Why public sector procurement would benefit from 'hand-holding'

Caroline DuncombePublic sector procurement is unyielding and unavoidably full of red-tape.

There is no obvious fast-track tender process, particularly for those governed by the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). However, there are ways the public sector can help itself.

Procurement teams spend significant time and money sifting through bids that are unfit for purpose. Reducing the number of non-compliant bids would result in significant savings.

Some fail to make the grade through obvious completion errors, others fall foul of the compliance test because they’ve been handed an almost impossible task.

All too often "bad bids" occur because buyers included erroneous CPV or NUTS codes in the Contract Notice.

From the buyer's perspective it’s easy to get wrong, but the consequences are that SMEs potentially find themselves bidding for contracts outside their remit. As a result, upon consideration of the bid by the procurement team, it becomes clear the bidder cannot fulfil the contract. Therefore time has been expended on both sides to no avail.

Another area leading to non-compliant bids is a one-size-fits-all approach when issuing tender documents. Many public sector bodies rely on a single template and adapt it to fit. This approach can make life difficult for SMEs.

An example: A self-employed taxi driver applies for a contract he could comfortably deliver but does not have public liability insurance of "a minimum of £1,000,000". On receipt of a clarification question the likelihood is that the public sector body would permit a bid. Without that formal request the taxi driver would likely lose interest in bidding.

Also, the detail required for a low value bid is likely to be very different to that of a higher one. By using the same template the bidder is being asked the same questions. In short, a one-size-fits-all approach can be costly on both sides.

Some simple remedies:

•  Carrying out a detailed read-through of documents prior to their release is imperative. This can be done in-house or by a third party; the important factor being that the final documents are error-free and attract only suitable bidders.

•  Selecting the appropriate tender template and ensuring it precisely fits the requirements of that particular market prior to its release.

In addition, public sector buyers should run training sessions for bidders to aid them in submitting compliant bids. Engaging with bidders will benefit both parties and reduce the time spent responding to clarification questions.

In short, the process would benefit from a removal of "bad bids" and a little hand-holding.

☛ Caroline Duncombe is business development manager at Snap Edition.

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