Tenders Direct Blog

Comment from the experts at Tenders Direct.

Contracts Finder

Posted by Tim Williams on February 27, 2015

The new UK Public Contracts Regulations came into force yesterday, 26th February 2015. As we’ve commented in other posts on this blog the regulations impose some new statutory obligations on public sector bodies which are designed to increase the number of small and medium sized companies bidding for and winning public contracts.

The two most major changes that are having an immediate impact on public bodies are:

  1. All contracts with a value estimated to be greater than £25,000 (£10,000 for central government) have to be advertised on the Crown Commercial Service website Contracts Finder. This requirement doesn’t just apply to contracts between £25,000 and the European threshold of £172, 514 (£111,676 for central government), it also applies to notices published in the Official Journal (OJEU), so procurement officers will have to enter the information on one system for the OJEU and then on another system for Contracts Finder. To add to the confusion you are not allowed to publish an OJEU notice on Contracts Finder until it has been published in the Official Journal.
  2. The second change is an obligation to make all of the procurement documents available online at the same time as the contract notice is published. The term ‘procurement documents’ is defined quite widely and is intended to include the full tender specification and all the supporting documents, not just a pre-qualification questionnaire, so that any interested supplier can understand the full requirements before deciding to proceed.

myTenders Pro, which is managed by Millstream who also run Tenders Direct, takes the pain out of these two new obligations.

  • Using mytenders Pro to compile and publish contract notices means they can automatically be submitted them to both Contracts Finder and the Official Journal without the information having to be typed in twice and all of an organisations contract notices can be managed and controlled in one easy to use and low cost service (Regulations 106 & 110).
  • Public bodies can also provide unrestricted and full direct access free of charge to the procurement documents from the date of the publication by making them available to download from myTenders (Regulation 53).
  • Suppliers can submit their completed bids in a secure online postbox which allows procurement officers to reduce the minimum timescales of OJEU procurement but also to prepare for the statutory requirement to conduct fully electronic eprocurement (Regulation 22, not mandatory until October 2018).

We first developed the myTenders procurement portal in 2002 and it now powers Public Contracts Scotland, and Sell2Wales as well as introducing electronic tendering in Ireland and Norway with the eTenders and Doffin websites. The system is in regular use by 11,000 procurement officers and more than 140,000 suppliers, so it has been very thoroughly field tested. We take the hassle out of publishing over 10,000 OJEU notices every year for our public sector customers and a further 25,000 notices for contracts under the OJEU threshold, mini-competitions, etc.

Our dedicated UK help desk provides unlimited support by phone or email to both public sector procurement staff and also their prospective suppliers. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff have years of experience and many are qualified to postgraduate level in the policy and law of public procurement.

Our Information Security system is accredited to ISO 27001 and we are a supplier on the Government’s G-Cloud 6 digital marketplace.

If you are a public sector purchasing officer and are interested in finding out how myTenders Pro can take some of the pain out of these new obligations give us a call on 0844 561 0670 or click here to find out more.

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Posted in General Procurement, Procurement Law | Leave a Comment »

Getting Paid On Time

Posted by Tim Williams on February 20, 2015

Although the public sector are generally quite good at paying on time a new requirement in the Public Contracts Regulations is that every public contract must stipulate that payment is made within 30 days£20 notes from the receipt of a valid invoice (Regulation 113).

Perhaps even more importantly any subcontract awarded by the successful contractor must contain the same 30 day payment terms from the contractor to the subcontractor.

This requirement applies to every contract in the supply chain no matter how far removed from the contracting authority.

There are certainly many cases in the past where a contractor at the top of the supply chain has been paid on time, but delays payment to its suppliers which has an adverse ripple effect as the delay increases further down the chain. This new provision should hopefully ensure that such behaviour is a thing of the past.

Public bodies will be required to publish annual statistics setting out the proportion of invoices paid on time, the liability to pay interest and the actual amount of interest paid.

 

Click here to find new business opportunities on Tenders Direct

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New 2015 Procurement Regulations – Will SMEs benefit from the changes?

Posted by Gemma Waring on February 13, 2015

The official public contracts regulations which govern UK public sector procurement have been published and are coming in to force on the 26th February 2015.

One of the main aims of the regulations and their precursor strategies ( such as Europe 2020 and the Lord Young report) was to encourage more participation from SME companies in tendering exercises and ultimately to get more SMEs supplying to the public sector.

The current government set the lofty target of 25% of government spend going to SMEs by 2015, a target which is a long way from being met so the key questions for organisations looking to supply into the public sector in light of the new regulations are 1) What has changed? and, more importantly, 2) What does this actually mean for me?

What has changed?

Some of the more significant changes in the new regulations are:

 

  • Tendering documents have to be available from the date of OJEU advertisement – no more registering interest and chasing for updates from the contracting authority.

 

  • Reduced timescales for procurement – on average they have reduced timeframes by a third and have introduced the new Accelerated Open procedure for OJEU tenders and have prohibited the use of a PQQ stage for low value contracts.

 

  • Contracting Authorities are now only allowed to ask for suppliers to have a turn over that is twice the value of the contract they are applying for.

 

  • New mandatory exclusions mean companies with individuals who have been found guilty of Terrorism or Serious Crime offences must be excluded from the competition – unlikely to affect the majority of companies.

 

  • New discretionary exclusions means that poor performance on a previous contract (including any damages paid not just cancellation of contracts) can be grounds for exclusion for up to 5 years.

 

  • Buyers are now being ‘encouraged’ to break contracts down into smaller lots – not as strong a measure as most hoped for as it could have been mandated for all contracting authorities.

 

What does this mean for you?

The over all impression SME suppliers might take from the new regulations is that there are a number of conflicting changes that means they are being impeded rather than encouraged to participate.

For example, the limitation on the company turn over to contract value ratio would largely be seen as a positive step for SMEs but without mandating buyers to break contracts down in to lots, many SMEs might still find that contracts remain out of reach due to their size.

There are also the conflicting ideals between reducing red tape and the removal of PQQ stages for low value contracts. Given the issue stated above about larger contracts and restrictive turn over requirements,  SMEs are often encouraged to tender for smaller contracts to break in to the public sector but now these will effectively be run as an open procedure, it will mean more work for SMEs and more form filling – draining resources with no guaranteed return on investment.

Although the introduction of E-Certis or a European Single Procurement Document will alleviate the burden somewhat, these will not become mandatory in the UK until October 2018, leaving  a period of more than 2½ years  in which  suppliers have lengthy documents to fill in rather than the less burdensome PQQs documents – only putting in additional resources if successful at this stage.

 

Only time will tell what impact the changes will make and the Crown Commercial Service has advised ‘more guidance’ will be forthcoming on implementing the Lord Young Report but for now its hard to see how SMEs will benefit, certainly in the short term, from the changes in the new regulations.

Perhaps a lack of input from the business sector in the consultation phase can be attributed to this or a lack of practical awareness from the public sector of the rigors of tendering for SME companies and the strain it places on resources.

 

Either way it seems there is a way to go before SMEs can access the market as simply or effectively as they would hope to.

 

These changes are only a selection of issues SMEs need to consider as part of the new regulations – we will be posting separate blogs in the coming weeks on ‘How suppliers can prepare for Life Cycle Costing Questions’ and ‘Changes to Procurement Procedures’.

Our Successful Tendering courses are all being updated to incorporate the changes to the legislation and what it means to you – our course programme can be found on our website.

Posted in General Procurement, Politics of Procurement, Procurement Law | Tagged: , , , , | 14 Comments »

Small firms given fighting chance to win Government contracts

Posted by Tim Williams on February 10, 2015

Today’s Telegraph includes an article about the new Public Contracts Regulations 2015, which will come into effect at the end of this month. As well as implementing the European public contracts directive (Directive 2014/24/EU), these new Regulations introduce a number of measures, collectively known as the Lord Young Reforms, that aim to help small firms win more government contracts.

One of these reforms, the removal of the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) process, while undoubtedly well intentioned will instead significantly and adversely affect the ability of small firms to win public sector contracts.

All firms being considered for a government contract will still require to be qualified, e.g. to have adequate financial strength, appropriate levels of insurance, quality management processes and a track record of having successfully completed similar contracts. The ban on PQQ’s, simply moves the qualification process from a separate preliminary stage and instead embeds it in the first stage of the full tender evaluation.

This means that instead of completing a relatively short questionnaire to demonstrate their qualifications, a candidate for a public contract will have to provide exactly the same information as part of their tender, but will also have to complete a full tender proposal. A full tender proposal will often consume a very significant amount of time and resources.

If a company would have failed the qualification exercise under the PQQ system they will still fail, but the process will have cost them much, much more. In my view it is inevitable that over time this will lead to far fewer small companies submitting tenders for public contracts.

There will also be a much greater cost imposed on the public bodies who are evaluating the tenders submitted. Instead of evaluating perhaps 5 or 10 tenders from qualified candidates, they will have to carefully evaluate all of the tenders that are submitted to them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

5 Top Tips for Writing PQQ Responses

Posted by Kirsten Jones on February 5, 2015

Tackling a pre-qualification questionnaire for the first time can be a daunting task, which is why we have asked our top consultants for their top do’s and don’ts for answering PQQs.

Industry Insights

Tip 1 – read, think, read, write

Read the question carefully and answer as clearly as you can. Think about your answer before you start writing and re-read the question when you are working on it to make sure what you have written fits in. Within reason give the required answer and clarify, rather than the “wrong” answer and clarify, just in case the initial sift is done by a computer, and remember to always give a full and honest clarification.

 

Tip 2 – mirror, mirror

Pick out key words in the tender documents (instructions, evaluation criteria etc.). What are they really looking for? Connect your company’s abilities to the requirement and mirror the language to make it easy for the evaluator to connect the dots.

 

Tip 3 – know the right flow

Don’t try and get around word limits or sizes – do what is being asked of you and do not include attachments that have not been requested as they will not be evaluated. Ease of reading, substance and content are of higher value than cosmetic/creative presentation, so make sure the words flow well together and check frequently for spelling and grammatical errors.

 

Tip 4 – get the right fit

Don’t cut and paste from previous scored answers, they may have scored highly on your last PQQ but it doesn’t guarantee a high score this time. Tailor your response to meet the exact question requirements and the buyer’s strategic aims where possible.

 

Tip 5 – save the selling for the bid

Remember the PQQ is about capacity, experience and ability – it is not about the solution at this stage so don’t try and put “sales talk” into your responses. Relax, be yourself and answer the question being asked. Do not be afraid to highlight your firms strengths, especially where they connect with the requirement, just make sure not to over-do it. A good method is to include a solid testimonial quote from a happy client that is short but adds strength to your response.

 

Do you have any tips that didn’t make our list? Share them with us in the comments below.

To learn more about how our training courses can equip you with the knowledge to create a striking PQQ – Click Here.

Posted in Tender Tips | 2 Comments »

Jargon Bust – Variant Bids

Posted by Alastair Caithness on January 21, 2015

Variant bids are different from other bidding styles because they are a little more flexible than regular bids.

Typically a bid will not be accepted if it does not meet the criteria, however with variant bids organisations can submit two proposals: one that matches the outlined criteria and one “variation” to increase their chances of winning the business. Variant bids come in many shapes and sizes and can be as simple as a different pricing structure or as in-depth as a proposal detailing a new, innovative way to deliver a service.

Jargon Bust

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UK Chancellor reveals Autumn statement

Posted by Alastair Caithness on December 3, 2014

Funding for health services and freeze on fuel duty

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his Autumn Statement today, saying he was presenting a forecast which showed the UK was the fastest growing of any major advanced economy.

He pointed to higher growth, reduced unemployment, falling inflation and a deficit reduced to half of what the Government inherited as evidence that the long-term economic plan was working.

Mr Osborne stressed the need to address “problems that remain unresolved in the British economy”.

Key announcements included a complete reform of Stamp Duty, additional funding of £2billion for health services, the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief for another year, a freeze on fuel duty and a rise in personal tax allowance to £10,600 next April.

The main findings of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast were outlined, including:

  • GDP growth forecast at 3%, with 2.4% growth forecast in 2015, 2.2% in 2016, 2.4% in 2017 and 2.3% in 2018 and 2019
  • Borrowing forecast to fall to £91.3bn this year, £75.9bn next year, continuing to a predicted surplus of £4bn in 2018-19
  • Deficit cut in half and predicted to fall to 4% next year, then 2.1%, then 0.7% before moving to surplus
  • Inflation forecast revised down to 1.5% this year, 1.2% next year and 1.7% the following year
  • Unemployment revised down in each year of the forecast, falling to 5.4% next year before settling at 5.3%
  • Meaningful real wage growth” predicted to pick up in 2015 and grow above inflation for the next 5 years

Other announcements included:

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The new EU Directive on Public Procurement: Accelerated Procedures

Posted by Kim Postlethwaite on May 1, 2014

Over the coming months the Tenders Direct Blog will cover the changes coming into force as a result of the new EU Directives on Public Procurement. So far we have already covered:

-    The history and a brief overview of the changes (The new EU Directives on Public Procurement have been published!)

This blog will discuss the new procurement procedure ‘accelerated open’ and the changes surrounding the use of the ‘accelerated’ procedures.  Please read our previous blogs and sign up to receive notification when the next in the series is published.

The new EU Directive on Public Procurement: Accelerated Procedures

Within the new Directive on Public Procurement there now exists a new ‘Accelerated Open Procedure’. This is the same as the Open Procedure but with accelerated time-frames. Previously there was only an accelerated option for the Restricted Procedure and the Negotiated Procedure (called ‘Competitive Procedure with Negotiation’ under the new Directive). The introduction of this new Accelerated Open Procedure is hoped to improve the flexibility within public procurement for buyers. It is expected that the introduction of this new procedure will result in a drop in the usage of the Accelerated Restricted Procedure.

These accelerated procedures can still only be used in states of urgency. However, the previous ambiguity around ‘urgency’ has been clarified and the reasons for justifying the ‘urgent’ nature will be more flexible. Unlike the current situation, where the urgent requirements must have been unforeseeable and not within the influence of the buyer, under the new Directive the accelerated procedures can be used where the buyer could foresee the need but failed to act in time to address it.

The time limits for the Accelerated Restricted Procedure and the Accelerated Competitive Procedure with Negotiation have also changed. Oddly, it would appear that the time limits for the first stage notice under the new rules will be longer. It is also worth noting that for sub-central contracting authorities, the need for these accelerated procedures may be unnecessary given the new, much more flexible, rules surrounding the timings that they can set.

When using the mytenders Pro service you will be advised of the correct time limits when creating and publishing notices ensuring that you meet your legal obligations.

Time Limits under the New Directive:
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Posted in Procurement Law | 5 Comments »

The new EU Directives on Public Procurement have been published!

Posted by Kim Postlethwaite on April 8, 2014

Over the coming months the Tenders Direct Blog will cover the changes coming into force as a result of the new EU Directives on Public Procurement. The first of this series will cover the history and a brief overview of the changes. Please sign up to the blog for updates on when the next in the series is published.

The new EU Directives on Public Procurement have been published!

On 28th March 2014 the three new Public Procurement Directives were published in the Official Journal of the European Union. These will come into force on 17 April 2014. The UK has two years to transpose these Directives into national law. It has been rumoured that this may, however, take place as soon as autumn.

The History:

In April 2011 the European Commission communicated its intention to modernise the legislative framework for public procurement and in December 2011 confirmed that this would be carried out by way of reviewing the existing directives. The key objectives of this reform outlined by the European Commission in 2011 were as follows:

  1. Simplify the rules and procedures and make them more flexible.
  2. Increased recourse to carry out negotiations.
  3. Increased use of e-procurement.
  4. Reduce administrative burden on suppliers.
  5. Facilitate a qualitative improvement in the use of public procurement.
  6. Improved integrity in public procurement.
  7. Appointment of national review body to monitor public procurement practices.
  8. Creation of a Concession Contracts Directive to complete the legal framework for European public procurement.

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Posted in Procurement Law | 14 Comments »

Millstream founder shares experiences at Procurement Week

Posted by Alastair Caithness on April 2, 2014

The founder of the company which runs the national procurement portal for Wales presented two prizes at the 2014 Welsh National Procurement Awards in Cardiff.

Tim Williams, managing director of electronic tendering provider Millstream, attended the awards ceremony on Friday (March 21), which marked the end of Procurement Week.

Procurement Week is an annual event staged by Bangor University’s Institute for Competition and Procurement Studies (ICPS) to share knowledge about the latest procurement innovation strategies, law and policies from around the world.

Millstream runs Wales’ national e-procurement database, Sell2Wales – which handles tenders worth around £4.3billion annually – and the Scottish equivalent, Public Contracts Scotland.

Tim Williams is pictured with the Welsh Minister for Finance, Jane Hutt AM

Tim Williams is pictured with the Welsh Minister for Finance, Jane Hutt AM

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Posted in General Procurement | 1 Comment »

 
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