Public procurement - our 'top-tips' for bidders

We have put together our 'top-tips' for those that work for public sector organisations which are subject to the public procurement regime or involved in bidding for public contracts.

We've drawn on our wealth of experience in advising on public procurement matters to identify some 'top-tips' for bidders navigating the complexities of the bidding process.

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FAQs for bidders

Late extension of time for bid submission?

Whilst bidders might feel this is welcome and relieves pressure, query if it could be an indication that the time has been extended to enable another bidder (who would otherwise be excluded) to submit a bid.

Following submission of bids, the awarding body issues a clarification to all bidders and invites them to amend their bid

Was the clarification really needed? Is it an indication that a bidder has made a mistake and the awarding body is trying to give them an opportunity to correct it by suggesting there was an ambiguity and opening the opportunity to all bidders?

Awarding bodies not using a regulated process because the contract is valued below threshold

Has there been a genuine assessment of value or will the contract be expanded post award to a scale where it should have been formally procured?

Incumbent bidder is involved in bidding for the new award?

Consider whether sufficient steps have been taken to level the playing field for all bidders, both in terms of knowledge of the contract but also in terms of the existing bidder making a cost saving from the infrastructure/resources it already has in place.

Awarding body makes a direct award without competition because of urgency

Consider whether the circumstances qualify for a direct award – under the PCR, a direct award can only be made where it is “strictly necessary where, for reasons of extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable by the contracting authority, the time limits for a standard procurement cannot be complied with”. Covid issues are now unlikely to be unforeseeable.

Answer to a CQ rings alarm bells?

Rightly so – this can have the effect of changing some of the bid fundamentals and it may suggest that another bidder has had advantageous treatment. Again, seek early advice if you’re concerned about this.

Following a successful challenge, the awarding body takes a step back and invites all or part of bids to be resubmitted

Consider checking whether information about your bid has been disclosed to other bidders in the original post award letters, with the effect that they are now in an advantageous position.

Follow your instincts

If something doesn’t feel right, it is often because something has gone wrong in the process and that could give grounds to challenge. We recommend always seeking advice promptly in these circumstances!

Requirements to evaluate social values and address climate change issues

(e.g. reducing carbon footprints in procurements) – These are high on the Government’s agenda and are going to be key areas of focus for bidders who are now required to produce carbon reduction plans – for more information, see our Insight on PPN 06/21.

The Green Paper Reforms

Keep an eye on this! Our recent Insight summarises where things stand now, but we understand that the Cabinet Office’s publication of feedback on the recent consultation and revised proposals is imminent. Being prepared to implement major change and having sufficient training in place for all staff involved will be key to a smooth transition to the new procedure. That said, a Bill is unlikely before the 2nd half of 2022, and we don’t expect any new legislation to be passed before 2023.

You can get in touch with our experts on the details below If you'd like to discuss any of the above points further with us, or you need some advice on a procurement that you're involved in.