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Incorporating compliance teams in the request for proposals process

Procurement personnel should know when to include the compliance team in the request for proposals process.

Our compliance team is working with our legal and IT counterparts to increase its influence in the request for proposals (RFP) process with third-party vendors. Are there any key compliance issues that should be considered during the RFP process that are often overlooked?

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Incorporating compliance reviews into your RFP and contracting processes is an essential component of compliance programs, especially in organizations that engage heavily in outsourcing business processes.

I've found that the best way to do this is to provide procurement personnel with a checklist that they can use to help determine when IT compliance involvement is necessary. For example, they might run through the following questions when preparing to issue an RFP:

  • Will this contract involve the storage, processing or transmission of Social Security numbers or other sensitive information that may trigger breach notification laws?
  • Will this contract involve credit card transactions that may be subject to PCI DSS?
  • Will this contract affect electronic protected health information that is covered by HIPAA?
  • Does this contract involve financially significant systems regulated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act?

The specific questions you include on your checklist will vary depending upon your specific regulatory environment. They shouldn't seek to solve every compliance issue, but rather to serve as a set of guidelines for identifying RFPs where compliance must be discussed in further detail.

It's also helpful to have boilerplate language that you can use to impose compliance burdens on vendors. While you'll often find yourself negotiating the language of specific agreements, it's a good idea to propose your own acceptable language as a starting point and let the vendor propose changes, rather than trying to convert their preferred language into something acceptable to your organization.

This was last published in April 2013

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