Keep records of everything! We can’t stress this enough. When in doubt, make a record. Imagine 10 years down the line and you or your successor is asked to produce evidence that you conducted a fair and open competitive bidding process for FY2016. You or your successor will want to quickly and easily be able to locate all the documentation you need. Document retention is also a program requirement and is one of the most common compliance failures found during audits of schools and libraries.
We recommend you establish a record-keeping method early on in the filing process and document every step of it. Many organizations keep a big binder for each funding year and simply file all documentation for a given funding year in a single binder. Use these binder dividers to remind you what to keep.
Documentation that you should retain includes, but is not limited to:
- Emails between you and any service providers,
- Bids received,
- Evaluation criteria,
- Evaluation matrix and scores,
- Reasons you disqualified a provider(s)
See this list of documents we recommend you keep. Again, when in doubt, keep it.
Don’t accept gifts
Another important rule to note at this stage is the prohibition of giving or receiving gifts. You may not accept any item or service from any service provider during any point in the E-rate Program filing and funding process that exceeds $20 per gift or $50 per year from each service provider. This includes meals, items given at conferences, and free add-on services. Giving or receiving gifts is against program rules, and would be considered an unfair advantage. See more detailed guidelines on gifts.
Editor’s note: If you submitted FCC Form 470 on the same day we wrote about it on the blog (March 3), then at this point you’ll be in the 28-day waiting period. During the 28-day period, we’re covering general information about program rules and topics that are important to know about. We’ll begin posting about FCC Form 471, the funding request form, starting the week of April 4.