Tendering for Government Contracts
We look at where small businesses can find opportunities in the public sector and how to go after them...
Government Departments and agencies have been set targets aimed at increasing their levels of electronic business. One of OGC‘s priorities is to help achieve these targets by using the internet in the procurement process.
If you are e-enabled, you may find more opportunities and quicker and easier methods of doing business.
Some recent initiatives include the following.
- Government Procurement Cards – The Government Procurement Card (GPC) is a branded Visa purchasing card which can cut out the need to send out purchase orders or deal in paper-based systems. Orders are placed directly with suppliers, either by personal visit, phone, fax, e-mail, over the internet, or built into an electronic ordering process. Once accepted, approval to release the goods or service is given and a delivery is made. The GPC has been introduced across central government and the wider public sector and has been traditionally used to buy low-value goods and services directly from suppliers although the transaction values are steadily increasing. The advantage to you when public-sector organisations use GPC is that it removes a lot of the paperwork and associated costs because not only do you receive faster payment, your credit control can diminish, there is a reduction in invoice queries, and the need for duplicated invoices is diminished. Your account is usually credited within two to four days.
- eSourcing – OGCbuying.solutions are currently carrying out a procurement exercise into electronic sourcing applications,known as eSourcing. Traditional sourcing covers identifying requirements through ‘expression of interest’ ((EOI), pre-qualification questionnaires, issuing and receiving tenders, and evaluation and contract award. The aim is to e-enable these processes by offering applications that cover eTendering, eEvaluation, eRFI (request for quote and information), eCollaboration, and eContract Management. This should help standardise the process by which all companies tender for public sector contracts.
- Electronic Government Marketplace – OGC are currently running a procurement exercise for an electronic government purchase to pay market place, called Zanzibar. Zanzibar excludes the sourcing of new contracts. It is a single-access point market place and offers a number of benefits to suppliers. These include reduced transactional costs, quicker payment (automatically matching orders and invoices), process savings and increased accuracy. Zanzibar will benefit both large and small suppliers. It is hoped to be up and running by April 2005. Further information can be found on the OGC website.
- eAuctions – OGC announced the award of the eAuctions (Electronic Reverse Auctions) Framework in December 2003. The Framework consists of five suppliers providing hosted electronic reverse auction solutions and related services to the public sector. eAuctions have proved particularly successful when used with requirements that have clearly defined specifications and where there is a vibrant market. eAuctions are being increasingly used in public and private sectors as standard practice, both in prime contracts and in securing value in the supply chain. Suppliers are also realising the benefits of online bidding because of transparency and increased market awareness. The process also ensures total transparency for the buyer and suppliers taking part in the bidding process and guarantees security and anonymity for both via secure internet access.
Paying on time
The Government has introduced legislation to give all businesses (no matter what their size) and public-sector bodies a legal right to claim interest if another business or public-sector body pays its bills late.
You can find more information in Better payment practice – your guide to paying and being paid on time .
Government Procurement Code of Good Practice
OGC have developed a Code of Good Practice, which sets out the Government’s central values for working with suppliers. It is aimed at being a code of conduct for government staff and a commitment to suppliers. The code is built around four central values – fairness, honesty, efficiency and professionalism. Each value is developed and expanded to include specific actions and standards of business behaviour.
Tips: Make sure that you are aware of the Code of Practice and are able to follow it. Make sure that you are aware of and able to follow any further specific industry codes – for example, the IT Supplier Code of Best Practice.
Debriefing is giving positive,constructive feedback to competing suppliers on their performance at any evaluation stage of a procurement exercise. Debriefing therefore gives you the opportunity to improve your performance in the future. Debriefing is mandatory for OJEU tendering exercises. For exercises under the OJEU limits, debriefing is not mandatory but is encouraged as good practice.
Debriefing can be written, take the form of a face-to-face meeting with senior company representatives, or a phone call.
Formal debriefing can also help the purchaser by:
- bringing to their attention problems that may have arisen during the exercise; and
- giving them the opportunity to improve their procedures.
Debriefing for OJEU tendering exercises
There is a requirement under the EU Procurement Regulations that require the contracting authorities to debrief bidders following an OJEU tendering exercise. If you are unsuccessful in bidding for a contract you can contact the contracting authority and request the reasons for being unsuccessful.
The authority then has 15 days to provide those reasons. If you were unsuccessful at the tender stage, the contracting authority is also obliged to let you know the characteristics and relative advantages of the successful tender as well as the name of the person awarded the contract. If you have tendered for any public-sector contract, you should always ask to be debriefed – even if you have been successful.