
    • The record of the bidder's or offeror's compliance with the outreach efforts.
Q. Where can I find information on the Commonwealth's pending goal setting process?

A. The Commonwealth published two documents on the future goal setting process. mplementation Overview contains a high-level view of the process. Understanding Goal Setting provides additional information on the process of setting goal on a solicitation.

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Small Business Reserve (SBR)

Q. What is the Small Business Reserve (SBR) Program?

A. The SBR program enables businesses of similar sizes and resources to compete among each other for specific government contract opportunities as prime contractors. All Commonwealth agencies under the Governor's jurisdiction are being directed to identify and target 15% of their total agency operational spend for SBR procurements.

Q. Who can participate in the Small Business Reserve (SBR) Program?

A. Any business that meets the eligibility criteria and satisfactorily completes the DGS self-certification process will be deemed a "Small Business." Only Small Businesses will be eligible to bid or propose as prime contractors for procurements issued under this program.

Q. What does a race- and gender-neutral program mean?

A. Race and gender-neutral program measures are designed to encourage the participation of small businesses in government contracting, regardless of the race/ethnicity or gender of businesses' owners.

Q. What does a race- and gender-conscious program mean?

A. Race and gender-conscious program measures are specifically designed to encourage the participation of small diverse businesses in government contracting through narrowly tailored participation goals on individual contracts.

Q. How can I find Small Business Reserve (SBR) opportunities?

A. Enter eMarketplace and in the search criteria field, choose the option to "View Small Business Procurements."Check the box and select to either "View Current Records" or "View Archived Records" to filter the list of SBR solicitations.

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Mentor Protégé Program (MPP)

Q. What is the Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP)?

A. The Mentor-Protégé Program was established to pair prime contractors with DGS verified small diverse businesses (SDBs) to help them successfully solicit and perform on Commonwealth contracts. The goal of this program is to enhance the ability of Small Diverse Businesses (SDBs) to compete for Commonwealth opportunities.

Q. Who may participate in the MPP?

A. To be selected as a Mentor, a firm must:

  1. Be a prime contractor eligible for Commonwealth contracts for supplies, services, information technology services, construction, and construction-related services. The Mentor must not be under suspension or debarment, and must not be listed within the Commonwealth's Contractor Responsibility Program (CRP) database;
  2. Have had at least one "prime" contract award with the Commonwealth within the last three years valued at or above $300,000.00; and
  3. Be willing to abide by and sign the MPP Agreement committing to the requirements of the MPP.

    To be eligible as a Protégé, a firm must:
  1. Be a DGS verified SDB eligible for Commonwealth contracts for supplies, services, information technology services, construction, and construction-related services. The Protégé must not be under suspension or debarment and must not be listed within the CRP database. Protégés must notify BDISBO within 30 days of any change to their status as a DGS-verified SDB;
  2. Be willing to abide by and sign the MPP Agreement committing to the requirements of the MPP; and as applicable; and
  3. Prospective Protégés new to the Commonwealth's procurement processes must also meet the following additional requirements:
  • Complete the Supplier registration process;
  • If they have not already done so, become a DGS verified SDB; and
  • Attend one solicitation event (i.e., supplier forum, pre-proposal conference or pre-bid conference) or attend a BDISBO training event (i.e. "Doing Business with the Commonwealth").
Q. What are the benefits of participating in the MPP?

A. Invaluable guidance and business developmental assistance which includes personalized support and direction in navigating the Commonwealth's procurement process from a successful, experienced Commonwealth vendor – the Mentor.

Q. How do I apply to participate in the MPP?

A. Each February firms interested in participating in the MPP must complete and submit a "Mentor Protégé Program (MPP) Agreement." Program details can be found at: Mentor-Protege Program

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Other small business resources

Q. Where can I get additional information regarding becoming a vendor with the Commonwealth?

A. The Supplier Service Center assists with registration, bidding, and account management. The Supplier Service Center provides assistance to companies that want to sell materials or services to state agencies. The site contains access links to PA Supplier Portal, eMarketplace, JAGGAER plus the Procurement Handbook, resources and more.

Q. Where can I find the Commonwealth procurement guidelines?

A. The Procurement Handbook provides information on the policies, procedures, and guidelines for the procurement of materials, services, and construction under the authority of the Procurement Code.

Q. What are the small no-bid procurement thresholds?

A. No-bid procurements up to $10,000.

Q. What are P-Card limits?

A. Purchases under $10,000. Procurement Handbook - Procurement Card

Q. Who are the P-Card holders?

A. Commonwealth personnel as determined by job role/function.

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