Contract Advisory Team (CAT) FAQ
- 1. What is CAT?
CAT stands for Contract Advisory Team. The Contract Advisory Team (CAT) was created to assist state agencies in improving contract management practices by reviewing the solicitation of major contracts. Section §2262.102 of the Texas Government Code lists the following members for the CAT:
- one member from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)
- one member from the Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA)
- one member from the Department of Information Resources (DIR)
- one member from the Office of the Governor
- 2. When was the Contract Management Guide first published?
The Contracts Management Guide was first released on the web in October, 2004. TBPC posted it to its website and it then became the official guideline as intended under Chapter 2262, Tex Gov’t Code.
- 3. What is the difference between the Contract Advisory Team and the Statewide Procurement Advisory Council?
Under Chapter 2262, Tex Gov’t Code, the Contract Advisory Team reviews agencies’ solicitations for major contracts ($1 mil+), prepares recommendations to the CPA on revisions to the statewide Contract Management Guide and on CPA’s oversight of the training of the state’s contract managers. The solicitations reviewed by the Team are submitted by virtually every state agency, with a few statutory exceptions. The Team was created by the Legislature in 2001 and, pursuant to §2262.011, Tex Gov’t Code, the CPA is now lead member. The Team does not attend any open meetings of any agencies or review or make any recommendations on any proposed contracts prior to award or signature. Members of the Team are the CPA, the OAG, the DIR, and the Governor’s Office, with technical assistance by the LBB and the SAO.
Pursuant to §§2155.086 & 2155.87, Tex Gov’t Code, a quorum of the Statewide Procurement Advisory Council must attend open meetings conducted by the chief clerk of the CPA in which he/she makes certain contract awards with a value of $100,000 or more over the life of the contract and are evaluated wholly or partially on best value factors other than cost on behalf of the Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) division of the CPA. In the meetings, the Council may make recommendations on proposed procurements, recommendations designed to increase the cost savings, efficiency and other benefits to the state of consolidation of state procurement through TPASS. Members of the Council are the DIR, the LBB, the TFC and the Governor’s Office.
- 4. What is the scope of a CAT review for a solicitation?
The CAT will review the solicitation document(s) from a contract management and best practices perspective. In the course of the review, the CAT provides recommendations, identifies risks and offers risk mitigations within thirty (30) days of receipt. If the agency does not receive a response from the CAT within thirty (30) calendar days of initial receipt of the solicitation document(s), the agency may proceed with posting the solicitation.
- 5. Does CAT review findings made by the State Auditor’s Office?
As required by TX Govt’ Code 2262.101 one of CAT’s responsibilities is to review any findings or recommendations made by the state auditor, including those made under Section 2262.052(b), regarding a state agency's compliance with the contract management guide.
In order to do so, the SAO CAT representative monitors findings in audit reports that deal with contract management issues and forwards the reports to TPASS staff. TPASS is then responsible for distributing the report among the other CAT members; and, if necessary, discuss the findings in the next CAT meeting.
- 6. Where or how does an agency submit a solicitation for a CAT review and how do you access the CPA CATRAD web application?
Solicitation documents should be sent to the CAT for review through the CPA web application CATRAD at https://portal.cpa.state.tx.us/. In addition to sending the actual solicitation documents, agency personnel are required to fill out a brief submission form summarizing the solicitation. This form replaces the Major Contract Questionnaire that is no longer required for CAT reviews.
The CPA web application CATRAD can be found at https://portal.cpa.state.tx.us/. Prior to the first use of CATRAD, state agency personnel must ensure that they: 1) are registered users of the CPA web application portal and 2) have been granted portal membership rights to CATRAD. In order to accomplish this, agency personnel must request access from a “superuser” as identified by the agency and / or security coordinator of the CPA web application portal. For a list of state agency superusers / security coordinators, go to: https://portal.cpa.state.tx.us/securitycoordinators.asp. For assistance in utilizing the CATRAD applications, send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Upon receiving the major contract solicitation documents, the CAT will send the submitting agency an acknowledgement e-mail that confirms receipt of the solicitation and provides a web link to view the status of the review.
- 7. How much time should an agency allow for the CAT review process when selecting a posting date and what is the best approach for incorporating CAT review into the procurement process?
In order to avoid impeding the agency’s procurement process, state agencies should submit their major contract solicitation documents(s) after final agency approval or for some state agencies, after final executive-level approval (final executive- level approval may be necessary for some major contract solicitation documents, especially for IT-related solicitations) but before posting on the ESBD.
The CAT recommends Procurement, Contract Management, and Legal personnel incorporate the thirty (30) day CAT review period into their procurement schedule to avoid potential delays to the agency’s solicitation, evaluation, and award process.
- 8. What must state agencies submit to CAT?
To facilitate the process of major contract solicitations for review by CAT, prior to posting anything on the ESBD, state agencies must submit their:
- Solicitation document(s) – A solicitation document can be but is not limited to a Request for Proposal (RFP), Invitation for Bid (IFB), Request for Application (RFA), Request for Offer (RFO), or Request for Qualifications (RFQ); and
- Any other documents as supplemented to the solicitation or incorporated by reference into or as part of the solicitation.
- 9. How does an agency determine contract value?
A major contract, under TX Gov’t Code 2262.001, is one with a value of at least one (1) million dollars during the original term of the contract. An agency should base its determination of the proposed length of and compensation during the original term and the renewal periods of the contract on best business practices, state fiscal standards and applicable law, procedures and regulations. Agencies should not artificially split any of these factors to avoid the one million dollar threshold during the original term of the contract and therefore submission of the solicitation to CAT for review.
- 10. What is considered a reasonable contract term by the State?
A reasonable contract term compliant with all applicable law must be established prior to solicitation and must be included in the solicitation document. All contracts must have a specific ending date. Indefinite contracts are generally prohibited. As a general policy, it’s recommended that the maximum time for contracts without reissuing a competitive solicitation be four (4) years. This includes any renewal or extension periods. Individual business needs may dictate a different period and agencies should consult their legal counsel for advice on this matter early in the planning process as a best practice.
- 11. Can we submit a solicitation for review and advertise it on the ESBD at the same time?
Only in extremely rare circumstances and on a case-by-case basis can this be done. An agency must always request approval from TPASS to post a solicitation prior to review. TPASS staff always tries to accommodate expedited review time frames in order not to disrupt a procurement schedule. In certain situations where there is still not enough time, TPASS may elect to allow an agency to post a solicitation while it is conducting a review. Any recommendations should then be included as addenda to the solicitation. If an agency fails to receive approval before posting TPASS WILL NOT review and this will become an audit finding.
- 12. What should be done if the agency changes a solicitation document substantially from the version submitted to CAT?
If the initial major contract solicitation document submitted to the CAT changes substantially, agencies are required to resubmit their solicitation documents for CAT review. Changes in major contact solicitation are considered substantial when:
- the solicitation change caused the estimated value for the original term of the contract, not including renewal periods, to increase by 25% or more; or
- There are significant revisions, deletions and / or additions to the specifications, statement of work (SOW), set(s) of deliverables, performance measures, payment methodology, etc.
- 13. Are there any exceptions to submitting major solicitations for CAT review?
Per Texas Government Code §2262.002, institutions of higher education as defined by §61.003 of the Education Code are exempt, as are contracts of the Texas Department of transportation (TXDOT) that relate specifically to highway construction, highway engineering, or contracts subject to §201.112 of the Transportation Code.
- 14. What happens if CAT requests a more completed major contract solicitation draft or requires clarification?
Should the CAT request the initiating agency to submit a more complete major contract solicitation draft or require clarification, the 30-day turnaround timeframe restarts when the CAT receives all the information needed in order to conduct its review.
- 15. Are state agencies required to respond to the recommendations from the CAT review?
Agencies are not required to respond to recommendations from a CAT review of major contract solicitations. However, agencies are required to document their justifications in cases where Review recommendations are not followed. These justifications should be kept within the contract file, and may be used in future audit findings.