We describe public sector procurement as the process of acquiring supplies, services and works for government departments, agencies and public bodies. Please click here for a full list of Central Government organisations.

“Buyers” in the public sector have to comply with EU & UK Law + various procurement policies and guidelines (depending on value of potential spend). The aim is to make the market competitive for all qualifying suppliers as well as being open and transparent in their buying process so as to stand public scrutiny.

We believe that these are the fundamentals for a successful modern public procurement process:

  • Early market engagement
  • Focus on outcomes, not solutions – including User Needs
  • Value for money
  • Supporting SMEs
  • Transparency of contracts and spending
  • Sustainability and efficiency of the supply chain

Public procurement policy for technology

Advice Cloud are procurement specialists who focus on cloud computing, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and digital services. Due to recent changes in policy, things are certainly moving in the right direction to make buying technology easier for the public sector:

The Digital Marketplace

Today, Cloud technology and Digital services are bought through the Digital Marketplace. This is the home to a variety of procurement frameworks, such as G-Cloud and Digital Outcomes and Specialists.

We love the Digital Marketplace because it replaces the traditional way of public procurement, which is done through individual contracts. It makes procurement cheaper, faster, more transparent and gives suppliers of all sizes and capacities the chance to win government business.

Public procurement processes often used to be about the survival of the fattest. Now with modern tools such as the Digital Marketplace to hand Procurement has the ability to change from the Department of No, to the Department of When and I find that tremendously exciting.

Chris FarthingMD at Advice Cloud

But what does it all mean?

Here, we aim to answer some common questions we come across about how public procurement works.

What is a framework?

A Framework from a public procurement perspective is in effect a list of pre-qualified suppliers that can bid for work around a specific group of goods, services or works. Eg Office stationery, Road Maintenance, PC supply. The aim of frameworks is to allow a purchaser more flexibility around contracted  goods or services,  in volume and in detail of the requirements.  By selecting from multi-supplier framework for its requirements,  the contracting authority can ensure that each purchase represents best value.  Frameworks used to be advertised in line with EU & UK procurement law using via an OJEU process, however from 1st January 2021 were advertised using the UK Government’s Find a Tender. The main benefit of a framework is that the buyers and suppliers do not need to go through the full tendering process when awarding work. Therefore making the process faster and often providing better value for money.

What are tenders?

“Tenders” are another term for public sector contracts. “Tendering” is therefore the process of procurement. The public sector will publish a request for goods or services, and suppliers can bid for that business.

What are Prior Information Notices (PINs)?

A Prior Information Notice or PIN is a method used by Public Sector authorities to alert potential suppliers that they may be interested in or looking to buy the services mentioned. It is not a formal call for competition. PINS are published on Find a Tender (formerly on Tender Electronic Daily too) in the same way a contract is advertised. An advantage of using a PIN is that the authority can then discuss its potential requirements with suppliers in advance to help form their specification or statement of works. A PIN can also allow for a shortening of the tender period (usually by a maximum of 5 days).

What is Find a Tender?

Find a Tender (FTS) is the new UK Government portal for publishing invitations to tender (ITT), PINs, qualification systems and contract award notices. It came into play on 1st January 2021, and was introduced following the UK’s exit from the EU. It has replaced OJEU as the main way to publish contracts over a certain value from the public sector.

Also known as FTS, it’s thresholds follow those previously defined by OJEU:

• £122,976 for Central Government
• £378,660 for Defence and Security
• £189,330 for other contracting authorities
• £70,778 for small Lots

Any procurements and tenders posted in 2020 will remain valid. However, any new contracts over the thresholds will have to be posted to the new Find a Tender e-notification platform from 1st January 2021.

When an FTS notice in the form of an ITT is released, suppliers can officially apply to the framework. The timescales vary for different frameworks, and all will have a deadline, a standstill period, and an official Award date.

What is OJEU?

The Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) is the online journal that was home to all public sector contracts from the UK, that are worth above a certain value, up until 31st December 2020. Since 1st January 2021, all contracts are to be posted on the Find a Tender service.

Who are CCS?

Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is an organisation in charge of providing policies and frameworks to help companies supply to the public sector. CCS also work with public sector buyers to help them achieve best value by procuring through their available routes to market.