Prepare for more pre-market engagement, DFID tells suppliers

Gurjit Degun
14 July 2014

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14 July 2014 | Gurjit Degun

The Department for International Development (DFID) is encouraging its procurement teams to talk to suppliers before they put together a tender.

DFID’s commercial adviser in Afghanistan John Belza, told the department's second annual conference in London last week he is pushing his team to do more research around how feasible plans for new programmes are.

Belza explained when he joined the department around two years ago he came across a few contracts that had too many amendments and did not work. He said DFID needs to improve its planning and engage with suppliers better. Therefore, before submitting a business plan for a new programme, he wants evidence his staff have spoken to suppliers about realistic timeframes and the potential cost of a project.

“The main aspect is communication and communicating with the supply chain,” said Belza. “When someone comes up to me and says ‘I’ve got this bright idea to spend £10 million to do this and do that’ my first question to them is ‘where did you get the £10 million from? Who did you speak to in the supply chain to find out if that’s viable?’.

“So if you do get questions coming from offices, be expecting to answer those types of questions because [we are encouraging them to engage with you, the experts in this field] so that they can put together reasonably good business cases, terms of reference which the market can be responsive to and which the market’s got the capability and capacity to be able to deliver.”

Belza said the extra time spent engaging the market at the planning stage will give the suppliers “the opportunity to know what we’re doing”. He made it clear DFID is making sure suppliers are “abreast of what our intentions are and what stage we’re at”.

He added: “Our intention is to give the suppliers six weeks minimum to be able to turn around that bid. In that time they will be able to ask questions, they will have a day of presentations so they can ask questions as a group to clarify part of the terms of reference so we get an understanding of exactly what we are trying to achieve out of this. It’s engagement all the time. It’s also enabling the suppliers to challenge us about aspects of what we’re putting forward, in the terms of reference.”

Belza asked the suppliers not to think ‘well that’s what they want and that’s what we’ll give them, whether it’s going to work or not we don’t know’. “We don’t want it if it’s not going to work, we’re not being realistic. Sometimes, I’ve got to say my colleagues are overambitious in what they want in the terms of reference. So this is the early supplier engagement.”

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