If you have ever attempted to read the public procurement directives then you will know there are a number of regulations governing the advertising and award of public sector contracts.
Contracts that fall below the EC procurement thresholds are not subject to these directives. Below threshold contracts are subject to the rules and principles of the EC Treaty (including non-discrimination, equal treatment, transparency etc), and European Court of Justice case-law has indicated these contracts should be ‘sufficiently’ advertised. However, aside from these rather ambiguous guidelines, there are no real rules regulating these contracts.
OJEU tenders are required to follow specific regulations on timescales to allow suppliers adequate time to respond to tenders, not usually less than 22 days. Below threshold tenders, however, often have much tighter deadlines. To make this situation worse, below threshold contracts are found in literally hundreds of places, including websites, local and national newspapers, and trade journals, meaning that they cannot always be identified as soon as they are advertised.
It is therefore particularly important to respond to these contracts as soon as possible. In fact, regardless of whether it is a below threshold or OJEU tender, it is advisable to make initial contact with the awarding authority as early as possible. This can only increase the time you have to prepare your bid or Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. It also means that the authority should keep you informed of any changes or further information relating to the tender. Responding to the tender notice does not bind you to bidding for the contract, but if you miss the deadline, then you have missed your opportunity. As the old saying goes “you snooze, you lose!”