Getting to grips with tender documents is a key part of understanding what the client wants in terms of a submission. A good understanding can also help to offer an insight into the sort of client you will have to work with should you be appointed further down the line.
The Basic Structure of the Tender
Although increasingly combined into one submission stage, most public bodies will have two parts to their tendering process:
- The Standard Selection Questionnaire
- The Tender
The Standard Selection Questionnaire
This questionnaire is all about providing factual information about your company so that the buyer can check that you:
- are a legitimate company
- have relevant policies in place, typically quality, environmental, diversity and equality, health and safety
- are legally able to provide the services where this is applicable, (e.g. security, doctors, solicitors all need some kind of licence to operate)
- have any accreditations such as quality and environmental and any relevant to the services you are tendering for
- are financially sound
- can provide evidence of relevant experience with reference contacts
The buyer may add additional questions asking for specific information regarding the contract, your services, your quality processes or your environmental management for example.
The selection stage is often a completely separate process with only a small selection of successful bidders then being invited to take part in the tender stage.
Alternatively, the two stages are sometimes combined, requiring the submission of both an SQ and a tender all at once. In this case, the buyer will evaluate the SQ first before evaluating the tenders of only the successful SQ candidates.
This stage could involve any number of documents dependent entirely on the tender. Basic documentation which should be in any tender invitation include:
- Instructions on how to complete and submit the tender evaluation criteria and a timetable.
- Specification of works and any drawings.
- Contract terms and conditions
- A selection of questions tenderers will need to respond to.
- At least one pricing schedule
- TUPE Information, (where this may apply).
- Documents to be signed
There are usually instructions on how to complete and submit the tender as well as an indicative timetable for the entire procurement process. Typically the evaluation criteria will also be included with the instructions.
The specification usually contains the details of:
- The services required.
- How and when they are to be provided.
- Standards required, (often a set of KPIs).
There may be technical drawings, especially for construction projects. You must read and check the drawing register carefully to make sure you have all drawings in the correct versions.
The Contract Terms and Conditions
This is the contract you will sign if selected. Terms and Conditions may sometimes be negotiable, but this will be made clear in the instructions for the tender.
Most tenders usually include a set of questions you will need to respond to which generally focus on the services required for the contract. Typical subject matter includes:
- Quality management
- Contract management
- Health and safety
- Social value
- Added value
- Environment and sustainability (sometimes included in social value).
The Pricing Schedule
Typically this will either be in an Excel spreadsheet or a table in a Word document that you will need to complete. There may be pre-defined formulae in certain cells if the pricing form is presented in Excel format.
Where TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) may apply, details of the salaries etc. of the staff likely to be eligible for transfer will typically be included. Sometimes the buyer will prefer tenderers to contact the incumbent provider directly and will provide the contact details for tenderers to do so.
Documents Requiring Signatures
You must sign and return all required documents or you run the risk of rejection. Most only require one signature (typically from a Director) however occasionally two will be required.
Check all the Documentation
It is critical to check:
- you have all the documents needed
- the documents make sense
- the pricing schedule does not contain errors, particularly if it has formulae in it.
Remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is anything missing, incorrect or unclear. Ask questions as soon as you can to give the buyer as much time as possible to correct any issues.
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