(4) Don't tender unless you have the time, manpower and knowledge of the processes and procedures
Your trained employees give a great boost to efficiencies. They acknowledge the importance of the 'licence to tender' role held by the nominated person. They help build on this persons existing knowledge and expertise and provide an excellent 're-focus' opportunity by:
- being able to identify simple and straightforward selling strategies that can be adapted
- being able to make offers beneficial to both parties
- offering information with good value arrangements in place that can be drawn on and reduce time & effort spent on this task
- sharing and listening to real problems the public sector comes up against and giving hints and tips on how to avoid or overcome these
- building relationships and sharing knowledge and expertise to come up with innovative business solutions to problems
- having confidence to tender for contracts by understanding the rules that apply e.g.:
- how contract regulations operate. The regulations apply not only to when it is/isn't appropriate to go out for a formal tender but covers the required standards of behaviour to prevent anyone breaching probity rules;
- how to run a 'formal' tendering process - how to identify, tender, win and manage a contract
- the skills needed to successfully manage the contract. and
- having the confidence to challenge a decision by the purchaser
(2) Plan ahead - identify what is required to get the best possible chance of winning the contract
Planning ahead is a good way of finding scope for efficiencies. It gives time to question and assess, if alternative solutions are available (eg. forming a consortium or partnership), and if the timing is right.
It is recommended that contracts are linked to the business development plan and consider:
- tendering timing:
- if possible, avoid tendering at the end of the year. Other businesses will be doing this too and you will be hard pressed to maintain delivery timescales and quality standards. It also means there are unlikely to be opportunities to negotiate.
- if similar tenders are on the horizon it may well be worth to think about partnerships. This will help reduce costs and achieve best value;
- the range of tenders announced. There are central places to find tenders announced OJEU ? PIN central contracts registers - This is an excellent way of keeping track of the number of tenders announced, their value, outputs, and termination dates. This makes life easier for the management team (eg. finance committee) to regularly review the register.
- tender arrangements. A project plan should be drawn up, setting out all the strands of work, authorities require, how the strands will be taken forward and completion timescales. The important aspect of any tender timetable is to have plenty of space to conduct the process. The more complicated/important the contract the more time needed.
- Please, keep a close eye on contracts which have short notice periods for termination. Good contract management will help meeting deadlines and maintaining quality standards and avoid scope and to build up confidence for a future business relationship.
(3) Know your strengths - how much can you invest, are there any limits?
This tip isn't so much about finding out whether there is money in the budget or an authorisation required for a tender - although these are important. It is aimed at understanding the rules that apply to spending money and responsibilities that go with that.
- You will not need 'in-depth' knowledge of the legal requirements surrounding procurement set by European and national parliaments. What you will need is an awareness of appropriate behaviour in dealing with the Public Sector, declaring any conflicts of interest and having an awareness of the limit when it comes to tendering.
- the £ spend limit requiring a formal tendering exercise;
- the £ spend limit when a competition must be run through Europe;
- disposal arrangements; and
- behaviour standards to apply to prevent any possible misuse of funds (probity standards)
- The limits and processes put in place are aimed at ensuring a free flow of competition between suppliers. This in turn helps make sure that when public money is spent it is through good value for money deals. Although applying these processes can sometimes involve a bit of additional work, this is worthwhile as it helps protect you from accidentally breaching the legislation.
- Equipment required for new IT suite within a school. One of the parents who runs an IT business assesses what is needed and offers to supply the school with £21,000 worth of IT equipment - plus lots of extras. This looks like a great deal.
- No fair competition has taken place with other suppliers in the market. If a school were to take it up they might find (at best) the deal hasn't really addressed the real needs of the school, including maintenance and other whole life costs plus. At worst the school could be left open to damaging legal action.
Training, research & good planning will help avoid any pitfalls.
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