Bids, tenders and proposals winning business through best practice, 5th edition
Bids, Tenders & Proposals
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Bids, Tenders & Proposals Winning business
through best practice
Publisher’s note Every possible effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate at the time of going to press, and the publishers and author cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions, however caused. No responsibility for loss or damage occasioned to any person acting, or refraining from action, as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by the editor, the publisher or the author.
First published in Great Britain and the United States in 2002 by Kogan Page Limited Second edition 2005 Revised second edition 2007 Third edition 2009 Fourth edition 2012 Fifth edition 2015 Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms and licences issued by the CLA. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside these terms should be sent to the publishers at the undermentioned addresses: 2nd Floor, 45 Gee Street 1518 Walnut Street, Suite 1100 London EC1V 3RS Philadelphia PA 19102 United Kingdom USA www.koganpage.com
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Bidding to succeed 1 About this book 1 Guidelines to set you on course 2 Developing skills in bid writing 6 Market research and intelligence 7
Bidding for public sector contracts 11 The EU procurement framework 11 Key aspects of the procurement regulations 12 Outline of the procurement process 20 Priorities for the public sector 22 Bidding for project funding 23
Tendering for the private sector 26 Equal concern for value for money 26
Bidding for research funding 31 Tendering for EU-funded research 31 Essential dos and don’ts 32 Research council and government funding 34 Bidding for Lottery research funding 36
Tendering for international development contracts 37 World Bank 39 United Nations 41
Pre-qualifying for tender opportunities 43 Pre-qualification information 49 Guidance to get you ahead 53
Deciding whether or not to bid 58 Issues to consider 58 Risk assessment 67
Analysing the tender documents 69 Points for checklists 71
Managing the bid 84 Planning and coordination 84 Document management and version control 88 Programming production and delivery 90 Checking bid quality 91 Bringing together resources and inputs 93 Using a bid development worksheet 95 Maintaining bid records 95
Talking to the client 98
Bidding in partnership 102 Guidelines for association 103 Overseas bids: teaming up with local associates 105
Thinking the work through 109 Get the measure of the work 109 Match technical content and price 110 Recognize and manage risk 111 Reduce the risk of contract failure 115
Developing and writing the bid 116 Structuring the bid 116 Thinking different 120
Commenting on the tender documents 120 Bid letters 121 Summarizing the bid 122 Response matrix 124 Bid development timeline 124 Creating the text 124 Editing the bid 130
Explaining approach and method 135 Writing method statements 137 Structuring the work plan 139
Focusing on contract management 145 Team management and resources 146 Management interface 149 Quality management 153
Defining outcomes and deliverables 156 Contract deliverables 156
Communicating added value 161
Presenting CVs 166 Management of CVs 166 Standardizing CV format and structure 168 Basic structure for CVs 169 Résumés 176
Describing professional experience 177 Client references 177 Project summaries and case studies 177 Bringing experience to life 181
Making good use of graphics 183 Types of bid graphics 183 Guidelines for effective graphics 184
Design software 186 The bid cover 187 Bid design and page layout 187
Stating your price 189 Components of price information 189 Cost assumptions 194 Payment 196 Separate financial proposals 197 Best practice in dealing with price 198 Financial information in research bids 201
Electronic and hard-copy submission 203 Electronic submission 203 The submission process 204 Hard-copy production 208 Packaging and delivery 209
Understanding how clients evaluate tenders 211 Evaluation criteria in public sector procurement 211 Methods of evaluating bids 214 Questions clients ask 218 Learning from success and failure 223 Evaluation of research proposals 224
Presentations to clients 227 Planning and making the presentation 227 Visual aids 229 Pitfalls to avoid 230
True stories 232 And the moral of these stories? 236
Approaches to the bidding process 3 Example of tender opportunities on a local authority website: screen shot 15 UK regional and national e-tendering portals 16 Steps in a typical local authority process for services or consultancy 21 Typical decision-making structure in corporate procurement 29 Example of guidance note on electronic pre-qualification 51 Example of PQQ evaluation methodology, UK public sector procurement 54 Example of client note on scoring of references 55 Example of a tender submission checklist 77 Bid management responsibilities 87 Detail of a bid development worksheet 96 Detail of a matrix of team experience 119 Detail of a bid response matrix 125 Recommended timeline for bid development and production 126 Checklist for peer reviewers 133 Example of client guidance 136 Recommended treatment of technical approach and methodology in proposals for World Bank-funded projects 140 Team member: example of outline of technical responsibilities and résumé 143 World Bank standard template for CV information 170 First page of a CV showing recommended style 171 World Bank standard template for project experience information 178 Use of thumbnail sketches 184 Example of guidance note on electronic submission 206 Typical ‘evaluation tree’ for a public sector procurement 212 Example of a technical evaluation matrix 215 Examples of technical evaluation scoring 216
P R E FA C E TO T H E FIFTH EDITION
his new edition reflects the reformed public sector tendering environment that has come into effect in the EU as a result of the adoption of Directive 2014/24/E and its implementation in national legislation. Chapter 2 on bidding for public sector contracts has been comprehensively rewritten to bring it up-to-date with new regulations in the UK, while Chapter 6 (Pre-qualifying for tender opportunities) takes account of measures to simplify the bidding process and reduce the burden of paperwork, particularly for low-value contracts and small and medium-size businesses. As in previous editions, I have taken the opportunity to revise points of wording and refresh examples of tender material. I have again drawn from my continuing experience as a specialist consultant to add detailed advice that I hope will make the book an even more useful source of guidance on writing competitive tenders. I am grateful to Jenni Hall, Senior Commissioning Editor at Kogan Page and Lucy Carter, Development Editor, for their support and assistance during the preparation of this new edition.
Bidding to succeed
About this book If you are engaged in professional services, consultancy or research, you will find guidance here on every step in the process of writing bids, tenders and proposals for contracts and project funding. The book puts at your disposal techniques that the author has perfected as a specialist writer in this field and insights gained from his experience as a tender evaluator with client organizations in the public and private sectors. Those who are new to bid writing will learn how to build the confidence to start producing successful bids. Those who are more experienced will, it is hoped, be shown new ideas that extend and reinforce their skills. There are points of definition to be made at the outset. Though the type of document that is the subject of this book – a formal written offer to undertake work or provide services for a stated price – is usually called a ‘tender’ in services procurement, consultants may be more likely to refer to it as a ‘proposal’ or ‘bid’, while some contracting authorities may use the term ‘offer’ and research bodies may talk about an ‘application for funding’. Since the book is relevant to all these fields, the words ‘bid’, ‘tender’ and ‘proposal’ are used here without distinction as inclusive and generic terms. Similarly, the term ‘contractor’ should be understood to mean any individual, firm or organization putting in a bid, whatever their background. The scope of the book includes a broad range of procurement and funding. The text aims to deal comprehensively with its subject matter, and the advice it gives is relevant to tendering for supplies and works contracts; though constraints on space preclude specialist treatment of ‘design, build and operate’ schemes and similar contracts. Much of the material will be pertinent also to public–private partnerships, though procurement issues related specifically to these initiatives are not addressed directly in the book. This introductory section is followed by chapters highlighting aspects of bidding in four broad environments: public sector procurement, particularly within the EU framework (Chapter 2); contracts for private sector clients (Chapter 3); research funding (Chapter 4); and international development (Chapter 5). Pre-qualification procedures are the subject of Chapter 6. The
Bids, Tenders & Proposals
process is then traced out step by step from the decision to put in a bid (Chapter 7) through the task of managing its preparation and development to the construction of the text (Chapters 8 to 13). The categories of information normally included in a bid, from technical analyses to cost estimates, are discussed in Chapters 14 to 21, while the concluding sections (Chapters 22 to 25) follow the bid through the stages of submission and evaluation. The techniques described in the book are within the reach of everyone, whether firms of contractors or individuals working on their own: they can be put to use in tendering for small projects as much as large contracts, in writing short proposals as much as multi-volume offers, and in international competitive bidding as well as internal procurement. At its simplest, bidding can require no more than a short letter in response to a direct approach from a client. At the other extreme, the process can go through several stages, involving a protracted sequence of documentation on the part of clients and contractors. The choice of process is determined principally by the context of the bid and the scale of the contract: clients in the private sector tend to prefer a direct and uncomplicated approach, while public sector authorities are required to adopt more formal procedures and have less flexibility in the way they select contractors and award contracts. Figure 1.1 summarizes these two approaches, indicating the types of document that are commonly associated with each stage in a formal process of bidding. In most sectors of procurement, competitive bidding is the norm for all except small, low-value and low-risk assignments. Single sourcing is generally considered acceptable only if the work is a logical extension of a previous or existing contract and continuity is required, or if only one contractor is qualified or trusted to undertake the work, or if a contract has to be awarded quickly in an emergency. But even in these situations it makes good sense for the client to ask the contractor for what is to all intents and purposes a bid, stating how the work will be performed, when it will be completed, what the outcomes and deliverables will be and what the work will cost.
Guidelines to set you on course Focus on the client’s needs The prime function of a bid can be seen from the standpoint of the contractor as winning business through a competitive response to the client’s requirements. But it is important to view bidding also from the client’s perspective. For the client, the purpose of the process is to help identify accurately and reliably the contractor likely to deliver the best value and achieve the best results. Following the client’s instructions and supplying the information the client needs to reach this decision are matters of common sense; yet it is surprising how many bids fail in this respect.
Bidding to Succeed
F i g u r e 1.1 Approaches to the bidding process Direct approach from client
Tender announcement Contract notice
Pre-qualification Expression of interest Capability statement Shortlist Bid specification Invitation to tender Request for proposals Terms of reference Brief Information package Instructions to tenderers
Letter or presentation from consultant
Bid Tender Proposal Application for funding Evaluation
Commissioning of work
Negotiation Contract award
The procurement activity in which the bid plays a central role is ‘owned’ by the client: it is the client who sets up the competition, invites contractors to bid and judges the strengths of each competitor. So the client’s priorities, not those of the contractor, have to take centre stage. A bid that shares with the client an identity of understanding and commitment is more likely to succeed than one presenting only the contractor’s point of view. This is why it is so important to try to gain in-depth knowledge about a client’s business environment, strategies and objectives before starting to prepare the bid. And it is the reason why an effort has been made throughout the guidance offered in this book to reflect the views and preferences expressed by clients.
Bids, Tenders & Proposals
Do not misunderstand the point of writing a proposal. It is not meant to set out a solution to the client’s problems. That would amount to dispensing free advice, not winning business! What a proposal is meant to do is convince the client organization that you have the skills, resources and experience to work out the right solution, and that it will gain unique added value and achieve its objectives best by awarding the work to you.
Match the bid to the opportunity Knowing how to develop bids efficiently and communicate them powerfully is a key business skill, essential for survival and growth. Bids are first and foremost business documents. To succeed they need to exhibit businesslike qualities both in the way they address the work to be done and in the way they speak to the client. The bid has to show that the person or people who wrote it thought hard about the client’s requirements, interpreted them accurately, developed the bid specifically for that opportunity and exercised care in its preparation, and that it was not just patched together using copy-and-paste commands. Some contractors seem to have a production-line attitude to bids. They think they have found an easy solution: all that is necessary is to splice and recycle the same material, adding a touch of local flavouring here and there. This is because they see bid preparation as a chore to be despatched with as little effort on their part as possible. It is a frame of mind that wins few marks from clients. They can instantly detect a standard, off-the-shelf formula dusted down for one more appearance. Few contractors manage to win work by half-heartedly going through the motions of tendering. There is little point in submitting a bid unless it has distinctive benefits to offer the client, and unless it is designed to be as competitive as it can be in terms of both technical quality and value for money. The aim should be to establish an invincible case for the superiority of the bid, working hard to get its content right and communicating its strengths as convincingly as possible.
Be honest and realistic about what you can achieve Don’t oversell or inflate the bid with unrealizable promises. The only result of that will be flocks of chickens coming home to roost. Once clients come to believe that they cannot rely on you to deliver what you promise, you will have your work cut out to regain their confidence. This point is important to bear in mind when you are bidding for further work from them, especially if there are aspects of your past performance that ran into problems or failed to meet their expectations. You will have to address those failings directly in the bid and show that you have taken action to put things right. Blithe assurances about your commitment to developing a new relationship and delivering fully in future are not enough. If your bid is to have credibility,
Bidding to Succeed
clients will want to see hard and convincing evidence that you mean to do what you say. When seeking work from new clients, you are unlikely to get far if you just make generalized assertions about the strength of your expertise or the breadth of your experience. As observed in Chapter 19, you need to validate your claims with solid facts and credentials that you can prove.
Performance – the essential credential Those who are new to proposal writing may imagine that to win a contract for repeat business from an existing client is a relatively easy task. In the author’s experience, the opposite is true. When you are defending your position against challengers eager to take your place, your proposal has to be even more combative, and this demands much more effort. True, you will be well placed to put in a competent bid, the client will be familiar with your people and your strengths, and you should know more about the client’s requirements and the practicalities of the work than anyone else. But your competitors may seem to offer a fresh source of energy and ideas; their personnel may be just as skilled and resourceful as yours, and if they are a younger and smaller firm, they will probably carry a lesser burden of overheads and so may be able to quote a keener price for the work. There are three principal questions that a client will want to consider: ■■
Who will give us better value for money – our existing contractors or new ones? Will a change of contractors bring practical benefits in terms of service quality and outcomes? Will we enjoy a more constructive working relationship with new contractors?
The most powerful weapon in your armoury – and your strongest marketing tool – is your performance record on current and past contracts for the client. Initiatives launched, innovations achieved, targets met, milestones reached, outputs delivered, outcomes secured – all these need to be emphasized forcefully as part of the added value you bring. Performance and value are the keys to retaining your status as the client’s preferred supplier: your proposal has to demonstrate that you are the front-runner in terms of the dependability of your contract management as much as the primacy of your technical expertise. The critical importance of communicating added value throughout the proposal is discussed in Chapter 17.
Readability makes a difference No amount of slick phrasing can disguise a lack of technical substance. A bid needs to be written in a way that conveys energy, enthusiasm and drive, and it should be interesting and easy to read. There is a consensus
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among evaluators that the bids most likely to win are those that make their case straightforwardly, concisely and vividly. Once in a while an evaluator will be fortunate enough to come across one that is really outstanding: it may have an imaginative and compelling structure; its content may project a sense of value in a way unmatched by any other bid; it may have examples that bring the text to life; it may communicate an intense commitment to the challenges of the assignment; its use of graphics may be unusually creative; it may have a hands-on feel and a clear sense of having done the job before. All these qualities give the bid a directness and personality that heighten its competitive impact.
Keep calm and in control If they were willing to admit it, there are many contractors who greet the arrival of an invitation to tender not with eagerness but with feelings close to panic. This reaction is understandable when you are faced with a complex and stressful intellectual challenge and an unforgiving deadline, particularly if you have relatively little experience of bid writing. But don’t let fear last for more than about five minutes: you need to get down to work! The best antidote is to know that you have to hand a structured procedure that will enable you to develop the bid methodically and that will quickly yield positive results. That is what the guidance in this book is intended to provide.
Developing skills in bid writing The more experience you gain in writing bids, the less intimidating the task seems and the easier it becomes to find the most effective means of communicating your message. For people who are on the staff of a firm one useful route into the process is to start by contributing technical input to bids and pre-qualification material, working with bid managers and proposal specialists. If you are a manager looking to develop good bid writers, you need first to identify people with the right qualities and then help them build up a bank of skills not just in business communication and the logistics of bid preparation, but also in the strategic aspects of tendering: ■■ ■■ ■■ ■■
gauging a practicable response to the scale of contract requirements; analysing contract issues, options and approaches; seeing contracts from the client’s side of the table; viewing the work as a service delivered to the client, not a technical exercise; matching work procedures with their cost implications; applying project management techniques in developing work programmes; researching markets and projects;
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understanding client needs and priorities; applying first-hand project experience to bid development; acquiring an attitude of mind that looks into the mechanics of a project, sees what problems might occur and how to prevent them, and builds these measures into an effective partnership between client and contractor.
Successful bid writers... ■■
are bright technically;
know how to write clearly and directly;
work conscientiously and methodically;
do what the client asks;
care about detail;
perform well in a team;
understand outputs and meet deadlines.
Market research and intelligence Opportunities to bid for work can come through any number of channels: from a client who knows the services you provide and approaches you directly; from a referral by someone in your profession or in a related field of consultancy; from a contract notice in the EC Official Journal; from information you read on a client’s website, on an e-tendering portal or in the technical press, or from your own initiative in detecting a requirement on the part of a client and structuring a possible solution. An invitation to bid may be the reward for nursing a project over a period of months or even years in which you have built a relationship with a client and established the value of your skills and experience. Or it may arrive quite out of the blue, simply because a person you worked with in the past remembered your name and gave it to someone else who happened to know a client in need of your type of expertise. Whatever the route, your success in capturing these opportunities will depend on the information clients have about your services and the information you have about them and the business environment in which they operate. There are three general points that apply to all types of market intel ligence. First, it has to be up to date and dependable or else it is useless – which means that it needs to be maintained as part of an efficient management information system. Second, it has to be structured in a form that relates to your competitive strengths and business objectives. Third, you should never
Bids, Tenders & Proposals
underestimate the time, effort and money that may have to be invested in researching a market, getting to know clients and gaining an inside track before you see positive results. If you have built a good relationship with your existing clients, delivered value for money and earned their trust, you should get an early lead into opportunities while they are in the process of being defined by management. You may be able to help managers develop their ideas about the work and shape the content of tender documents. You may learn the budget available for the work and the client’s priorities for allocating the budget. At the very least you should gain a sense of how client managers view the scale and scope of the work and what they will look for in terms of added value from consultants. Maintain contact with clients between assignments, but don’t do this just to advertise your availability. Try to develop a genuinely professional relationship with counterparts and managers in the client organization – keeping your ear to the ground, staying up to date on the progress of strategies, programmes and projects, and making use of opportunities such as seminars, conferences and other events in which client managers take part. The aim is to build up a dialogue in which you can discuss their needs and problems as one professional talking to another, rather than as a seller talking to a buyer. Be careful not to take this relationship for granted or to assume that the client will from now on turn to you as a matter of course: a new manager may arrive who is unacquainted with your work or takes a different view of consultants. Keep track of the situation and change your approach if necessary. If you are fortunate enough to form a good relationship with a client manager, you may on occasion be asked informally to give advice on a technical question or business issue. Do not be tempted to turn this approach into a formal project. Unless the advice requires a significant commitment of time on your part, you stand to gain more by providing a rapid and thoughtful response as a courtesy unaccompanied by an invoice. As a useful rule, if the response takes up less than half a day of your time, don’t charge for it! Regard it as an investment in your customer relationship. Records of customer contacts are an essential part of every consultant’s marketing network. You may have invested in a customer relationship manage ment (CRM) software application such as Salesforce (www.salesforce.com), giving you instant visibility into your marketing leads and sales activities and their impacts on your business. You may be enterprising enough to be using one of the versatile Cloud-based applications that plug into CRM systems, provide a library for storing and retrieving bidding resources and are intended to streamline the bidding process. Or your records may be no more sophisticated than a file of business cards or an index listing job titles, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, contact history and services used; If you have been in practice for some time, you will know that it is not uncommon for professionals to migrate from consultancy firms to client organizations and vice versa. People whom you knew as colleagues in the past and perhaps worked with on consultancy assignments may now have senior management posts with clients and may be in a position to put work your way, or
Bidding to Succeed
at least arrange for you to meet other managers in their organization. The relationship is not necessarily one-sided; they may well be glad to have you available as a known and dependable source of specialist advice whom they can recommend to their employers. Keep your professional contacts in good repair: the quality and strength of these relationships are all important. Help from one’s friends can make a difference when times are hard and jobs are scarce, but a phone call after 10 years of silence just because you are desperate for work is hardly likely to produce results. Though potential clients may not be so forthcoming as existing ones, it is possible with the right approach to gain a substantial amount of information about their structure and operations, their expectations of consultancy performance and the way they perceive their requirements. The principal medium is the face-to-face meeting, the technical dialogue that establishes your claim to be considered a professional resource that can deliver what they value more satisfactorily than anyone else. Adopt a policy of researching as much as possible about a potential client before a first meeting: ■■
Does the client use consultants on a regular basis? Do any of your competitors have close relationships with the client? Conversely, even though you may be facing an entrenched competitor, is there evidence that the client may want to take on new advisers who can offer a fresh approach? How are consultancy services bought in? Is this arranged through a central procurement department, following a set procedure, or do individual units have discretion in the way they engage advisers? In many organizations your ‘client’ will be a group of managers and other decision-makers and stakeholders in the work whose support may be essential to success. Who are the people with most influence in the process? Is there one individual on whom you should focus your marketing efforts, or are responsibilities divided between several people in various offices? Do consultancy appointments require endorsement by a board of directors, and will it be enough to convince the managing director about your merits? What is the organization’s management style? Is it run in an authoritarian manner by executives who are defensive about their sectors of responsibility, or does it encourage an open, participatory style of working? Do you have an initial sense of how the chemistry between you and the client might develop? Are there aspects of the way the client works that can offer you a competitive advantage? What messages does the organization project to its own customers? How much can you learn from the way it presents itself on the web or from its business publications? Public sector websites will tell you about strategies, policies and plans. Annual reviews or reports and accounts often contain useful material about key management personnel and their responsibilities as well as strategic issues such as business restructuring and investment programming. Company
Bids, Tenders & Proposals
newsletters and in-house journals will offer useful pointers to business plans and projects. One common-sense though sometimes forgotten point: you have to make that first meeting an interesting and professionally worthwhile experience for the client! You want the client to see you as a potential colleague not as someone pitching for business. If the client manager feels that he or she is gaining value from the meeting in terms of information or insight, it is likely to prove rewarding for you as well. As we will see in Chapters 7 and 8, there may be a large number of questions to answer in deciding whether or not to put in a bid, and even more issues to consider when you are analysing the bid documentation. The more thorough your market research, and the more information you are able to acquire about possible work opportunities, the better equipped you will be to address those questions and develop a confident, competitive bid.
Registration In both the public and private sectors it is common for clients to maintain registers or lists of approved suppliers or preferred contractors. Entry to these registers is generally obtained through the completion of forms and questionnaires covering the scale of the contracts for which a firm wishes to be considered, the size and structure of the firm, its personnel, specialist skills, technical capacity, experience, financial standing and related matters, as well as quality management and ‘business excellence’ issues. ■■
Pursue a systematic approach to registration. Obtain accurate information on the individual requirements of client organizations: there are often wide variations even within a single administration or business group. Complete all the client’s requirements in full detail. Review your firm’s registrations and update them regularly. What was the date of the last set of documents, and to whom were they sent? Does the client organization still exist in that shape, or has it been superseded by another authority or taken over by another business? It is easy to lose track of developments and then find that registrations have lapsed or become obsolete. If and when you visit a client’s offices, check on the status of your registration and replace any out-of-date documents with new material. On its own, registration simply brings you eligibility for selection and places your firm in the database or filing cabinet. In some instances it may succeed in getting you on an extended list with an invitation to express interest; but the mere fact of being registered with a client or funding institution is not in itself an endorsement or a credential and should not be portrayed as such on your website or in your proposals.
Bidding for public sector contracts
The EU procurement framework The term ‘public sector’ as used in EU member states covers central government, regional and local authorities, utilities, European institutions such as the European Commission and its related programmes and other bodies governed by public law. Across the individual member states the value of public sector procurement – ie the purchase of goods, services and public works by governments and public utilities – ranges from about 12 per cent to 20 per cent of gross domestic product. All public sector authorities are subject to European public procurement rules, intended to secure open and fair competition, transparent and auditable contracting procedures and equal access to contract opportunities for all EU suppliers. Utilities (defined as entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors) are required to comply with procurement rules that differ in some points of detail from those applying to other parts of the public sector. Public procurement rules are defined in a series of EU directives implemented at a national level through regulations and other forms of legislation. The procurement rules set out procedures that must be followed before awarding a contract to suppliers (ie providers of works, supplies or services) when the contract value exceeds set thresholds, unless the contract qualifies for a specific exclusion – for example, on grounds of national security. The purpose of the procurement rules is to open up the public procurement market and to secure the free movement of supplies, services and works within the EU, eliminating discriminatory and uncompetitive practices counter to the public interest, and ensuring that public funds are spent in a way that achieves best value for money. Authorities in the UK and other member states are able to apply their own procedures for tendering and contract award on the basis of standing orders, provided these do not infringe EU rules or the requirements of national legislation and government accounting principles.
Bids, Tenders & Proposals
Public sector contracts for services and consultancy in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are governed principally by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, which implement the 2014 EU Public Sector Procurement Directive and came into force on 26 February 2015. Separate but similar regulations apply to public sector contracts undertaken in Scotland. At the same time, the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2006 were amended as specified in Part 2 of Schedule 6 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
Key aspects of the procurement regulations Financial thresholds Specific rules apply to contracts with values at or exceeding financial thresholds set out in the regulations. Though contracts with lower values are subject to less stringent requirements, every public sector contract in the UK, however small its estimated value, has to respect the EU principles of nondiscrimination, equal treatment and transparency. The threshold values indicated below remain in effect until 17 April 2016. The sterling values of these thresholds are calculated on the basis of exchange rates between sterling, euros and special drawing rights (a currency unit devised by the IMF). Contracts with values at or above the following sterling amounts are subject to the procurement rules, with certain exceptions that chiefly affect categories of research and development, telecommunications services and the defence sector:
Threshold Services and supplies contracts – central government Services and supplies contracts – other public sector authorities Works contracts (all public sector authorities)
£111,676 £172,514 £4,322,012
Source: European Commission
Prior information on procurement programmes Contracting authorities may publish an overall notice of their planned procurement over the year ahead (or longer, in the case of public contracts for social and other specific services), instead of having to publish a series of individual contract notices throughout the year. The purpose is to give prospective contractors an early indication of tendering opportunities. The prior notice may serve also as a call for competition, subject to the terms of Section 48 of the 2015 Regulations.
Bidding for Public Sector Contracts
Advertisement and publication of contract notices Maintained and updated daily online, Supplement S of the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJS) contains notices of all contracts for which public sector authorities are calling for tenders. The Supplement is available from the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) website (http://ted.europa.eu). Its coverage includes principally: ■■
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public contracts for works, supplies and services from all EU member states; utilities contracts; public contracts from EU institutions; European Development Fund contracts; projects funded by the European Investment Bank, European Central Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; European Economic Area contracts (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein); notices about European Economic Interest Groupings.
Access to TED is free of charge: the database offers multiple search options and in addition to current notices contains information on contract advertisements over the past five years. Tender opportunities that are part of ECfunded programmes may be notified also through internet announcements on programme websites. Authorities are required to use standard forms for contract notices published in the OJS: the aim is to facilitate the online interrogation of notices, reinforce the development of electronic procurement and overcome problems caused by the appearance of incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information. Most tender notices are sent for publication through an electronic channel. SIMAP, the EU’s information system for European public procurement (http://simap.europa.eu), offers a web-based tool (eNotices) for the prepara tion and publication of tender notices, and a service for the direct submission of public procurement notices (eSenders). Authorities may also use the standard forms to publicize contracts not subject to OJS notification requirements. Decisions on how and where to advertise such contracts are left to the discretion of authorities: generally contract notices may be placed in the national, regional and local press and in technical and trade publications. A note of caution: before deciding to invest time and effort in following up a contract notice about an opportunity in another country, make sure you are adequately informed about both the technical and commercial context of the assignment and the workings of the local procurement environment. Contracting authorities are required to offer unrestricted and full direct access free of charge to procurement documents via the internet.
Bids, Tenders & Proposals
The EC has set up an information system termed e-Certis, to help com panies identify the different certificates and attestations frequently requested in procurement procedures across the EU member states and EEA countries. The e-Certis website (http://ec.europa.eu/markt/ecertis/login) describes its function as follows: ‘If you are a European company wishing to submit a proposal in response to a foreign call for tenders, or if you are a contracting authority that has to evaluate a foreign tender, e-Certis can help you to understand what information is being requested or provided. Secondly it can help you to identify partner country documents that match certificates and attestations that are required locally. ‘Just enter the description relating to the document you look for or query the database using e-Certis search criteria, including keyword searches in your own language. ‘Please note that e-Certis is a reference tool and not a service of legal advice. It does not guarantee that the evidence information resulting from a query will be recognized as valid by a contracting authority. It is just an information tool which helps to identify and recognize the certificates and attestations that are most commonly requested in the context of procurement procedures of the different member states. The information contained in the database is provided by national authorities and updated on a regular basis.’
E-tendering portals As part of the widespread adoption of e-tendering by the public sector, most authorities publicize contract opportunities either on their own websites or through national, regional or sector-based portals (Figure 2.1). In 2011 the UK government launched Contracts Finder, a free service, intended to consolidate information on opportunities to supply goods and services to the public sector, including local authorities as well as government departments and agencies. The Contracts Finder website offers access to contracts over £10,000 in value and has helpful keyword search facilities. The information published on Contracts Finder is required to include among other items the internet address where the procurement documents can be obtained, the time by which any interested bidder must respond if it wishes to be considered, and any other requirements for participating in the procurement. BIP Solutions Ltd offers an alternative source of information on contract opportunities. At the time of writing (April 2015), its information services included Tracker (UK and international contract opportunities), Contrax (UK and Irish contract opportunities), Defence Contracts International (DCI) (international defence, emergency services and humanitarian aid contracts) and MoD Defence Contracts Bulletin and Supply National SME Engagement Programme (for start-up and small businesses). Each of the nine government regions in England has its e-tendering portal (Figure 2.2), while there are separate online portals for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.