Restrictions put in place for face-to-face meetings as a result of Covid-19 meant that many meetings were virtual, i.e. held using video conference platforms like Zoom or MS Teams. It is likely that virtual meetings will be here to stay as staff seek more flexible working arrangements.
If you are overseeing a tender process you may need to arrange virtual Evaluation Panel meetings. The conduct of virtual Evaluation Panel meetings represents a higher risk from a probity perspective than Evaluation Panel meetings held in person. This is due to the highly confidential nature of the discussions and the fact that important decisions relating to the tender are made during each meeting.
We have developed a checklist to help you manage the probity risks associated with virtual Evaluation Panel meetings.
|Have you used readily available technology to ensure that all participants can attend the meeting? It is also a good idea to give participants the option to dial into the meeting by telephone, should they encounter issues with bandwidth or internet outage.|
|Does the meeting invite only include people who are authorised to attend the video or teleconference? Only Evaluation Panel members and advisors who have signed relevant confidentiality undertakings for the tender should be invited. Use a unique video conference link and/or password and ask participants to use their full name when logging on.|
|Have you provided instructions on the conduct of the meeting? This should include guidance on logging on, who can speak and when, the use of the chat, raise your hand, and mute functions, whether cameras should be turned off and electronic recording is allowed. This can be issued as written guidance, or as a minimum, should be discussed as a standard agenda item at the start of the meeting.|
|Have you issued an agenda prior to the meeting which includes the names and role of the meeting attendees? This will help attendees to identify participants and monitor meeting attendance. Also consider collating information on Evaluation Panel members’ scores prior to the meeting if possible as this will help the meeting run more efficiently.|
|Have you assigned someone to monitor the meeting and provided their contact details to participants? A meeting monitor regularly checks the chat/messenger function to ensure that any questions are answered and see whether participants may be experiencing technical difficulties. You can include the meeting monitor’s contact details on the agenda if you wish.|
|Have you forwarded the assessment documentation to be discussed during the meeting? This is particularly important in situations where participants have dialed in by phone and may not be able to see the Evaluation Panel Chair’s screen. Ensure that you comply with relevant information security protocols such as password protecting email attachments or accessing information via a secure link.|
|Are there any unknown participants at the meeting? Ask each participant to introduce themselves at the start of the meeting noting their position and their role in the tender process. The Evaluation Panel Chair should seek the identity of any unknown telephone numbers or participants signed in as ‘Guest’.|
|Are participants located in a private location? Ask each participant to confirm that they are in a private location or at least not in a position where discussions can be easily overheard or where others can view their computer screen.|
|Can Evaluation Panel members easily see the information shared on the screen? When sharing screens, check that that participants can clearly see any information on the screen, particularly scores and assessment information. Enlarge documents using the zoom function if necessary. Do not share confidential information relating to other projects or activities.|
|Are all Evaluation Panel members contributing to the discussion? The Evaluation Panel Chair should consciously seek input from each Evaluation Panel member with respect to the assessment of proposals, scoring, and key decisions relating to the tender. Consider asking all Evaluation Panel members to turn on their cameras, particularly when discussing scores. Being able to see participants makes it easier to monitor and seek their contribution.|
|Are contingencies in place to make up for technological issues or poor communication? It is important that the Evaluation Panel Chair takes the time to ensure that there is a clear understanding of all material matters. This may require extra time at the end of the meeting, a follow-up telephone call, an email confirmation from the affected person, or an additional meeting.|
|Have you checked that everyone has left the meeting? The meeting Evaluation Panel Chair should remain on the video or teleconference until all other participants have left the meeting. Document the meeting as per your usual practice.|