The Tendering Process
In order to ensure that the Council is offering best value-for-money, it has a thorough tendering process. In general terms it begins with a needs analysis, followed by supplier selection, the tender itself and ending with the award of the contract and contract monitoring.
Before a tender is issued, the responsible Council Manager will ensure that he or she researches the needs of end-users to make sure that the tender Specification meets these needs. This may include community consultation in the case of large projects.
For smaller contracts Council managers will carry out their own supplier search, or use pre-negotiated contracts with Governmental buying groups such as Hertfordshire Business Services and OGC Buying Solutions ("OGC"). The Council can participate in these pre-negotiated contracts without having to go out to tender. Suppliers can approach these organisations separately to enquire about opportunities to supply.
In the case of information technology and communications (ICT) and consulting, the Council also has the option of accessing pre-negotiated OGC contracts via G-Cat (IT Catalogue) or S-Cat (IT Services).
Tender documents - usually called an Invitation to Tender (ITT) - will most likely contain the following sections:
- Introduction - background information on the tender
- Tender Conditions - the legal parameters surrounding the tender
- Specification - the description of the supplies, service or works to be provided
- Instructions for Tender Submission - instructions for the bidders
- Qualitative Tender Response - qualitative questions to be answered by the bidder
- Pricing and Delivery Schedule - quantitative questions to be answered by the bidder
- Form of Tender - declaration to be signed by the bidder
- Certificate of Non-Collusion - declaration that the bidder has not colluded with any other bidder on the tender
- Draft of Proposed Contract - a draft of the contract which will be signed by the successful bidder
Normally, Council tenders will be restricted or open Tenders. Council tenders that fall under EU Procurement thresholds will be Restricted, Open or Negotiated tenders.
Restricted tenders follow a two-stage process. All suppliers expressing an interest will be sent a pre-qualifying questionnaire (PQQ). The PQQ is split into a number of sections, and typically covers:
- General Company details - including address, contact details and company structure. These questions are designed to ensure that Three Rivers District Council knows that it is dealing with a genuine, established company.
- Technical Resources - including size of relevant business, work categories supplied, existence of any disputes, and outstanding claims, skills and qualifications of staff. These questions are designed to allow the supplier to demonstrate that they are indeed capable of performing the contract offered in the tender.
- Financial Information - including turnover and profit information, taxation and insurance cover. These questions are designed to ensure that the supplier is financially strong, and has the financial capacity to handle the size of contract on offer.
- Health & Safety - provision of a health and safety policy and details of the person responsible for implementing the policy. The Council has an obligation to ensure the safety of its own employees, the citizens of the district and indeed the supplier's employees.
- Equal Opportunities - compliance with statutory obligations under the Race Relations Act 1976.
- References - provision of relevant references. The Council finds it very useful to ask suppliers' past clients about past performance.
Suppliers will be short-listed based on this information, and the Invitation to Tender will be sent to the appropriate number of tenderers, usually 5 to 8 companies. In the case of tenders that fall under EU Procurement thresholds, suppliers have 37 days to respond to the PQQ, and 40 days to respond to the ITT.
Open tenders allow any supplier that expresses an interest in tendering to be sent the Invitation to Tender documents. The supplier will simply send a letter referring to the contract, expressing an interest, and enclosing the relevant contact details. In the case of tenders that fall within EU Procurement thresholds, suppliers have 52 days to respond to the ITT.
Award of Contract
Most contracts are awarded on a "most economically advantageous tender" basis. Therefore, the evaluation will not usually be restricted to just the cost. A contract will be awarded after evaluating a range of criteria, which are usually weighted by importance. Criteria other than cost may include:
- Proposed invoicing and payment processes
- Proposed implementation timetable
Once the contract has been awarded, the Council will enter into a contract with the selected supplier based on the Draft of Proposed Contract included in the tendering documents.
The Council will expect to meet with the selected supplier(s) on a regular basis to review performance and discuss any related issues.
The Tendering Process