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What is a call-off contract?

We often get asked by suppliers who are new to the public sector market, what this and that procurement term actually means. One of the most common stumbling blocks is the call-off contract. Here’s a bit on that…

In a previous post where we wrote about some of the basics of public sector procurement, we covered ‘What is OJEU, and more recently Find a Tender (which replaced OJEU for UK Government). This time we tackle the call-off contract. Government procurement terminology can be quite difficult to wrap your head around and the call-off contracts are no different. To put it as simply as possible, a call-off contract is: a contract between a supplier and buyer for the provision of services, goods or works. Another name for it that you might hear, but not as often, is ‘specific contract’.


Call-offs are the final hurdle suppliers need to overcome to begin working with a public sector buyer. Only once the call-off is completed and signed can the supplier start the work. In theory, all call-offs have to be published on Contract Finder. In practice that’s not always the case.

In the olden days, all public sector procurement was done through tenders, so you would just apply for a tender and hope for the best. These days we see more and more public sector organisations buy through what’s called Framework Agreements. Stay with us… we’re throwing another term in the mix but its relevant, we promise.

From a public procurement perspective, a Framework is in effect a list of pre-qualified suppliers that can bid for work around a specific group of goods, services or works – because they have all signed the Framework Agreement. Buyers then award individual contracts (call-off) throughout the lifetime of the framework. So, to be in with a chance of selling to the public sector you should firstly get listed on a framework. But to actually start working with a buyer, you need to get to the call-off stage. How to actually get to the call-off stage is a whole other kettle of fish that we wont cover in this blog.


Our three top tips for completing a Call-off contracts

Even though the call offs contracts are the final stage of the process, there are a few things to do or avoid. Remember, not everything is set in stone at this stage. You could still lose the contract, or you could kick-start the relationships on a positive note.  And, we all know how important a good reputation is!  Here are our top three tips:

  • Get familiar with how public sector procurement works and what the terminology is – The call-off template holds information about the particular contract, such as the total contract value; how it’s going to be paid; main contact details for both the supplier and buyer sides; information on insurance, etc. Now this sounds simple enough, but often it’s not. The call-off contract can be hard to understand for first-time suppliers as they contain quite a bit of public sector – and legal – jargon. As a supplier with inspiration to sell to the government, you need to know your buyer, you need to know how they think and talk. The last thing you want is to waste money and resources on getting to grips with the basics at this late stage.
  • Fill in the contract for your buyer – The call-off contract comes in a form of a templated document that you fill in with your buyer. But we recommended to fill it for them instead – its good form to take that responsibility on and take the burden away from your customer. This isn’t easy though. You need to know the terms and the conditions of the framework very well. You don’t want it to be non-compliant. For example, an area of contention we’ve found is the length of the contract. Unsurprisingly often the time specified here by suppliers is longer then allowed.
  • Don’t try to amend the terms of the framework agreement during a call-off – Every framework has its own set of terms and condition. When you applied for it you signed those terms, otherwise you wouldn’t be listed. The call offs are not an opportunity for you to re-negotiate these terms and conditions. Trying to change this at this stage will not be received kindly!

These are the basics of a call-off. It might not be an easy thing to understand at first and it can be tricky to complete one, but it’s a good problem to have. It means you are just one step away from a sale! For our clients, we take that burden away and complete the call-off for them, or assist along the way.

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