Have you ever come across a tender that looks interesting but you just don’t have a clue what it’s talking about?

Buyers, often with the best intentions, sometimes include terminology that is quite frankly harder to understand than ‘The Theory of Everything’ by Stephen Hawkings. If you’re new to public sector tendering, here’s a simple jargon buster of some of the most commonly used terms that may just save your PC from being thrown out the window…!

Approved List
An eligible list of potential suppliers.

A group of organisations.

Contract Award Notice
Notification of the award of a contract, including successful supplier details and duration of contract.

Contract Notice
Invitation to tender for Works, Supplies or Services.

CPV Codes
Common Procurement Vocabulary – industry classification system. For a comprehensive list please go to:  http://simap.europa.eu/codes-and-nomenclatures/codes-cpv/codes-cpv_en.htm

Expression of Interest – responses of interest from suppliers.

Framework Agreement
An agreement with suppliers which set out terms and conditions under which specific call-offs (purchases) can be made throughout the term of the agreement (can also be referred to as a Call off Contract)

Invitation to Tender – an invitation to suppliers to bid for the provision of works, goods or services.

Most Economically Advantageous Tender – the basis for the award of any contract not being awarded on lowest price.  If the purchaser is awarding a contract based on MEAT, they must also specify the criteria and weightings that they will apply to this judgement.

Official Journal of the European Union – formerly known as OJEC (Official Journal of the European Community).

The Office of Government Commerce – an independent office of HM Treasury, established to help Government deliver best value from its spending.

Private Finance Initiative – a partnership between the public and private sector which is used for high risk / high value contracts.

Prior Information Notice – advance notice of contracts which will be placed mainly for items of major expenditure.

Public Private Partnership – very similar to a PFI arrangement, but the aim is centered more on service delivery rather than finance.

Pre-Qualification Questionnaire – this document is used in a restricted procedure tendering process where the responses are used to shortlist suppliers.

Request for Quotation

A list of suppliers that have been successful in meeting the requirements of a pre-qualification questionnaire.

Service Level Agreement – enforcing the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of the Contract.

The document used to establish the requirements for the goods or services being purchased.

Standstill Period
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Alcatel Period’ – the contracting authority must allow a period of 10 days between the date suppliers are notified about the outcome of the tender process and the date that they sign the contract or framework agreement. This allows unsuccessful bidders to request a review of an award decision from the relevant contracting authority. 

Supplementary Vocabulary
Designed to describe the subject matter of CPV Codes – a more refined classification.


Tender Notice Procedure Types:

Competitive Dialogue
Used only for particularly complex contracts – i.e. where you are unable to define the technical means or the legal/financial make-up (preferred option for PFI/PPP contracts).

Negotiated Procedure
Use reserved for exceptional circumstances only, i.e. failure of a previous procedure, where no pricing structure can be set, for some services which cannot be adequately specified and some research & development contracts.

Open Procedure
Tenders invited from all interested parties.

Restricted Procedure
Tenders invited from providers meeting the requirements of the pre-qualification questionnaire.

The EU sets financial thresholds over which all public sector contracts must be advertised. For more guidance on thresholds please go to: http://www.tendersdirect.co.uk/Help/Threshholds.aspx

The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations. The purpose of TUPE is to preserve continuity of employment and to safeguard employment rights of all employees whose employment transfers to a new employer as a result of a relevant transfer.

One thought on “Public sector tendering – lost in translation..?

  1. We have recently found out that a contract has been awarded (but over the past few weeks) for Goods and services that were clearly hidden or specifically evaded by using a generic building and construction CPV code that has little or no relevance whatsoever with many other products that are also to be procured. Within the OJEU notice it clearly omitted advertising the correct codes as recommended by the use of correct EU commission recognised CPV codes. In this instance different types of domestic lifting products were required as a “separate LOT” i.e. hoists, stairlifts, step lifts, wheelchair through floor lifts etc. each of which have their own CPV code, yet were advertised under building works and construction. We have challenged the validity of this award within the 10 day stand-still period. Yet the awarding authority is blatantly ignoring these facts and suggesting it is our fault for not recognising their tendering opportunity. We explained, “in fact we would have had we been alerted by “TED” if the correct CPV codes had been used as we have alerts set up for our specific CPV code opportunities”. Stairlifts have their own dedicated CPV Code (44115600) not the building code that was used (71020000) to mask their procurement.
    In your professional opinion what recourse is open to us baring in mind we are not the sort of ethical company that likes its “world beating brand” dragged through the courts?

    Kind Regards

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