[News] Post July 11, USAID presses on with Cuba projects

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Sat Jul 24 13:22:48 EDT 2021


cubamoneyproject.com <https://cubamoneyproject.com/2021/07/20/usaid-6/> Post
July 11, USAID presses on with Cuba projects – Cuba Money Project
Tracey Eaton - July 20, 2021
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The U.S. Agency for International Development today said it wasn’t changing
its latest grant offering in response to the wave of protests in Cuba.
“There are no plans to amend the original scope or objectives of the
NOFO (Notice
of Funding Opportunity
<https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iXcF8kVbIVE_pM1y94Xt-8iSsjP_Lgi2/view?usp=sharing>)
in response to recent events in Cuba,” the agency said. However,
“applicants should take the current political situation into account when
designing proposed activities.”
USAID on June 30 had announced
<https://cubamoneyproject.com/2021/07/03/usaid-5/> it was offering up to $2
million democracy-promotion projects. Grants will range from $500,000 to $1
million each. The agency said it expected applicants to “identify
unrecognized and unmet needs of Cuban civil society in its pursuit of human
rights and democratic values.” The application deadline is 5 p.m. July 30.
Prospective bidders have submitted three dozen questions about the funding
opportunity. One question discussed the logistics of giving microgrants to
artists on the island. USAID replied, “Applicants should propose whatever
partnership strategy they deem effective to meet the objectives outlined in
the NOFO.”
Another bidder asked if it was OK to use pseudonyms for staff and partners
and later share the real names with USAID using a secure platform such as
Signal. The agency replied:
“USAID acknowledges the sensitive nature of this program. Applicants should
take this into consideration when submitting applications in response to
the NOFO.”
The full list of questions and USAID’s answers are below:

*USAID NOFO No. 7200AA21RFA00024*
*Supporting Local Civil Society and Human Rights in Cuba*
*Questions & Answers*

Question #1: The NOFO states, “Under this award and subject to the
availability of funds, USAID intends to provide up to $2 million in total
USAID funding over a three-year period. USAID anticipates one to two awards
ranging from $500,000 to $1 million each.” Can USAID please provide
guidance as to how they are envisioning the price component of this award?
Is USAID conceptualizing these as separate price categories ($500,000 and
under, and $1 million and under)? Can USAID please provide guidance to
bidders regarding acceptable minimum thresholds within these two price
categories?

Answer #1: There are no minimum thresholds. Applicants should propose
budgets to achieve the results of their proposed programs within the limits
stated. Since applicants propose their own programs, USAID does not
establish minimums as each applicant proposes their own project and
approach.

Question #2: Page 35 of the NOFO provides guidance regarding USAID’s
evaluation of forthcoming bids, namely stating that the overall rating for
proposals will “be evaluated in order of descending importance: technical
approach, organizational capability, management structure and staffing
plan.” The overall rating does not factor in price according to USAID’s
schematic. Moreover, USAID additionally states on page 35 of the
solicitation that the “agency will evaluate the cost application…to
determine whether the costs are allowable in accordance with the cost
principles found in 2 CFR 200 Subpart E.” These statements by USAID imply
that underpricing proposal offers will NOT be a factor in USAID’s
evaluation of forthcoming proposals. Will USAID commit to the non-inclusion
of underpricing as a factor in proposal evaluations for the purposes of
this solicitation?

Answer #2: USAID will review the cost application and evaluate and analyze
specific elements of costs for reasonableness and allowability of costs in
the budget, and the allowability of the costs under the applicable cost
principles. The review of the proposed budget is to determine the
applicant’s understanding of the financial aspects of the program and the
recipient’s ability to perform the grant activities within the amount
requested and whether the applicant’s plans will achieve the program
objectives with reasonable economy and efficiency.

Question #3: The NOFO states “The Office of Cuban Affairs of the USAID
Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC/Cuba) reserves the right to
lessen the scope or reduce costs as appropriate.” Can USAID please clarify
under what circumstances LAC/Cuba may lessen the scope or reduce costs? Can
Lac/Cuba refer bidders to USAID’s guiding directives outlining requisite
protocols and procedures for these kinds of circumstances should they occur?

Answer #3: This statement relates to the availability of funds for the
fiscal year. It is at USAID’s sole discretion to ultimately decide on the
final amount of any awards issued.

Question #4: Given the current uprising by Cuban citizens against the
regime, do you plan to issue an amendment to the solicitation that may
further address those developments?

Answer #4: No, there are no plans to amend the original scope or objectives
of the NOFO in response to recent events in Cuba. Applicants should take
the current political situation into account when designing proposed
activities.

Question #5: Given the current situation on the island, will USAID be
issuing an extension for submission of proposals beyond the July 30, 2021
closing date?

Answer #5: No, the closing date of July 30, 2021, remains unchanged for the
NOFO.

Questions #6: Can the project be proposed as an activity shorter than 36
months?

Answer #6: Yes. See Section B(3) of the NOFO for details.

Question #7: Given the context of protests in Cuba, have any changes in the
NOFO been foreseen?

Answer #7: No, there are no changes or plans to amend the original scope or
objectives of the NOFO in response to recent events in Cuba. Applicants
should take the current political situation into account when designing
proposed activities.

Question #8: Is it possible to include in the proposal advocacy activities
and promotion of artistic pieces outside Cuba?

Answer #8: Applicants should propose whatever strategies they deem most
effective in achieving the stated objectives of the NOFO.

Question #9: Is it necessary to adjust the proposal to only one of the two
objectives or can we foresee activities that contribute to both objectives?

Answer #9: Applicants may apply to one or both objectives in the NOFO.

<http://cubamoneyproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/IMG_9267-copy.jpg>Question
#10: We understand that the project can have a maximum extension of 36
months. What would be the minimum extension, if any?

Answer #10: As stated in Section B.3, the maximum period of performance is
up to 36 months. USAID does not anticipate any extensions at this time.

Question #11: NOFO Page 16 Section 4: Please confirm application submission
will be only by email and not through the grants platform.

Answer #11: Yes. Applications must be submitted electronically to
mamunoz at usaid.gov

Question #12: NOFO Page 23 Annex 7 Organization Matrix of Projects and Page
28 h) History of Performance. Can these 2 pieces be consolidated into one
single detail?

Answer #12: No.

Question #13: NOFO Page 24 c) Required Certification and Assurances: Please
confirm these certifications are to be prepared only upon USAID request.
Besides, is SF-424B mandatory as it is also mentioned in item b) SF424B
Forms ?

Answer #13: Yes. The Certifications and Assurances are submitted upon
request by the AO. The SF424 B is a mandatory form, see Amendment 1
(Synopsis 2) for details.

Question #14: NOFO Page 25 Subawards: Would this section be the one
applicable for a partnership with a US based NGO implementing part of the
project ? And how about potential Contribution Agreements (microgrants) to
individuals living in Cuba to perform part of the core activities
in-country? These people are mainly artists who belong to relevant CSOs in
the island, but such CSOs are not allowed to legally exist, and also
considering Procurement goods and services is not always feasible in normal
conditions without risk exposure.

Answer #14: Please see Section C.3 for additional information on
“Partnerships.” Applicants should propose whatever partnership strategy
they deem effective to meet the objectives outlined in the NOFO.

Questions #15: Can USAID please confirm if the Technical Approach section
of the proposal can be longer than eight pages, if the Executive Summary
section is shorter than two pages, as long as the Technical Application
(minus annexes) is ten pages total?

Answer #15: No. The technical approach must not exceed eight pages. See
Section 5 Technical Application Format of the NOFO.

Question #16: On page 13, USAID mentions that “References for the past
performance of each partner organization should also be provided.” Can
USAID confirm that references only need to be included in Annex 6:
Organizational Capacity, and not within the ten page limit for the
Technical Application?

Answer #16: See Amendment 1 (Synopsis 2) for details. Please follow the
Business (Cost) Application Format guidelines found on page 28 of the NOFO.

Question #17: On page 15, USAID states that “A 10 point font can be used
for graphs and charts. Tables, however, must comply with the 12 point Times
New Roman requirement.” In the interest of ensuring relevant content fits
within page layout requirements and page limits, would USAID consider
allowing 10 or 11 point font for Tables?

Answer #17: No.

Question #18: On page 18, USAID mentions that the Technical Approach should
“Discuss…programming of human resources, and performance indicators.” Can
USAID please confirm that the staffing can be discussed in Annex 3: Program
Management Approach, and the indicators listed within Annex 2: Draft
Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan?

Answer #18: Yes, staffing can be discussed in Annex 3: Program Management
Approach and proposed indicators may be included in Annex 2: Draft
Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan.

Question #19: The NOFO provides budget categories (starting on page 25),
but budget category 6 is missing (the numbering jumps from 5 to 7). Can
USAID clarify what budget category should be listed after subawards (5)?

Answer #19: Typographical error, see Amendment 1 (Synopsis 2) for details.

Question #20: Given the amount of information required for the Monitoring,
Evaluation & Learning Annex, we respectfully request that the Results
Framework may be submitted as a separate section of the annex that is not
included in the page limit.

Answer #20: Please follow the Technical Application Format guidelines found
on page 19 of the NOFO. A final MEL Plan, including the Results Framework,
will be due within 90 days of a signed award agreement.

Question #21: On page 19, USAID mentions that the Draft Implementation Plan
should include “The Implementation Plan should address any potential
contingency plans should activities be affected by the ongoing global
pandemic and/or other potential natural disasters.” Can USAID confirm if
the applicant can include a discussion of contingency measures separately,
or how it should be incorporated into a visual timeline, such as a GANTT
chart?

Answer #21: The Technical Approach narrative may include a discussion of
potential contingency plans should activities be affected by the ongoing
pandemic and/or other potential natural disasters. The timeline of any
planned activities — including back-up plans — should be reflected in the
Draft Implementation Plan.

Question #22: Under the Program Management Plan description on page 21,
USAID requests that applications include a “statement of work, or terms of
reference.” In order to reduce repetition, and ensure compliance with page
limits, can USAID confirm if the statement of work for partners can be
included in the Technical Application or within the Program Management
Plan, and if so, which one USAID prefers?

Answer #22: It is already included under Annex 3. Program Management
Approach, see page 19 – 22 of the NOFO.

Question #23: Under the Program Management Plan description on page 21,
USAID requests that applications include: “The total estimated cost,
including a detailed line-item budget and budget narrative that also
includes proposed cost share, if applicable, and a copy of any current
indirect cost rate agreement between the U.S. Government and the
sub-awardee.” In order to reduce repetition, and ensure compliance with
page limits, can USAID confirm if applicants can submit all cost
information for partners within the Cost Application, which is not subject
to page limits?

Answer #23: Yes.

Question #24: Given the waiver for Marking Requirements, can USAID please
confirm if the applicant should still submit a Branding Strategy and
Marking Plan Annex as part of the cost application?

Answer #24: No. Section i) states that “USAID marking requirements have
been waived for all LAC/Cuba program activities in accordance with Approved
USAID Memorandum, “Marking Requirements Waiver for All Cuba Programs.”

Questions #25: Under the Technical Application on page 23, USAID requires
“Annex 7: Organization Matrix of Projects (not to exceed two pages)” and on
page 28 under the Cost Application USAID requires “h) History of
Performance.” In order to reduce repetition, and ensure compliance, can
USAID confirm whether both or only one of these are required? If only one
or the other is required, can USAID confirm which one?

Answer #25: Both are required.

Question #26: Given the sensitive nature of this program and security
considerations for potential partners and staff, could USAID please confirm
if offerors may include pseudonyms for select staff and partners in the
proposal (e.g., labeling a potential partner as “organization #1”) and
share the pertinent information separately with USAID through a secure
platform such as Signal?

Answer #26: USAID acknowledges the sensitive nature of this program.
Applicants should take this into consideration when submitting applications
in response to the NOFO.

Question #27: Can USAID please confirm if offerors may put forward and name
more than the two required key personnel?

Answer #27: No. See Section A.3. Management Structure and Staffing Plan,
paragraph (4) of the NOFO for details.

Question #28: Given the evolving situation in Cuba which has led to
internet and electricity outages and hampered communication with local
partners, would USAID consider extending the deadline for proposal
submissions by two weeks, with a new proposed deadline of August 13, 5:00
PM Eastern Time, in order to allow for maximum flexibility to coordinate
with and incorporate input from local partners?

Answer #28: No, the closing date of July 30, 2021 remains unchanged for the
NOFO.

Questions #29: Can USAID please confirm that h ) History of Performance
referenced on page 28 of the NOFO is the same as Annex 7: Organization
Matrix of Projects to be included with the technical volume?

Answer #29: No, they are not the same.

Question #30: Given the ongoing protests and demonstrations in Cuba, would
USAID consider making changes to the published RFA, such as extending the
due date by 30 days?”

Answer #30: No, the closing date of July 30, 2021 remains unchanged for the
NOFO. Question 31 : Pages 5-6, Section A: Program Description, 4.
Objectives and Activities: “To advance the goal, USAID proposes two
objectives: a. Advance the effectiveness of independent civil society
groups to advocate for greater human rights and freedoms … b. Develop
broader coalitions to expand civil society’s impact.” Can USAID please
confirm that applicants can choose to respond to only one objective of the
proposal?

Answer #31: Applicants may apply to one or both objectives in the NOFO.

Question #32: Page 15, Section D: Application and Submission Information,
3. General Content and Form of Application: A 10-point font can be used for
graphs and charts. Tables, however, must comply with the 12-point Times New
Roman requirement. Using the same size font for tables and text makes
tables hard to read, as the text is all the same size and not clearly set
off from the rest of the page. Would USAID consider allowing offerors to
use a 10-point font for tables?

Answer #32: No.

Question #33: Page 23, Section D: Application and Submission Information,
5. Technical Application Format, Application Contents: Annex 7.
Organization Matrix of Projects (not to exceed two pages): “The Applicant
must provide a matrix of all its contracts, grants, or cooperative
agreements involving similar or related programs during the past three
years. The reference information for these awards must include the
performance location; title of award; brief description of the work
performed; and dates of performance.” Pages 28-29, Section D: Application
and Submission Information, 6. Business (Cost) Application Format, h)
History of Performance: “The applicant must provide information regarding
its recent history of performance for all its cost-reimbursement contracts,
grants, or cooperative agreements involving similar or related programs,
not to exceed three years, as follows: a. Name of the Awarding
Organization; b. Award Number; c. Activity Title; d. Performance Location;
e. A brief description of the activity; f. Period of Performance; g. Award
Amount; h. Reports and findings from any audits performed in the last two
years; and i. Name of at least two (2) updated professional contacts who
most directly observed the work at the organization for which the service
was performed with complete current contact information including telephone
number, and e-mail address for each proposed individual.”

Question #33a: Can USAID please clarify the difference between these two
lists?

Answer #33a: One is related to experience and the other is related to past
performance.

Question #33b: Considering that a complete list of all cost-reimbursement
contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements involving similar or related
programs during the past three years could be substantial, would USAID
consider removing the two-page limit for Annex 7 to the technical
application?

Answer #33b: No. Applicants should be able to demonstrate relevant
experience in two pages. Question 33c: Can USAID please confirm that the
History of Performance section (referenced on pages 28-29) will not be
evaluated as it is part of the Business (cost) application?

Answer #33c: Yes.

Question 34: Page 23, Section D: Application and Submission Information, 5.
Technical Application Format, Application Contents: “Annex 8. Cuba
Commodities List (not to exceed two pages, if applicable)” Can USAID please
confirm whether the Cuba Commodities List is required if the Applicant does
not intend to provide commodities during the proposed program?

Answer #34: If the applicant does not intend to provide them, it should
state “the applicant does not intend to provide commodities.”

Question #35: Pages 24-25, Section 6: Business (Cost) Application Format,
d) Budget and Budget Narrative: “The Budget must include the following
worksheets or tabs, and contents, at a minimum… Detailed Budgets for each
sub-recipient, for all federal funding and cost share, broken out by budget
category and by year, for the entire implementation period of the project.”
Given current circumstances in the country, there is a possibility that
communication with partners may be inconsistent. Can USAID confirm if
detailed budgets must be included for all sub-recipients, or if these are
“preferred, if available” at the time of submission?

Answer #35: Yes. It must include detailed budgets.

Question #36: Given the current context in Cuba, is USAID considering an
extension of the deadline for submission of this NOFO?

Answer #36: No, the closing date of July 30, 2021 remains unchanged for the
NOFO.
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