A guide to tendering for public sector contracts
If you’re a buyer looking to procure technology through a government framework, you’ll need to know how the tendering process works.
To begin, what are tenders? This term refers to contract opportunities published by public sector organisations such as yourself, detailing your required goods, services and technologies. The key document required to publish the opportunity is the Invitation to Tender (ITT) which essentially invites suppliers to bid for the contract. This is often a very comprehensive document, or set of documents, including but not limited to the following information:
- Requirements of the solution
- The timeline of the procurement/tender process
- A detailed overview of the evaluation process and question weightings.
If the tender opportunity refers to the invitation to apply for a framework itself, details of the Lot structures, number of suppliers to be awarded a place on the framework and other related information needs to be included.
The tender opportunity or bid pack also includes (where relevant) the Framework Agreement, Call Off Agreement and Call Off template. It’s also important that as a contracting authority, you include the contractual order of precedence for the various terms and conditions in case of a dispute; for example:
- The Framework Agreement
- The completed Order Form
- The clauses of a Call-Off Contract (excluding Supplier Terms)
- The Supplier’s Terms
- Any other document referred to in the Call-Off Contract clauses
The tender process
Next is the tender process itself. There are a number of different procurement procedures, and it’s important to state which will be used when publishing the opportunity:
- Open tender – the tender is published and interested suppliers can submit tenders before a set deadline.
- Restricted tender – A two-stage tender process; the selection stage usually involves a number of pre-quafication questions to ensure the supplier is suitable for the opportunity. The second stage will then involve the ITT and a number of technical and quality-related questions, followed by the contract award.
- Competitive Dialogue – In between the selection stage and the contract award stage, the buyer negotiates with a number of suppliers to define and develop the suitable product or solution. This stage may include further written submissions or interviews. Once decided, the ITT is published to a selective number of suppliers, and the contract is awarded.
- Negotiated tender – In which the public sector authority will enter into contract negotiations with a limited number of suppliers. There still includes two-stage process, but buyers have the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the contract prior to the contract award. However, this process is only to be used in exceptional circumstances; such as the case of an extreme emergency, or where there is a single supplier who provides a unique solution.
Where can I publish a tender?
Finally, where to list your opportunities? When it comes to publishing tenders, there are a few regulations that UK public sector organisations are required to adhere to, which relate to contract values and compliance with EU regulations.
- If opportunities have a contract value over the relevant EU procurement threshold, you’re required to publish them through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Suppliers can view these opportunities through Tenders Electronic Daily, known as TED.
- Tenders with a contract value of over £10,000 must also be published via Contracts Finder.
- You can also publish tender opportunities via your own website.
That’s it! An overview of the tender process, what should be included in opportunities, and where to publish them.