What are framework agreements?

Frameworks are “umbrella agreements” that sets out the terms – particularly relating to price, quality and quantity – under which individual contracts (call-offs) can be awarded throughout the period of the agreement (normally a maximum of 4 years). They are typically used when the buyer(s) identify a need for specific products or services but are unsure of the scope or time-frame.

Do they need to be advertised on Find a Tender (FTS)?

In line with public procurement legislation, if a framework agreement is publicly funded and the estimated total value of all the potential call-offs exceeds the relevant procurement threshold – then it should be advertised on Find a Tender (FTS).

Who can use them?

Any organisation subject to public procurement regulations can publish a framework agreement. Many are published either on behalf of multiple buyers or left open for use by some or all public sector organisations.

How do I secure a place on one?

  • Notices announcing framework agreements are published in the same manner as standard invitations to tender
  • Suppliers wishing to participate must register interest using the details provided on the notice and will be awarded a place subject to their ability to satisfy selection criteria
  • Only those suppliers who respond to the original notice and are selected will be eligible to participate in any call-offs made under the framework

How are call-offs awarded?

If the framework agreement is awarded to only one supplier, the buyer can simply call-off a requirement from them as and when they wish. If the framework is awarded to several suppliers, there are two ways in which call-offs can be conducted:

  • If the terms laid out in the framework agreement are detailed enough for the buyer to identify the best supplier for a particular requirement, they can directly award a contract
  • If the buyer is unable to identify which supplier could offer them best value for money for a particular requirement, a mini-competition can be held between all the approved suppliers

What are the advantages?

For Suppliers

  • Possibility of being awarded multiple contracts
  • Reduction in administrative burden due to streamlined procedure
  • Chance to build lasting working relationships with multiple buyers

For Buyers

  • Less downtime between identifying a need and fulfilling it
  • Reduction in administrative costs associated with publishing multiple notices
  • Potential savings with economies of scale – suppliers may offer more competitive prices

What are the disadvantages?

For Suppliers

  • No guarantee of business even if you’re selected as an approved supplier
  • Suppliers unsuccessful at the selection stage are locked out of any call-offs for the duration of the agreement

For Buyers

  • Frameworks are unresponsive to change. There may be new suppliers and/or new solutions within the market that were not included when the agreement was initially set up
  • They apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which may make it difficult for buyers to satisfy their own procurement objectives

Questions? Leave a comment, call us on 0800 222 9009, or visit www.tendersdirect.co.uk

190 thoughts on “Framework Agreements: What You Need to Know

  1. Trade says:

    Can a new suppliers be assed and added to an already existing framework arrangement if the Supplier meets the minimum requirements?.

    1. Noel Vassallo says:

      Great question.
      Even if a supplier does meet the requirements, once a framework has been awarded no other suppliers are able to join.
      A DPS (Dynamic Purchasing System) is similar to a framework but does allow for new suppliers to be added at any time.
      For more information, we offer a brief summary of each of the different types of contracts available in our post ‘What is a public tender?’ https://blog.tendersdirect.co.uk/2020/12/01/what-is-a-public-tender/

  2. Abdikani Hassan Baadi says:

    my question is how I can Identify at least 1 risk to holding a framework Agreement for Hotel services

    1. Noel Vassallo says:

      Our Bid Training and Consultancy Manager, Andrew, would be the best person to talk to for an answer.
      If you send him a direct email with a bit more information, he’ll do his best to help – andrew.watson@proactis.com

  3. Mark says:

    Hello,

    I had a query regarding amendments that can be made to call off t&c’s. We are looking to call off a framework under it’s direct award option. The Supplier we have selected off the framework agreement have sent through a number of amendments they are proposing to the indemnities and liability amounts. The clauses that are to be amended refer to both us as the Buyer and the Framework Provider (for examples clause 7 reads ‘the Supplier indemnifies the framework provider and the Buyer against all claims brought by any person employed by the Supplier caused by an act or omission of the Supplier or any Supplier Staff’).
    Before considering these proposed amendments would we need to seek approval from the Framework Provider for (1) amending the call off terms generally and (2) approval for the specific amendments proposed as they relate to indemnities that effect the Framework Provider and us as the Buyers.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    1. andrewproactis says:

      Hi Mark,

      If not mistaken, you are suggesting modifications to the terms and conditions of the framework agreement, but only for this one supplier and one call-off.

      Modifications are regulated by Regulation 72, and requires the publication of a modification notice detailing the changes. They also require that the initial procurement documents clearly and precisely provide details about modifications that are allowed. Unless the framework allows for modifications to the terms and conditions this is unlikely to be allowed.

      The Crowns Commercial Service provides some guidance on modifications here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/560262/Guidance_on_Amendments_to_Contracts_-_Oct_16.pdf

      With that said, you could look into if the conditions for negotiated procedure without prior publication (Regulation 32) is met, or if the call off could come in under the small lots exemption (Regulation 6(14)(15)). We also have a blog (https://blog.tendersdirect.co.uk/2017/01/06/procurement-terminology-what-are-small-lots/) about small lots.

      However this is undoubtedly a complex area and we would recommend seeking legal advice.

      Kind Regards,
      Andrew

  4. We have a framework agreement where two of the three suppliers have now withdrawn.

    The framework duration still has 18 months to run.

    Am I correct in understanding that there is no mechanism for us to add new suppliers to this framework ( which was OJEU advertised and let )

    1. Thank you so much for the rapid response – much appreciated !

  5. John says:

    Hi All,

    Our company awarded a contract to a service provider through a formal tender process, which was for the procurement of a specific service. The contractor performed very well.

    Based on this satisfaction, our company wants to continue with this service provider as a longterm supplier. Is it possible to sign a Framework Agreement with this service provider on the basis of the initial Tender process?

    In short, can we pass from Fixed Contract to Framework Contract with this supplier, although in the Call for tenders document of the initial procedure, there was no intention for framework and nothing of such was therefore reflected in the solicitation document.

    Thanks

    1. Gemma Waring says:

      Hello,

      Unfortunately you would need to run another full tender procedure. You can run it with the intention to award as a single supplier framework but you must reopen the tender to the market for reasons of transparency and fairness.

      Hope this helps,

      Gemma

  6. nana says:

    useful information

  7. Pat Cullinane says:

    Hi There,
    We are a small Bristol based SME which provides Drainage Maintenance via a Framework arrangement to a large Local Authority in the South West.
    At the time our tender bid was submitted we were 30% cheaper than the next bona fide tenderer. There was one other tenderer who was 15% higher than our price, who very early after evaluation and award dropped out.
    This authority has a large number of Hi Rise multi- storey blocks which have several soil stacks running the entire height of the buildings. A soil stack maintenance programme was set up and we have carried out this work for the past two years.
    During this time we have noted that the soil stacks have become increasingly difficult to service due to the high volume of cooking fats and Ghees being discharged which effectively clog up the stacks.
    We have contacted the Councils procurement team and informed them that the specification for the work has radically changed since the time of tender and that this now needs to be reviewed as to carry out these works at tendered rates would result in financial loss on this work.
    We have also pointed out that the drains and pipe runs at the foot of these stacks also need to be placed on a planned programme to prevent surcharge and the risk of flooding.
    We have requested a variation to contract to reflect these changed circumstances.
    We have been told by procurement that the only option they have is to offer this work to the next contractor on the framework.
    We have also made it very clear that we would be willing to undertake this work at new rates and believe that this would still be considerably cheaper than giving the work to the next contract on the framework who is 30% more expensive. At a time when Local Authorities are facing extremely challenging financial pressures we find this course of action bewildering.
    As we speak this work is now being undertaken by the next available contractor.
    I can find nothing in the contract which indicates there is a mechanism to cater for a change in a work spec.
    I would be very grateful for any advice you can offer regarding a way forward.
    Best wishes
    Pat Cullinane

    1. Gemma Waring says:

      Hi Mike/Pat,

      Sorry for the delayed response on this one.

      It is difficult to respond without seeing the documentation for the framework you were referring to.

      Call off contracts have to be run in line with whatever as been outlined in the intial procurement documents other wise the buying authority might be open to challenge from suppliers that might have bid if the specification had be different in the first place.

      If you would like to email me the documents directly to gemma.waring@proactis.com I would be happy to take a look at them for you.

      Many thanks

      Gemma

  8. Mike says:

    Our company has been selected as one of several suppliers under a framework agreement that has been established by one organisation to enable a number of organisations within the same area of the public sector procure software technology solutions. The functional requirements of these solutions were detailed in the framework tender, as was the commercial structure and the basis for pricing.

    Different organisations are likely to have requirements that, whilst covered by the full functionality specification, will vary. Equally, any particular organisation’s preferred basis for pricing (eg annual subscription, perpetual licensing etc) may also vary and not be one that is explicitly provided for under the framework.

    To what extent is it possible for a buying organisation to vary the functional scope and/or the structure on which pricing is to be provided under a mini-competition that is run under the framework ?

  9. Mamman Sani says:

    what are the procurement procedure for the award of multiple contract to a contractor

  10. Philippa says:

    In call offs under multiple supplier framework agreements, where the framework agreement is for the provision of services (specifically the administration of employee benefits) it is possible for contracts to awarded without re-opening competition (ie direct call-off) or by holding a mini competition. Now, with regards to mini competition, a supplier can decline to take-part in the mini tender – they simply provide a statement to the customer advising they don’t wish to take part. That’s all very clear.

    However, the rules are less clear for automatic awards, ie direct call-offs. The framework in question appears simply to state that a contracting authority can award the contract to the most economically advantageous supplier in respect of the goods and/or services. Unlike in mini-competitions, there isn’t a clause or statement in the framework that allows the supplier to turn-down a direct call-off contract.

    However, I have read in a paper that the OGC guidance for direct call offs does allow providers that are not capable or nor interested in providing the goods, or services or works in question, to decline the contract and so the contracting authority should turn to the next best economically advantageous supplier and so on. Is this correct, and if so, can somebody point to the relevant OGC guidance which covers this? Is it possible for a supplier to turn down an automatically awarded contract without being in breach of the framework?

    Furthermore, can anybody shed light on what it means for a supplier to claim they are “not interested in providing the services”, ie under what circumstances could a supplier claim this?

    Simplistically, I would have thought that a supplier must be able to turn down contracts under direct call-off, as they can do with mini-competitions, for otherwise the framework is unfair against the supplier as the supplier may be obligated to accept a contract in all cases even though it may not always be in the supplier’s best interests to do so.

    1. Tim Williams says:

      The answer depends on the terms and conditions that formed part of the framework agreement when it was originally awarded. The majority of agreements do not impose an obligation on either the buyer or the supplier to either purchase or supply, i.e. it just makes the process of order and supply more straightforward. As such, a supplier receiving a direct award from a buyer is at liberty to decline that order. That may seem strange, but the supplier may be busy with other orders and lack capacity at that time, or the terms are no longer advantageous to them, etc.

      If the terms of a framework allow for the direct award, but the selected supplier declines that award, it will similarly depend on the terms and conditions of the framework agreement as to whether the authority can turn to the next most advantageous supplier, etc.

      In summary, the answers to both of the questions you raised depend on the contractual position as set out in the parent framework agreement, rather than in the legislation.

  11. Anna says:

    Hi Tim. The award of individual call off contract under the umbrella of framework agreement can only be made on the basis of the terms and conditions established in the framework agreement itself

    is this true or false
    or both true and false

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Anna,

      A call off must be made on the basis of the terms and conditions established in the framework, i.e. it’s not possible for those T&C’s to be changed. Regulation 33 (6) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 states:

      Contracts based on a framework agreement may under no circumstances entail substantial modifications to the terms laid down in that framework agreement

      But Regulation 33 (7) b states:

      for the award of those contracts, contracting authorities may consult the economic operator which is party to the framework agreement in writing, requesting it to supplement its tender as necessary.

      This means that the terms in the parent framework agreement can be added to in order to meet the requirements of the particular call-off. For example, in a consultancy project, the grade of personnel, the man-days, the methodology, etc., required to fulfil the project could all be stipulated as additional terms that supplement the parent agreement without modifying any of the original terms.

      Regards

      Tim

  12. Sean Milsom says:

    We have worked for a local authority for many years and it has been up to 95% of our work, upon accountants advise we went limited 18 months ago and kept our sole trader running as this held our accreditation etc. we came under increasing financial pressure from the authority and were also delivering a larger contract for them which we managed to finish however we could see that things were going wrong so applied to the council to novate our framework agreements, the authority gave contradictory reasons why they were NOT prepared to novate including risk to local suppliers which was the very thing we were trying to protect by contact novation.

    We had already formed a new ltd company to deliver the contracts and tendered for a new framework agreement in the name of the new company and were awarded a place within the framework agreement and received and signed a contract, acting on professional advise we placed original ltd company into liquidation and had one framework agreement left which secured in the name of the new ltd company, this was prior accepted by the authority and we heard no more.

    Two weeks ago we received a message on the portal that the authority are reviewing our position within the framework and would we like to remain within it, they asked for company structure and employee certificates, all were sent and we heard no more, having worked for the authority for many years I suspected that work may be in the pipeline and within a week we were invited to submit bid for 2 mini competitions, we submitted our bids and awaited the outcome, the award date when past and we didn’t hear anything and suspected we may have secured one of both of the mini competitions. We then received a letter on the portal stating the authority were removing us from the framework for reasons based upon the demise of the limited company however the reasons which related to performance and quality were incorrect as it was the original sole trader that built the reputation over 10 years and our accreditations were still held by our sole trader which was still trading. Can you suggest how I best pursue this as I feel I have to challenge this.

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Sean,

      Quite a complicated situation with a change from sole trader to Limited company and then a second Limited company!

      If the frameworks have been established under the Public Contracts Regulations then the authority can’t just add or remove suppliers whenever they want. A framework is fixed for its lifetime of up to 4 years, in terms of the buying organisation(s) that can use it and the suppliers that can be awarded contracts. The complication arises in that if the company that is party to the framework has been put into liquidation then the new company may not be a party to the framework, i.e. by closing down the company you effectively withdrew from the framework.

      On this one the devil will be in the detail and so I would ask your law firm to look at the terms of the framework agreement alongside the way in which the contracts were transferred from one entity to the other.

  13. Great blog – I have been asked to facilitate a workshop (my background is law and I know the theory but I do not work in procurement) but my audience are all people working in procurement!
    One question posed ahead of time is:

    A client has asked this charity organisation to run a procurement exercise through their framework but he has given them his own contract to use. The charity organisation has a framework agreement and a call-off contract that they always use. Would it even be permissible for the charity organisation to use the client’s contract? or could the client contract be added on as an addendum to the charity organisation call-off contract. My brief thought was a short NO but all answers most welcome.

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Patricia,

      Thanks very much for your question.

      Your brief thought is spot on, the answer is almost certainly NO.

      A framework agreement sets out the terms and conditions under which call-off contracts are then awarded. It is possible to supplement the framework conditions, i.e. to provide a more detailed specification, but it is not possible to completely change the T&C’s, as is being proposed here. It’s important to appreciate that a framework agreement is not an approved list of suppliers.

      Any contract awarded under this framework would have to be in the name of the organisation(s) that are party to that agreement, it’s not possible for a third party organisation just to use that agreement because it is convenient. In establishing a framework agreement there must be clearly nominated buying organisations and a clearly nominated supplier or list of suppliers. Once the framework has been awarded it is not possible to change either the buyers or suppliers who are party to that agreement.

      1. patricia2828 says:

        Hi Tim – thanks for your prompt and detailed response – I am pleased to know my instinct was right! This is a fab blog for me with theoretical but not much practical public procurement experience (mine was way back years ago!!). Thanks again for offering me your email – I will be in touch with you cheers Patricia

  14. Toby Ellis says:

    Hi Tim

    Great blog – thanks! My apologies if this has been asked before but I didn’t have time to wade through all the bumf.

    A contract is due to expire in March and I am thinking of running a mini-comp from a live framework to determine the successor. The incumbent supplier is not part of this framework and thus would not be able to bid. Can I pursue the framework for a solution or am I obliged to instead undertake a full tender exercise in order to give the incumbent an opportunity to bid? My preference would be to purchase from the framework but I need to understand whether the incumbent has any redress if not offered the opportunity to bid? The contract is approx. £175k pa and the incumbent has advised there are no TUPE obligations.

    Thanks

    Toby

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Toby,

      Delighted you like the blog. This particular thread on frameworks is very popular, but it is getting a bit cumbersome with all of the questions and answers that have been added since we first wrote it 5 years ago. We’ve been thinking about re-writing it to make it more coherent, so as soon as we have some time we’ll get around to it!

      To answer your question, the incumbent does not have any legal redress if you decide to purchase from the framework, provided that it’s a framework to which you are a party. They will understandably probably be rather annoyed that they are being denied the opportunity to bid. You don’t mention any dissatisfaction with the incumbent’s performance and I’m assuming that you would like to use the framework to avoid the time and expense of running a separate tender exercise?

      I would recommend having a discussion with the incumbent to let them know what you are planning to do. It may be that they can act as a sub-contractor to one of the suppliers that is party to the framework and therefore stand a chance of retaining the work.

      1. Toby Ellis says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply Tim

        My desire to use a framework is based on an identified cost saving over the incumbent supplier having seen the notional pricing allied with a recognition that calling off is a less time-intensive process than running a tender. Best of luck with revising the blog. I’m a subscriber now so will monitor with interest… Toby

  15. Hi Tim,

    Having recently been awarded a Tender Framework Agreement (and being the ONLY company awarded this). On the award letter it also stated that we were “The Most Economically Advantageous Tender”. Furthermore our confirmation letter following the 10 day standstill period stated “The Authority now accepts your offer and wishes to proceed to complete the contract”.

    Upon the contract commencing though we are advised that the first work under the agreement has also been sent to a second tenderer.

    Can this be correct? The second tenderer were not officially awarded the tender and thus cannot be party to the framework.

    Thanks,

    Andrew

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Andrew,

      As you point out something cannot be right here. If you were the only company awarded a place under the framework then they cannot award work to another company under the terms of that framework. Even if there is more than one supplier that is party to the framework in most cases you would expect the authority to run a mini-competition between all the suppliers to determine who would be successful in winning that particular call-off.

      1. Andrew says:

        Hi Tim, thanks for the response.

        The other company did tender but we were definitely the only company that were awarded the tender. The other company has done work for the council before and did score well but did not win then tender.

        Additionally, we have done a few tenders before but if there is any mini-competitions or multiple winners then it is specified in the tender originally. There was no mention of either. They are effectively sliding a mini-competition into the tender even though it was never in the terms.

        (For another authority we refused to tender for a framework based on terms like this. That one asked for a minimum crazy turnover in order as a multiple of the entire possible contract. Even though no one part of that contract would ever exceed about £20K!). Seems like it was being written for a particular company to win. So we walked away.

        We therefore feel that something is not right when we win this one, only for the first part of the framework to be offered also to a party that did not. It doesn’t smell right.

        Problem is, as usual, we risk upsetting the Council if we go legal on this. We have a good relationship with them now despite this. The question is, what to do if we don’t win this (newly created) mini-competition?

        Thanks.

      2. Tim Williams says:

        Andrew,

        If you are the only supplier that is a party to the framework then the Council cannot award them a contract under the terms of that agreement. Paragraph 7 of Regulation 33 of the Public Contracts Regulations sets out how a call-off can be awarded when there is only one supplier that is party to the agreement.

        Awarding contracts based on a framework agreement
        (7) Where a framework agreement is concluded with a single economic operator—
        (a) contracts based on that agreement shall be awarded within the limits laid down in the framework agreement; and
        (b) for the award of those contracts, contracting authorities may consult the economic operator which is party to the framework agreement in writing, requesting it to supplement its tender as necessary.

        In plain language, they can either award just based on what’s written in the framework agreement, or they can ask you to quote for a specific requirement based on the terms in the framework. As you are the only supplier that is party to the framework there isn’t anyone else they can invite to take part in a mini-competition.

        The best way to resolve this would be to have an informal conversation with your contacts in the Council so that you can point out that if you are the sole party to the framework they cannot run mini-competitions or award call-offs to any other contractor. If an informal chat doesn’t work then you could try the Government’s Mystery Shopper service to see if they can help to resolve the situation satisfactorily.

        On the subject of a disproportionately high turnover being used to exclude suppliers, the maximum turnover that can be required is now limited to no more than twice the contract value, as specified in Paragraph 9 of Regulation 58.

        The minimum yearly turnover that economic operators are required to have shall not exceed twice the estimated contract value, except in duly justified cases, such as by reference to special risks attached to the nature of the works, services or supplies, in which case the contracting authority shall indicate their main reasons in the procurement documents or in the report referred to in regulation 84(1).

  16. Si says:

    Hi there, I am wondering if you could help with some information here, our company has been awarded 1st ranked supplier on a framework, I’m advised that this is not a “contract”, which only is in place when an order is placed and accepted, although the authority is stating that particular variations/ i.e. m2 area banded areas and whether out of hours etc… of item’s sometimes mean that our price is not the cheapest in the lot tendered, where we rank as no1, it must also be noted that the evaluation undertaken only assessed certain banded rates, completely omitting rates entered for certain banding, and this is how the local authority arrived at the ranking, our rates were based on the evaluation method as well as what is economically viable to our company, can you please advise if this is something that the local authority is able to do, as they have been awarding works to suppliers both outwith the framework and at cheaper rates than that in the framework as per our tender, despite a clause stating that offers must remain “firm” throughout the first 12 month period.

    I have brought up initially with them that the works should be directed to us as 1st ranked supplier, to which it was agreed, they still awarded to other contractors, and a further subsequent meeting and evidence of this was raised, to which is was stated that all works would be directed towards us in the first instance where we are 1st ranked, and they were not aware of how the contract was working, and that they could not award to contractors based on variants of banding and out of hours etc.., however they are now backtracking and stating that they can award to whomever is the cheapest, and at any time an alternative contractor can revise their rates to become cheaper than our rates, meaning that although at the time of evaluation we were ranked 1st, any other contractor can alter to negate the whole tendering process.

    It was also stated that the local authority can run a parallel contract alongside this, although they have elected at this time not to run this, as it is not in the spirit of the framework.

    I would really appreciated your help on this matter.

    Thanks

    1. Tim Williams says:

      You are quite correct that a framework agreement is not a contract. A contract is only formed when a call-off, under the terms of the framework, is awarded.

      It sounds as though the evaluation was carried out based on the anticipated profile of the contracts they expected to let, although if this was the case the authority should have set out how they intended to do the evaluation in the tender documents. So although there may have been banded rates that weren’t included, this could have been because they don’t expect much work to fall into those categories.

      The definition of a framework agreement is that it establishes the terms on which contracts are to be awarded, including the price. An obiter dictum (an expression of opinion uttered in court or in a written judgement, but not essential to the decision and therefore not legally binding as a precedent) by the judge in the procurement case Henry Brothers No. 2 (Paragraph 25) considered that price must always be included as an award criterion when establishing a framework agreement and therefore that the price must be established in the framework itself.

      It sounds as though they are awarding contracts on the basis of mini-competitions, i.e. when they know the specification of a particular works contract they send that out to the suppliers on the framework to get a firm price and then award on the basis of that competition, but any price changes must be according to the terms of the framework. For example, it may that certain combinations of activity allow a reduction in price, but any mechanism must be specified in the agreement.

      It’s unlikely that the authority is obligated to use the framework and so they can award contracts to suppliers who aren’t party to the framework, but in order to do so they would almost certainly have to run a full tender exercise. The obvious question is why would an authority go to the trouble of identifying the best suppliers and establishing a framework only to award a contract to a contractor not on that framework?

      It seems as though you need to have a conversation with the authority and explain that you think that they are not complying with the Public Contracts Regulations. if you can settle this informally in an amicable way, that is undoubtedly the best way to resolve the matter. If that fails you could try the Government’s Mystery Shopper service to see if they can help, a blog by my colleague Cindy explains more.

      1. Si says:

        Tim, thanks for the response, having had discussions with the local authority relating to the non compliance, the local authority has not been undertaking mini tenders, which I expect we should receive also ? (if they were to be undertaken) instead the local authority moved directly to award to a contractor based on the banded areas, and a price per item which was not submitted at tender stage, but offered after the framework ranking was awarded.

        It is still inferred by the local authority that they were unaware of how the framework was operating in the first instance (stated by their procurement department) and subsequently staff were calling off direct to previous suppliers, based on prices not available within the original tendered framework.

        It would seem that many items have been awarded outwith the framework, and a freedom of information request was sought to determine the quantity of work which we have effectively lost, and in turn the financial cost to our company, although after submitting this request, the local authority stated that they wished to work with us, and that the information would not be necessary as they would work with us to issue works under the framework as 1st ranked supplier, following this turnaround we accepted the arrangement proposed.

        The local authority have stated that they will revert to using our company as no1 ranked supplier for all works in that lot, then in the same sentence have now reverted back to stating that they don’t need to use our company as we are not the cheapest for all combinations of items within the lot, where a combination is not advantageous to the Local authority, they are intending to award to another contractor, the details of how the evaluation was undertaken is not made available in the tender document, or how the evaluation may reflect the award of works, other than to rank each supplier based on the evaluation of certain items within the pricing document.

        I find the local authority quite challenging to deal with, it seems that they are changing the goal posts depending only on what is the most economically advantageous at that particular time / scenario and despite making assurances to work with us, it just seems that there is no point in undertaking these costly exercises, winning the tender, and then having to spend exorbitant amounts of time / money on fighting to win the work that we have already effectively won.

        Is it possible to submit rates for items to a local authority based on a tender exercise, even though you did not participate, or have previously submitted alternative rates to be held firm for a period of 12 months. ?

      2. Tim Williams says:

        Hi Simon,

        I’m not surprised you are finding the local authority’s behaviour ‘quite challenging.’

        1. They should probably not be including rates that were not submitted at the time of the tender.
        2. They should ensure that all council staff in a position to award relevant contracts are aware of the framework and how suppliers should be selected based on the terms and conditions included in the framework
        3. You should insist that they provide details of how they carried out the evaluation for the award of the framework and how they are awarding call-offs. There seems to be a crucial lack of transparency in the way they are doing this at the moment, which is directly contrary to the objectives of procurement legislation. Public Contracts Regulation 76 states quite clearly:
          Principles of awarding contracts

        • Contracting authorities shall determine the procedures that are to be applied in connection with the award of contracts subject to this Section, and may take into account the specificities of the services in question.
        • Those procedures shall be at least sufficient to ensure compliance with the principles of transparency and equal treatment of economic operators.

        The Crown Commercial Service guidance on Framework Agreements (page 9) states:

        Can a multi-provider framework include a term that allows a direct award call-off to one provider i.e. no mini-competition?

        • Yes. Where the terms laid down in the framework agreement set out all the terms governing the provision of the specific requirement, and the terms or procurement documents set out the objective conditions for determining which of the economic operators should perform the contract, the authority can award the call-off without reopening competition. The Regulations do not specify how this should be done, but the mechanism used should comply with general Treaty principles including transparency and non-discrimination.

        Key to resolving this issue is getting the information on evaluation and gaining an understanding of exactly what they are doing at the moment. In providing that information to you they will hopefully realise themselves that they are not being compliant and change the way in which they are awarding the call-off contracts. My advice would be that if they do not volunteer to change, then keep pressing them to do so, preferably in a face to face meeting (keep a written record of what was discussed) and if they still won’t cooperate tell them you are going to refer the matter to the Mystery Shopper service.

  17. Yasmin says:

    Hi

    Thanks for answering my question previously

    Hope you can put some light to this.

    When awarded a Tender and used as the preferred supplier, can a Company not awarded the tender take the work that you have tendered for?. We have been made aware that a company have been given the work we tendered for. Is this ok and if so why bother going through the tender process?

    Look forward to hearing from you

    Yaz

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Yaz,

      I would need some more information to give you a definitive answer, but a more general answer is as follows.

      Only companies who are party to a framework agreement can be awarded work under a call-off and its not possible to add new suppliers onto a framework once it has been awarded. In most cases the contracting authority (the buyer) is not obliged to use the framework agreement and could award a separate contract, provided it follows the necessary rules on tendering, etc. This does sometimes happen, although it doesn’t really make any sense for an authority would go through the hassle of tendering a framework agreement, choosing the best supplier(s) and then decide to go through another process to award a contract.

      Tim

  18. Yasmin says:

    Hi Guys

    If you have been awarded a Tender which is a framework contract can an outside organisation also be involved with regards to getting work without being part of the Frame work who also had not been awarded the tender? would this be breach of contract?

    1. Tim Williams says:

      It is quite common practice for a company which is party to a framework agreement to sub-contract the execution of a call-off contract, sometimes in its entirety. As you suggest it will depend on the contractual terms specified in the framework agreement whether this is permissible, but provided there’s no prohibition then it’s perfectly legal.

      Legality aside, my own view is that substantial sub-contracting of this type is fairly dubious and is often done in order to avoid a competitive tendering process under the regulations. Whether the buying organisation and ultimately the tax-payer gets best value for money by following such an approach is questionable.

    2. Marie says:

      Hi Tim

      I am really confused with regards to frameworks. We had been awarded a contract with the local authority which was a four year contract. Work was good at first then it came to our attention that an outside company had been providing their services at a cheaper rate although they had not been awarded the tender . Would it be fair to say that the local authority would have had to do a mini tender to invite others in? We approached the local authority with regards to our concerns and their reply all along was that they had informed managers that they have to follow the framework and use the preferred awarded company before any outside company. This was never the case and we feel we had lost a great opportunity and money. Why would the authorities do this to us? We feel this was most unfair. It also has come to our attention that they do not have to comply to certain contractual obligations such as mandatory training for their staff as we do. Also a rebate which has to be paid back on a quarterly basis does not apply to them. How can this be a fair process. It feels as if we are being discriminated. We worked extremely hard to achieve winning the tender and yet it seemed we would have been better off not having the contract.

      I Look forward to your thoughts on this

      Marie

      1. Marie says:

        Hi Tim

        Can you advise me what type of solicitor would I need to contact with regards to Procurement,Tenders and Contracts.

        Thanks

        Marie

      2. Tim Williams says:

        Hi Marie,

        There are quite a few firms that specialise in providing advice relating to public procurement. The following link is to the public procurement lawyers listed in Chambers & Partners any one of which should be able to help – http://bit.ly/Chambers-PublicProcurement

      3. Tim Williams says:

        Marie,

        A framework agreement isn’t a contract in itself, it just establishes the terms and conditions that will apply to a contract that is entered into under a call-off. It seems that you are suffering from a problem that I’m afraid is not uncommon, i.e. the local authority staff awarding contracts for your products or services don’t know (or perhaps don’t care) that a framework exists and so place contracts either directly, or after following their own tender procedure.

        It’s unlikely that there’s a legal obligation for them to use your framework (most frameworks aren’t written that way) but the situation could still be illegal depending on the volume and value of these maverick contracts that are being awarded.

        I quite understand your frustration but probably the immediate action to take is to raise the matter again with your client in the local authority and point out that they took the time and effort to conduct a procedure to select the best provider, but that their staff are not using the agreement that has been put in place. As a result its either costing the council more than it should or they are receiving a lower quality of goods or services. It might be worth raising with your elected Councillor as well.

      4. Marie says:

        Tim

        I really appreciate your time in this matter. Thank you so much what would we do without people like you. Thanks again

        Marie

      5. Rosalind D'Cruz says:

        This is a question for Tim Williams.

        Are Call Offs let under an OJEU framework subject to the maximum 50% of original value rule? I appreciate that the value advertised in the OJEU notice limits the overall spend as per regulation 72 but does that apply to a Call Off too?

        thanks

        Roz

      6. Tim Williams says:

        Hi Roz,

        There’s no limit on the value of a call-off awarded under the terms of a framework agreement, so in theory a single call-off could be awarded that used the entire value available. The purpose of a framework though is to simplify the process of awarding multiple contracts, so it wouldn’t normally make any sense to award call-off’s that used up a substantial proportion of the capacity within that agreement.

      7. Rosalind D'Cruz says:

        Thanks Tim, that is what I thought. It is really benefical having someone who can provide an objective & very informed view.
        Appreciate it

      8. Rosalind D'Cruz says:

        Hi Tim, I spoke to one of my colleagues and he asked me to clarify my question for your consideration further.

        So if you let a Call Off under a Framework for say £100k can you make changes to it (assuming the framework allows for such changes) to a value greater than 50% of the original let, in other words can you make a change or a series of changes that takes the overall value above £150K? therefore, my iniital question was “Are call offs let under a framework subject themesleves to the 50% limiting change rule.
        Apologies if I wasnt clear first time around – does your response now change?

      9. Tim Williams says:

        Hi Roz,

        Sorry yes, I did misunderstand your original question. You are quite right Regulation 72 is the relevant provision in this case, i.e. you can add works, services or supplies to be performed by the original contractor that have become necessary and were not included in the initial procurement, provided the price does not increase by more than 50% of the original value. In your example a call-off contract with an initial value of £100k could be increased to a maximum of £150k. Such an increase does have to satisfy one of the following two conditions though:

        • cannot be made for economic or technical reasons such as requirements of interchangeability or interoperability with existing equipment, services or installations procured under the initial procurement, or
        • would cause significant inconvenience or substantial duplication of costs for the contracting authority,

        The second condition should be fairly easy to justify on the grounds that running a separate procurement would inconvenient and costly.

      10. Rosalind D'Cruz says:

        Hi Tim,

        Call Off contracts & REgulation 72

        Having read your response to me on the applicaability of Regulation 72 to Call off contracts, I think you are saying that I cant raise the value of a call off contract which was let under a framework for more than 50% of the original value of the call off ie not the framework.

        What I want to do in the specific case is increase the value of the Call oFF for more than 50% of its original value. I cant see anything in the regulations which prohibits me as the regulations talk to that prohibition pertaining to Contracts and Frameworks let – not Specific Call Off contracts. Can you point me to where it states that the rules on modification increases also apply to Call off which are by their nature not published or notified within OJEU.

        Roz

      11. Tim Williams says:

        Hi Roz,

        My view is that a call-off let under the terms of a framework agreement becomes a contract subject to the Public Contracts Regulations and consequently Regulation 72 does apply.

  19. Reo says:

    This may be a stupid question, but is there a difference between a Framework Agreement and a Framework Contract?

    1. Tim Williams says:

      A framework agreement sets out the terms and conditions under which specific purchases (call-offs) can be made throughout the lifetime of that agreement. In most cases a framework agreement itself is not a contract, it is only when a specific purchase is made, i.e. a call-off contract is awarded, that a contract is formed.

      The only time that a framework agreement is also a contract is if the agreement places an obligation on either the buyer or supplier to make a purchase or to supply goods or services.

      Tim

  20. Joseph Omollo says:

    What is the difference between a contract and a Framework Agreement?

    1. Gemma Waring says:

      Hi Joseph,

      In the public sector a contract would generally mean the document you sign once being selected as the winning bidder in tendering competition. That would apply to all different procedures such as open, restricted and also frameworks.

      A framework is a set arrangement where suppliers are effectively shortlisted and then are awarded call off contracts through a variety of different means depending on the framework itself. You would also usually sign a contract to be shortlisted onto the framework.

      Does this answer your question?

      Gemma

  21. Pat Cullinane says:

    We are a Bristol based SME. We have recently secured a framework contract for a four year period for a local authority Landlord service. At the time of the ITT under the tenderers questions route we asked several questions regarding obvious omissions on the Schedules of Rates. The procurement team now concedes these omissions were made and has said that they will find a similar rate and work description to cover these omissions and our tendered price adjustment will apply to new rates. Our point is that in the pricing document we priced purely on what was specified and added a minus tender adjustment figure on this basis. Our view is that on a relatively new contract there should not be the need to introduce new rates (the work mix/type has not changed) we feel strongly that any new rates added to the schedule should be subject to negotiation and not simply priced at our tendered adjustment figure. I can find nothing in the contract documentation which supports the actions the procurement team are proposing.

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Pat,

      Unless the contract contains terms that govern the introduction of new rates I would agree with you that the procurement team have no basis for imposing the tendered adjustment figure. As you point out your prices were based on the work specified in the ITT and any variation to this should be the subject of negotiation, not a dictat from the awarding authority. In your position I would stand my ground as you are in a position of strength as they won’t want to re-tender the whole contract again.

      The new Public Contracts Regulations which came into force in February contain some provisions on the modification of contracts during their term. The Crown Commercial Service have also published some additional guidance on the regulations (http://bit.ly/Amendments-to-contracts). But these concern whether the changes to a contract are significant enough to require that the contract is re-tendered.

      I’m assuming that in monetary terms the additional rates will not not make a substantial difference to the overall value of the contract and as such the new provisions won’t take effect. I would also expect that your contract isn’t governed by the new Regulations as the procurement process was probably initiated before they came into effect.

      Regards

      Tim

  22. sri says:

    Hi Tim,

    A ‘Framework contract’ is a long term procurement strategy with clients securing the services of quality contractors at a time when they were in short supply by offering the possibility of a steady supply of future work. When the boom is over and contractors are competing ferociously for business, will there be any implications that might affect the client’s long term procurement strategies.

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi,

      Most framework agreements do not provide any guarantee of the volume of work that may be procured. If a framework was entered into at a time when rates were high and we are now in a period when rates are lower, it is certainly worth considering whether to cease placing call-offs under the term of that agreement. A new framework could be entered into which would have the benefit of locking in the lower rates for the duration, or perhaps just competing some projects as an individual tender.

  23. Owen says:

    Hi Tim,

    Just a quick question, is it possible to terminate a framework contract early? and if so in what circumstances would TUPE not apply?

    Cheers

    Owen

    1. Tim Williams says:

      A framework agreement establishes the terms, conditions and usually pricing, that will be applied to the call-off contracts entered into under the umbrella of the framework terms. It doesn’t normally form a contract as this more usually occurs at the stage when a call-off contract is placed. As such, there’s no real need to terminate a framework agreement the contracting authority can simply stop issuing call-offs under the terms of the agreement.

      For TUPE to apply to service contracts there has to be a service provision change which means that there must be “an organised grouping of employees” whose “principal purpose” is carrying out the relevant activities and the employees in question must be “assigned” to the organised grouping of employees.

      It’s not impossible that TUPE might apply to a service contract issued under the terms of a framework, but the call-off would at the very least have to be of sufficient duration to establish that the principal purpose of the affected employees was to provide the relevant services.

  24. Viktoria says:

    Dear Tim,

    Great blog!

    Was wondering if you could please shed some light on Frameworks from a contractor’s point of view.

    I’ve been trying to do a research but all materials seem to be concentrating on the client rather than the contractor.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages for a contractor to tender for projects on a framework as opposed to for projects in competition with other tenderers? And what are the implication of the difficulty in deciding which one to choose?

    Also, if the contractor had to decline work offers, would that be to the new client (competitive tender) or to the regular client in the framework?

    Would love to hear your comments on this please!

    Kind Regards,

    Viktoria

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Viktoria,

      There are two main types of framework, a single supplier framework, where any call-off contracts will be awarded to the single supplier, or a multiple supplier framework where the call-off’s will be awarded after a mini-competition, or if the terms of the parent framework agreement is detailed enough the buyer can determine which supplier should awarded the contract.

      The advantage to a contractor in being included on a framework is that hopefully the authority, or authorities, who are entitled to use that framework will either award contracts directly to that contractor, or invite them to take part in a mini-competition amongst the other contractors on the framework.

      As far as declining work is concerned, most frameworks are set up so that there is no obligation on the buyer to use the framework to make any purchases, but similarly there is no obligation on the supplier to accept any orders either. A framework is really an enabling mechanism, so that any call off contracts are relatively simple to put in place.

      Frameworks are essentially a closed marketplace. Once a framework has been established no new buyers can join the framework and no new suppliers can join either. All of the parties have to be nominated at the outset.

  25. Paul Jones says:

    What are the implications if two OJEU compliant frameworks merge or work together? If you are not on one framework but the other? Does this give you automatic exposure to the framework you are not on? I am noticing a great deal more collaboration between these organisations and wondered if this should be regarded as an opportunity or threat?

    Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Paul,

      Sorry for taking so long to reply to your question.

      Two OJEU frameworks cannot merge, as each is a stand alone legal agreement in its own right. Any call-off contracts must be awarded in accordance with the terms of the parent framework agreement.

      These days it is common practice for frameworks to be established so that they can be used by a wide range of organisations and not just the organisation that established the framework. Frameworks can also often overlap in terms of the products or services that can be purchased. It therefore follows that it’s important for any supplier to make sure that they compete for a position on any framework that might become relevant, although it’s not always easy to do this.

      The danger of course is that, for example, while you may be party to a framework being used by a local authority they could decide to use a different framework on which you aren’t included and through no fault of your own you are then no longer eligible to provide goods or services to that authority.

      With regard to the two collaborating organisations you mention, if the framework they decide to use is the one including you its an opportunity. But, if they decide to use a framework on which you aren’t included then its a very serious threat.

  26. Edward Briggs says:

    I am aware of Companies which supply to the NHS directly and through Frameworks set up by Hubs. These Frameworks allow Multiple Suppliers. I have found that the Frameworks are then used to conduct Mini Competitions for lots within the framework in order to drive down the price according to volume. Hover these volumes have already been specified within the framework. Should Suppliers when tendering for these Mini-Competitions be submitting the prices as original submitted for the Framework or can the Suppliers take the opportunity to reduce the price according to commitment?

    It has also become clear, that the Hubs allow direct pricing deals to be agreed off the framework. There is no notification through the OJEU and other members of the framework are not notified. Is this allowed or have the Hubs/Trusts found a way to work the system.

  27. ruth says:

    Hello,
    We are a transport company 2 years into a 4 year contract with a local authority. In a bid to save money they have announced that in less than one month they will be retendering all routes via e-auction. They have announced that contracts will be awarded early next year. In the letter detailing these plans they state that the letter is not notice of our contract terminating, and that this will be done at the time of awarding the contracts. My question is do they have to state a termination date for contracts before the bidding process begins?

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Unless your existing contract includes some sort of exclusivity clause then I can’t see that there would be any requirement for them to state a termination date. You should also have a look at the termination clause in your existing contract and then try to negotiate terms that minimise any disruption to you. For example, they should appreciate that you have staff and resources to manage and that you can’t simply turn them on and off at will. Hopefully you’ll still be able to retain the business, but if you do lose some or all of it then you want to do so on acceptable terms. The local authority should want to maintain a good relationship with you as you’ll be providing services for at least the next few months.

  28. Fabian Ashun Jnr says:

    Good afternoon Tim,

    I have a query in relation to the calling of works provided via a framework from a direct award supplier.

    Costs were established at the ITT stage for the service provided. The suppliers have now re-costed, stating (which was noted) that the works involve further funds to keep to the work commitments.
    My question, is it legal to continue calling off the direct award within the timeframe set but outside the original cost estimate? Does this case meet procurement regs or does it fall to individual legal ownership.

    Regards

    Fabian Ashun Jnr

    1. Tim Williams says:

      There are two ways in which a contract can be awarded under the terms of a Framework Agreement:

    2. if terms laid out in the framework agreement are detailed enough for the purchasing authority to be able to identify the best supplier for that particular requirement, then the authority can award the contract without re-opening competition.
    3. Or if the terms laid out are not specific enough a further mini-competition should be held between all the suppliers on the framework agreement who are capable of meeting the need.
    4. It’s not clear from your question which of the above routes was followed in this case. But, in either case if the pricing was one of the terms specified in the agreement and there isn’t a mechanism built into the agreement to allows for a price increase, e.g. to allow for inflation or changes in raw material costs, then it isn’t permissible for the supplier to increase their prices.

  1. Thanks Tim,
    As I thought most importantly your first point also your second point meets my thoughts on the issue..
    Regards

    Fabian

  • Fabian Ashun Jnr says:

    Once you have awarded a call off contract to a supplier via direct award and further work has been established by the supplier as being needed is it feasible to call of further works from the existing frameworks where the cost is greater than the original award or can we award another direct award to the same supplier again highlighting the services required?

  • antony rayner says:

    Hi Tim,

    I hope you are well and sorry for this un-announced e-mail but I would like advice on a current tender we have applied for we are currently in
    standstill period. There has been a number of errors, at the first award our scores seemed inconsistent compared to the actual marks available for the relevant 3 sections so I queried this and then said it was a mathematical error. Then after they reviewed the scoring again they found another mathmatical error and changed the score again.

    I then questioned the scoring again as the same question had been asked in two of the three lots yet they had scored them significantly different.

    An examples of when the scores have not been inconsistent involved the same question on all three lots and two of the lots the question was scored the same yet the third lot was scored 0 in comparison to 21 points awarded on the other two lots.

    They have then come back after extending the standstill period to look into these concerns to state the following:In considering these representations carefully, it was discovered that a step in the governance process had been omitted, affecting a small number of scores.
    This has now been corrected and we are now ready to re-commence the ‘standstill period’ prior to award.

    They said they have changed a few of the scores but the decision remains the same, this seems very convenient as none of the placing of the other suppliers awarded have been changed in fact there scores have increased yet we are the only supplier who has had there scores reduced on the lots we queried yet all other suppliers seem to have benefited from the review that we raised.

    They have asked me to meet with them to discuss the reasons why this is but there office is in London and I am in scotland but they told me there decision remains the same. I have confirmed I will meet with them but I will be takins legal representation and they have responded to say they would rather meet without as if we bring someone they will have to have someone present.

    Can you give me some advice on what to do now ? This is the first time we have gone for this contract and so I would need some immediate advice on how best to proceed.

    Thanks

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Anthony,

      Thanks very much for your message.

      The evaluation process you describe does seem to be very badly flawed and I think that anyone in your position would continue to have serious doubts that it is has been conducted professionally and impartially.

      Unfortunately in almost every case like this you have to balance the cost and inconvenience of pursuing it further against the likelihood of improving your position. That said if no-one ever complains or holds contracting authorities to account then the situation won’t improve. As to whether you should take legal representation with you, I would proceed as you have already stated in the hope that they understand that you are serious about this matter, that you feel that you have been unfairly treated and unless it is resolved satisfactorily that you are prepared to take legal action. Unfortunately legal action is very expensive and the outcome is often uncertain, so unless you have a very clear cut case I would be wary of actually raising an action.

      An alternative to legal action is to raise this case with the Cabinet Office Mystery Shopper Scheme.

      In summary I would take them up on their offer of a debrief, with or without your lawyer and after that decide how best to proceed, but unless your legal case is very strong I would not rush to court.

  • Henry Okolieh says:

    Hi,

    I am interested in know how possible it is to refresh a framework agreement that has been in use for some time.

    By refreshing, I meant, adding or allowing new supplier(s) on to the already existing list of vetted supplier, call it a dynamic framework. Noting that this was not mentioned/stated in the original framework specification or document used in for the tender excises.

    Any tangible advice will be very well appreciated.

    Kind regards
    Henry

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi Henry,

      It is not possible to add a new supplier, or a buyer, to an existing framework. A framework agreement sets out the terms and conditions applicable to any call-off contracts awarded under the framework and both suppliers and buyers must be a party to the original agreement.

      The Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) is a separate procedure that allows new suppliers to join what is essentially a framework structure for commodity goods or services. Unfortunately the 2004 European procurement directive strangled this at birth by encumbering it with unnecessarily bureaucratic obligations. However, the new 2014 Directive which will be coming into force shortly has removed the obstacles and so we expect that we will see many more DPS systems established over the next few years.

  • Russell Barrett says:

    Good Morning,

    I wonder if you can help me ?

    I have recently entered a tender to supply our local council with electrical supplies, which I lost, OK. The tender was valued at £750,000, a figure I know to be about correct as I had previously been supplying it.

    They have now decided to also purchase directly another £600,000 worth of goods ( which was previously being supplied through sub-contractors ) and have awarded this to the winner of the original tender.

    My question is this, as this is another £600,000 worth of purchases, which they have not previously made, should this not also be put out to tender under the same regulations ?

    1. Abdullah Abid says:

      Hi Russell,

      Yes absolutely should have been tendered unless the council incorporated this additional usage / spend within the Spec / ITT . Clearly the goalposts have been moved for the original set of docs that have been sent out. The key is the wording in the ITT, it could be that other potential bidders have seen the the £750K value and thought not worth submitting bids, however with a £1.3m figure they could have been tempted. I do feel the council are being a tad lazy and opting NOT to go through the process all over again. They have miscalculated and are hoping to get away with. Worth pursuing i would suggest.

  • chasingmytail says:

    On small works contract – Housing association. We are a small construction outfit we are on a framework which cost us £3k in QS fees to get on. We have been tendering on various projects and our tender figure is good however there seems to be 7 tenders’ on the list and my understanding is on small works there should be 3 (or so) and that opportunity should be rotated. If we had known that 7 contractors would be requested to tender at a time then we wouldnt have bothered. The first tender we did after being shortlisted and paying £1k fees was actually scrapped. Feeling sick due to the QS fees and time I have ploughed into this as a small business with small turnover – seems to me a bad decision to think we could bother taking the business forward what with obtaining QA certification, Constructionline, Considerate contractors etc etc. So far its just cost us considerably.

    1. Tim Williams says:

      Hi,

      There’s no limit on how many contractors/suppliers can be appointed to a framework, although clearly it makes sense for there to be no more than necessary otherwise it’s just wasting everyone’s time.

      The award of a call off contract can be made in two ways, either there was sufficient information provided in the original tender for a decision to be made, or there a mini-competition is held to firm up the quote. In neither situation is any party allowed to change the criteria, or the rates, etc., that they have provided, but for example you could be asked to state what trades and how many days would be required for a specific project.

      The work shouldn’t be rotated amongst the contractors on the framework, it should be as a result of an objective assessment. In small works frameworks of the type you describe it’s common for the highest scoring contractors not to be available for all contracts and so the next highest scoring contractor should then be selected.

      If you don’t already have the information it might be worth asking the authority for the relevant scores of the contractors on the framework and to set out how they are awarding the call off contracts.

      Tim

    2. The Framework Agreement itself will detail exactly how call-offs should be made – by rotation, by mini-comp, by direct selection. The original OJEU notice would also have detailed how many suppliers they intended to have on the framework. Hope that helps.

  • Mark Baker says:

    I work for a company that has just been awarded a large framework agreement by a Government Department, as a single supplier of services. The Framework was given a mid-term value, I understand that the volume of work in a Framework cannot be guaranteed and so for the purposes of putting a mid term value on the contract an estimate of volumes would have to be made, but does this apply to the pricing formula as well, I thought this would have been a known figure by which to multiply the estimated volumes by. I ask because the very first call off contract within the Framework was reputed to have been issued for a low price per transaction when compared to the high valued arrived at in the overall mid term value. Hope this makes sense.

  • JT says:

    I wonder if anyone would be kind enough to advise on the following, we are a construction company on a framework for the provision of road maintenance to a local authority. There are 4 companies on the framework of which we are the prefered supplier based on a schedule of rates for prospective works. The call off of works involves the number one contractor being offered the works on the basis of the submitted rates against the quantities for that particular location, if they can undertake the works they accept, if not the works goes to the number two contractor and so on. The framework is over a period of 4 years, each year the framework participants are given the opportunity to revisit the rates previously submitted.

    We are in the first year and have completed a number of projects to the local authorities satisfaction. However they have decided to tender a package of works via a mini competition to the 4 members of the framework, the package of works does not differ from previous works that we have carried out and we are already proven by precedent that we are the most ecconomical. The package is also of size scope and complexity to works we have already carried out without incident.

    Is this procurement decision challengeable on the basis that the award of works to the framework participants is clearly set out on the basis of the most ecconomical contractor has first refusal?

    1. HI
      It is challengeable if the Framework Agreement does not a) set out the fact that mini-competitions may be used b) specify that the mini-competition can be used instead of the Direct call-off mechanism you specified and c) the way they are running the mini-comp is as laid out in the Framework Agreement. It is likely that the framework specifies how Direct Selection should work (as you describe) but that this does not prevent them running a mini-comp instead. There are lots of reasons to run a mini-comp rather than use Direct Selection.

    2. Tim Williams says:

      A contracting authority cannot change the award criteria when awarding a call-off, from the criteria that are stated in the parent framework agreement. So if the criteria state that call-off’s should be awarded on the basis of lowest cost calculated from the schedule of rates then they are not allowed to change this and run a mini-competition using different criteria.

      The answer above is fairly simplistic and it may be that the criteria are more complex, or the mini-competition might result in a different approach from each contractor than then affects the work required?

  • Lisa says:

    Hi, if there are a number of frameworks available for the same service, that you are able to access, are there any rules for which framework you use? You could have different organisations developing frameworks and allowing you access but each could potentially have a different list of suppliers. If you select to use one framework, could you receive a challenge from a supplier on another framework and would this be upheld? Thanks Lisa