Common Mistakes and Shortcomings in Application Bids

Common Mistakes

The East Africa Research Fund (EARF) considers only those proposal bids that have been submitted after a competitive call. The proposals submitted are undergo three levels of evaluation, namely compliance, technical and commercial evaluation.
Reports are generated in each of these three stages. Outcome of evaluation in each of the three stages is provided to applicants to inform them of the performance of their applications and provide a basis of future improvement.

This Article highlights some common shortcomings that contribute to areas of underperformance of the applications received. It is hoped that with making potential applicants aware of these shortcomings, the quality of applications will improve and hence increase competitiveness of the research supplier market. The article provides you with key questions that applicants should use to ensure they are submitting a complete and well developed proposal. A number of tips are provided in the form of highlighted notes that are critical to a competitive proposal.

1.    Compliance
1.1 Purpose of the Compliance Check
The purpose of the compliance (or eligibility) check is to verify that research suppliers submitting bid documents in response to a research call have provided all the information that is required based on the description provided in the ‘Instructions to Suppliers’.  
The verification process involves:

  1. Checking for completeness of the submission, which includes verifying the use of the correct formats and ensuring that the submitted pack contains all the required documents;
  2.  Verifying for adherence to the guidelines as specified in the Instructions to Suppliers; and
  3. Checking for organizational history of integrity and possible involvement in illegal activities through interrogation of international databases.

Compliance check ensures that only those applications that have provided all the information required are retained for the technical and commercial evaluation. Organisations whose applications are not retained due to compliance reasons are informed at the close of the compliance stage (normally within a week after close of the call) and are provided with reasons why their applications were found not to be compliant.

1.2 Shortcomings often found during check for compliance
Some of the common shortcomings identified during the compliance check include:

a)    Not keeping to the deadline for submission of applications.
The call documents are very explicit on the deadline date and timing for making submission. EARF will not accept any application made after the close of the call, as they will be considered non-compliant.

b)   Not meeting the eligibility criteria for an applicant research supplier institution.
The Terms of Reference (ToRs) provide clear eligibility criteria for institutions to qualify as applicant research suppliers. The ToRs of most EARF calls require a team of academic and subject experts working under a Lead Supplier Organisation.  The Lead Supplier Organisation should be a recognised higher education institution, research organisation or an organisation with a credible research capacity and experience of conducting similar research projects.
The Lead Supplier Organisation should demonstrate adequate capacity to undertake the research project. Preference is given to groups incorporating both international and regional (East Africa) expertise to encourage diverse perspectives, integrated and innovative thinking. Tenders from suitably qualified organisations or consortia are equally welcome. EARF encourages organisations teamed as consortia led by or including institutions from low or middle income countries, in particular those in East Africa.
Applicants who do not conform to the eligibility criteria are regarded as not compliant.

c)  Missing application components or incorrect format (not observing font size, page limits etc.) as described in section 3 of the Instructions to Suppliers.
Applicants are required to provide a complete application pack comprises of three components as follows:

  • Component 1: Technical Proposal
    • Executive Summary
    • Technical bid
    • Research methodology (completed in a prescribed template)
  • Component 2: Commercial Proposal
    • Commercial bid
  • Component 3: Additional Documentation
    • Suppliers Checklist
    • Supportive documentation (upon request)

d)   The technical bid missing any one of the 8 narrative components as provided for in section 3 of the Instructions to Suppliers, namely:

  •  Qualifications to the ToRs
  • Rationale, problem analysis and theoretical basis for undertaking the research work
  • Research Methodology
  • Research and management capability of the research team
  • Track record in undertaking similar work with CV summaries of the research experts
  • Quality assurance and performance management
  • Programme management arrangements including monitoring and evaluation plans

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