The UK Government/Public Sector Procurement Process, Part 2: Procurement Procedures

Once you’ve identified a contract you’d like to bid for, you may have to go through one of four different procurement procedures in order to actually win it. Did we say this was simple? We did not. 

The open procedure: you’ll be asked to return a tender by a set date. All tenders will be evaluated before the contract is awarded. This procedure is often used by local councils. It’s fairly straightforward, and bid contents may or may not be public knowledge. 

The restricted procedure: this is a 2-stage process. In the first stage, interested suppliers are asked to fill out a questionnaire and a short-list is drawn up. In the second stage, the shortlisted suppliers are invited to respond to an invitation to tender (ITT). The tenders are then evaluated and the contract awarded. This is where purchasers want to check you’re the right sort of vendor before you bid. Be warned: questionnaires can be somewhat time-consuming.•The competitive dialogue procedure: this procedure is used for more complex procurements. After a selection process, the buyer then negotiates with suppliers and invites chosen companies to put in a bid. Suppliers put in their tenders and the contract is awarded. This is akin to a beauty contest: are you good enough to be considered eligible to win work? Getting through the initial filters can be extremely lucrative, though, if, for example, you end up on a “Preferred Suppliers” list and someone has a great deal of money they’re obliged to spend before the end of the financial year. Jumping through the hoops can be astonishingly painful: this is where having a selection of well-written case studies can save you weeks of work. 

The negotiated procedure: in this procedure, the buyer enters into contract negotiations with one or more suppliers. Getting people to the table is only half the battle here. Don’t be surprised, though, if the value of the contract offered is less than it would actually cost you to provide/operate it. Only the big players in an industry can afford loss-leaders like this, and only for so long. 

Framework agreements: If a public sector organisation knows they are likely to need particular goods or services, but are unsure about exactly what they’ll need or when, they may decide to set up a group of approved suppliers that they can use when necessary. This is called a ‘framework agreement’. The organisation will invite potential suppliers to put themselves forward for the framework and choose the one(s) most able to do the work. Once the framework is set up, individual contracts are made throughout the period of the agreement. If there’s more than one possible supplier on the framework, a ‘mini-competition’ may be held to decide who gets the contract. That’s right: competitions within competitions.

Once the framework is set up, individual contracts are made throughout the period of the agreement. If there’s more than one possible supplier on the framework, a ‘mini-competition’ may be held to decide who gets the contract. That’s right: competitions within competitions. Bidception. It’s a nightmare you’re desperately trying to wake up from. 

Confused? The Crown Commercial Service offer some excellent guidance on how to become a supplier, so make time to read it throughly.

Now, all this sounds like you’d be much better off not getting involved in public sector procurement. It’s – potentially – a great deal of time and effort, and there is never any guarantee of work at the end of it. But when you think about how much money public sector organisations have to spend, and that they’re obliged to spend it, there can suddenly be a million reasons why your organisation needs to start getting involved in the procurement process. And they all have the Queen’s head on them. 

 



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