In October of 2016, the European Commission announced details of a study on CPV codes – Common Procurement Vocabulary codes – which tender notices are classified under.
There are around 10,000 CPV codes, and the list of codes was last updated in 2008. The codes range from very niche; animal ear tags (03340000); mange-tout (03221222); zirconium (14735000), to more common areas; building construction work (45210000); health and social work services (85000000) and computer supplies (302373000). The codes don’t reflect new technologies and computing mimicking the advance in technology in recent years, branding a lot of CPV codes out of date.
Despite this, buyers still list their contract notices under these codes in the hope of them being found by suppliers who want to bid for it.
The research carried out by the European Commission this October threw up some sobering news: in a sample of 405 notices tested, 23% had the wrong code associated with the scope of work tendered.
In around 10% of cases the code applied did not describe the work/supply/service procured; in some 8%, the code applied was too general, and in about 4%, the code was too specific.
So amidst this muddle of what code gets used where, what does this mean? In fact, it’s a pretty big deal for both buyers and suppliers.
If an incorrect code is used, a buyer is minimising the chances of there being a range of suppliers for them to choose from. They may not be able to choose from varying prices or scrutinise against the MEAT criteria: most economically advantageous tender. Public contracts can be awarded either on the basis of lowest price or MEAT, and buyers have to justify why they have chosen to spend a certain amount of money.
If they have very little to make comparisons on, buyers can end up spending more, either by using an expensive supplier due to lack of choice, or by using the cheapest supplier and getting a shoddy result which may have to be re-tendered for in the future.
For suppliers who supply works, services and supplies in a specific field, if a wrong code is used they are less likely to find contracts that they can tender for. CPV codes are a very specific classification and if the code isn’t correct, the supplier is missing out on opportunities which are destined for them. These could be SMEs who survive on providing specific services, and using the wrong CPV codes doesn’t benefit these niche businesses.
For example, for a contract ‘Collection of key qualitative and quantitative information on the European Commission’s merger decisions’ the code for ‘market research’ (code 79310000) was used, when in fact, something more appropriate like the code for ‘economic research’ (79311400) or ‘research services’ (73110000) could have been used. Due to the misuse of CPV code, the contract was never awarded.
The ill use of codes also affects the public. When work finally passes the business case for approval within an organisation, and for various stages to be passed, the work is still ‘undone’. If the tender needs to be re-advertised, we are looking at a similar timeframe to. Across the UK we are waiting for better roads, new schools, these things are all part of a very long queue.
Time is money. So what help is out there? Suppliers who don’t have access to a comprehensive tender alert service like Tenders Direct could be potentially missing out on lots of business opportunities thanks to incorrect CPV codes.
Tenders Direct is a wide-ranging tender alerts service which relies on a team of tender reviewers reading the contract and then classifying it against a set of key words that ensure tenders are classified to meet supplier requirements. We do not rely on CPV codes, we rely on experienced reviewers who can read between the lines and figure out exactly what work is being tendered for.
Our service helps marry up buyers with suppliers. A supplier is notified of tenders which fit the criteria of work they are looking to deliver, which is the way our service works. With our site, there is less likelihood of suppliers missing out on potential opportunities.
Our procurement experts help make procurement easier, and we take pride in being able to minimise the noise and help a buyer classify what they want, and feed the right opportunities directly into the right supplier mailboxes.
To CPV or not to CPV? That is the question.