This is an open-ended scenario for discussion based on a case from the NSPE Board of Ethical Review. It concerns the selection of an engineering firm for a city project assignment based on technical proposals and the possibility that one firm may have an unfair advantage.
Sophie is a city engineer and is authorized by the city council to select engineering firms for project assignments. She selected your firm for an initial study of the technical and economic feasibility of a large electrical power plant project. Sophie and your firm negotiated a single payment agreement for the study, which was approved by the city council. Your firm completed the study and concluded that the proposed project was possible from both technical and economic standpoints and that the project could be designed and constructed within currently available funds.
The city council approved the project concept and directed Sophie to proceed with the selection of an engineering firm for the design of the project and professional services during the construction phase. Sophie invited submission of the technical proposals from all interested engineering firms in the local area for the design and related work, making available to all the complete feasibility study report submitted by your firm.
Should your firm submit a technical proposal after having reported on the feasibility of the project? Why or why not?
Suppose that your firm does submit such a proposal. If you were Sophie, would you accept it? Under what circumstances would you accept the proposal?
--adapted from NSPE Case No. 78-9
NSPE Code of Ethics An earlier version may have been used in this case.
Return to Professional Ethics in Engineering Practice: Discussion Cases Based on NSPE BER Cases
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