General Procurement

Framework Agreements: What You Need to Know

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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

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190 replies »

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

    • 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?’

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

    • 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 –

  3. 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.

  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 )

  5. 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.


    • 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,


  6. 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

    • 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 I would be happy to take a look at them for you.

      Many thanks


  7. 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 ?

  8. 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.

    • 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.

  9. 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

    • 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.



  10. 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.

    • 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.

  11. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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

  12. 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.



    • 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.

      • 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

  13. 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.



    • 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.

      • 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?


      • 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).

  14. 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.


    • 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.

      • 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. ?

      • 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.

  15. 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


    • 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.


  16. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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


      • Hi Tim

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



      • 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.

      • Tim

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


      • 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?



      • 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.

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

      • 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?

      • 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.

      • 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.


      • 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.

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

    • 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.


    • 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?


  18. 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.

    • 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 ( 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.



  19. 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.

    • 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.

  20. 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?



    • 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.

  21. 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,


    • 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.

  22. 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.

    • 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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?

    • 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.

  25. 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.


    Fabian Ashun Jnr

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

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 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.


    • 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.

  28. 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

    • 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.

  29. 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 ?

    • 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.

  30. 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.

    • 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.


    • 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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?

  33. 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

    • There are not any specific rules governing the situation that you describe. It’s not really a situation that was foreseen when the procurement directives were being drafted. In fact the legislation didn’t even address the use of frameworks by public sector organisations until the 2004 Directive was published. It may well be that there is a framework covering the service required that has been put in place by the Government Procurement Service, another put in place by a consortium such as ESPO, perhaps another by the individual contracting authority itself. There may even be more than one framework from each of these organisations that could be utilised.

      It is likely that each of these frameworks will have different suppliers associated with it, which in effect allows the contracting authority some discretion in deciding which suppliers will have the opportunity to bid for the work.

      I can see that a supplier who missed out on a contract would be likely to raise a challenge. Given that a lawfully procured framework was used, it would seem difficult for the challenge to be upheld if it went to court. If it was possible to make a case that the authority was distorting competition in its use of the particular framework it chose there might be a case to answer. I haven’t heard of any such cases and they would be difficult to prove, but it would certainly be interesting.

  34. Hi
    I am part of a framework agreement with a local council, we all had to submit a schedule of rates for which would be used to award contracts (on the basis of the cheapest rate once accepted onto the framework agreement). I have since found out that contracts have been awarded to contractors that had higher rates than myself and also on mini competitions contracts was awarded for much higher prices than I had submitted.
    What could my recourse action be towards these findings, could this be seen as fraudulant contract awarding

    • Hi David,

      It does seem that there is something strange about the award process that you have described. I would ask the council for a debrief on the contracts that have been awarded so that they can explain the basis of their decision. If the award criteria is simply price then the contract should be awarded to the lowest bidder, but if there are other criteria then this might explain their decision.

  35. Hi,
    I am confrunting with a practice in Romania with regard to the procurementof medical equipments of high value by the Contracting Authorities. So the situation is as follows: the object of the open tender is the establishment of a framework agreement for purchasing 2 medical devices with only one economic operator. The framework agreement duration is 4 years, and the purchase is subject to 2 subsequent contracts.

    1. In my opinion, considering the duration of 4 years of the framework agreement and the small number of aquisitions, shouldn’t the Contracting Authority organize a tender for each procurement by awarding a public supply contract.

    2.The use framework agreement in this case does not violates the scope of the framework agreement given the long time duration of 4 years?

    3.Are there provisions in the european directives of public procurements that regulates the opposite?

    Thank you vey much for you support.
    Kind regards,

  36. do the authority have to inform the contractors who are operating the contracts for services included in the framework prior to creating the framework ie we have been in place operating a national contract that is now being placed in a framework . The ojui notice was advertised last month yet we were not notified

    • I’m afraid there’s no legal obligation on an authority to let you know if they are re-tendering your contract either as a straightforward contract or as a framework. I would hope that in most cases the relationship between the authority and supplier would be good enough that a) you would realise that the existing contract was coming to an end and b) that the authority would let you know what their plans were for the new contract.

      A significant minority of our customers are large national, or multi-national companies, who spend a lot of time and money maintaining a good relationship with their customers and potential customers, so that they know when a new contract is being prepared. Even so they subscribe to Tenders Direct to make sure that they are alerted if a new tender procedure is launched that they didn’t know about. It’s intended as a fall-back situation, but it’s quite surprising how often they only find out about a new contract through an alert from us.

      • we have a good relationship with our authority but they declined to tell us until yesterday Dose the framework idea have to be advertised through ouji

      • The establishment of a framework agreement has to be advertised in the Official Journal (OJEU) if it’s expected value is over the financial threshold, i.e. £113,000 for central government/NHS and £174,000 for local authorities, etc.

  37. Hi

    I recently completed a tender for a council in Scotland. It was a framework agreement and I recently received the award notification. This award letter disclosed my ranking for each item along with my competitors ranking. It then gave a monetary figure for each bidder based on three years projected demand. From this figure I have been able to work out exactly what my competitors have bid for each item awarded. My calculations are correct as it tallies with what I bid for each item.

    This council have allowed everybody on the framework to work out what each company have bid for numerous items.

    Is this not classed as commercially sensitive information? I feel seriously aggrieved that my competitors can work out my prices and could then use this on future tenders throughout the UK

    • Hi Cath,

      The letter advising an authority’s intention to award a contract requires them to give you information on your bid compared to the successful candidate, so that you can judge how their bid was ‘better’ than yours. That information should be restricted to your bid and the successful bid, but not everyone who took part.

      The detailed pricing information is quite clearly sensitive commercial information. While an authority is often required to give some price information this should normally be aggregated at quite a high level so that the pricing of individual elements cannot be worked out.

      • Hi Tim

        Thank you for your comments

        I always have feedback detailing where my answer could have been further enhanced which is fine but in this case I can calculate everyone’s bid values

        I think this is an error on the councils part and would like to know how I can complain about this. I have no idea if my competitors have also worked out the pricing and have no clue if anyone else has complained?

        In my market place there are only a handful of suppliers competing against each other on every contract and my bottom line for a product doesn’t normally change that much. To know my competitors could now know the prices I quote for certain items is quite worrying

      • The first step is definitely to bring it up with the authority and let them know that you consider they have unnecessarily breached your confidentiality and that this type of behaviour makes suppliers more reluctant to deal with the public sector.

        The Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2012 require that information is kept confidential ( You could possibly make a case that they have breached the regulations, but I’m afraid that the wording of this clause is fairly vague and so success in a court would be rather uncertain.

        The Scottish Government has a service called the Single Point of Enquiry ( and I would recommend that you raise this issue with them as well.

      • Hi Ian

        If I name the council it may alert my competitors to the fact they can work out my prices.

        I do not know if anyone else has worked this out as I am not in contact with my competitors

        I do want to pursue some kind of complaint as it is a really serious error

        I have had tenders pulled in the past due to errors in tenders so am not afraid to challenge public bodies

  38. If you let a call off arrangement under a mini competition and place orders underneath that can you rely on the supplier fullfiling those orders if the date of delivery extends beyond the Framework expiry date

    • Hi Rosalind,

      It is quite acceptable for the duration of a call-off to extend beyond the expiry date of a framework agreement. The maximum duration of a framework is 4 years, but there’s nothing to stop you awarding a call-off contract at 3 years 9 months, that then continues for say a year. I think that if you awarded a long duration call-off (3 or 4 years) right at the end of a framework then you have to have a good reason for doing so, otherwise the decision might be challenged.

      I’m not entirely clear what you mean about the fulfilment of orders, i.e. more than one. If you award a call-off under a framework then you are placing a single order. My view is that it’s not possible to enter into an arrangement where you can place multiple orders, over a period of time, under a single call-off.

      • Thanks Tim for your response. To clarify: the original draw down on the framework was a order to place a number of people to project roles. Those placements in some cases span across the expiry of the framework. My question is: can the project expect those people to remain in post to the lenght of the agreed duration even if the Framework expires earlier?


      • Hi Rosalind,

        I would expect the contract that was entered into at the time the call-off was made would refer to the roles, day rate, expected duration or scope of task, etc. The contract is entered into at the call-off stage and so once that is awarded it is that contract that defines the terms of the supply.

  39. We are going into the last 18 months of a consultancy framework and in reviewing the process and looking ahead we dont want to repeat the same mistakes.

    I wasnt in post at the start of the framework, but what seems to be the issue is that tenderers provided a consultancy % rate at the ITT stage and with mini competition they were only allowed to reduce this rate.

    As an organisation what we have found is that mini competition has lead to increased cost reduction – which is usually a good thing. However in this instance quality has dramatically suffered and an increase in compensation events as the consultants look to make up their fees.

    My question is in reissuing our frameworks, how do we assess value for money at ITT stage and how does this translate to the mini competition stage.

    We dont want to encourage consultants to cut each others throats twice at the expense of quality.

    How about no cost evaluation at ITT? A pure select list based on capability and technical ability. With competition at mini competition stage to assess MEAT.

    Anyone any ideas?

  40. Hi there

    Do you know if it is legal to lower a tenderers scrore (or propose to) for making changes to the contract.

    Many thanks



    • Hi Phil,

      It’s possible that a score could be lowered, although that seems an unusual way to proceed to me.

      My experience is that is a candidate does not accept the contract proposed by the authority then it is possible for that bid to be rejected as not complying with the terms of the invitation to tender. In practice I think many authorities are willing to consider changes to a contract, although this would obviously depend on how significant those changes were.

      In terms of lowering the score it would depend on how the award criteria were framed. There would have to be a clear link between the change in the contract and a change in the award criteria. If there wasn’t such a link then I think that lowering the score would be illegal.

  41. Hi – What happens in the following senario – framework is set up for a 4 year period with 6 contractors – however 2 contractors go into liquidation and 1 contractor has failed to perform as required – competition gas now been badly effected. Can new contractors be added to a framework during its lifetime??

    • Hi Patrick,
      Well it would be wise to consider the capabilities of the remaining contractors before adding any irregular cost to the supply chain since the works are on going and you having identified this problem at that stage the better for the whole tender, only should it be that the remaining contractors do not have necessary required competence then you can tender for new contractors, beware of the contractual collateral obligation too! Best wish. Regards Fanwell S

  42. Tim

    With regard to Archie’s point, the Contracting Authority have to consider a number of things prior to changing anything. For instance, they must consider whether the change may have been likely to make the tender more attractive to someone who deided not to bid. It is quite likely that some potential bidders may have felt they would have had little chance on a MEAT tender. Knowing it would have been Price Only may well have made them feel it was worthwhile bidding. In such a scenario the tender MUST be re-advertised and re-run.

  43. Dear sir

    I write as Manager of an SME. We have developed a first rate reputation in Kent with case managers ( psychiatric nurses and social workers) who regularly referred to us and received a service for their mental health service user clients which was prompt,innovative and according to audit, highly effective.

    Previously contracted for provision of supported accommodation services, this contract ceased on October 1st after consultation relating to reconfiguration of services in the light of financial pressures for Kent. We revised our practices in view of the new ceiling prices and cut out costs by about 25% to survive. We felt obligated to apply for the new contract for fear that our clientele would lost to us.

    The new any Qualified Provider contract now specifically excludes accommodation ( although we are left maintaining clients in their ongoing tenancies at our extra expense) and invited applications which were to be collated and then listed for procurement purposes on the basis of lowest price. This has resulted in often lengthy lists with lowest price first and has meant in recent weeks that case managers are attempting to make sometimes urgent referrals direct to us but are stymied by having to use the centralised procurement team.

    So, although handily placed in some client type lists, we know that referrals will inevitably be filtered through the purchasing system or via mini competition and lowest price first. Unfortunately for us and other local providers the price listing is dominated by large national providers new to the area who have plainly tendered at a price they know will dominate the listings. We believe that it is certain that all new work will be  offered to these providers ( who have just opened offices in the County to qualify) and that, over time, our portfolio of work will diminish and not be replenished as it has been through long developed partnerships with local nursing or social work practitioners. The ultimate consequence, for a difference in price that may be a matter of 5 or 10 pence an hour, is that the large providers will come to dominate this new market to such an extent that the lower listed providers will eventually need to downsize to the point where they become non viable. Can the danger of a cartel be remedied?

    Additionally, our work has always included much added value and such is the pressure on casework teams that we are handling often very challenging cases with poor, absent or ineffectual support and oversight from the responsible professionals ( clients rarely seen and reviews not done or updated). Yet, no reference is made in the Terms and Conditions to the partnership responsibilities of the County Social Work teams. This absence of proper discharge of their responsibilities sometimes exacerbates risks to our workers. It seems quite unreasonable to specify requirements contracted for us but not to do so for the commissioning entity. How can this be remedied in contractual terms?
    And ,now the new Framework is in place, can we seek redress for being left with responsibility for large numbers if vulnerable clients placed in accommodation( either owned by us or by partners) for which now no premium is paid under the new contract but for whom we have ongoing responsibilities as landlord?

    • Dear Les,

      I’m really sorry to hear the problems that you are experiencing. Regrettably this seems to be a case of poor procurement, where an overly large number of suppliers have been appointed to a framework and then ranked according to a criteria (price) that’s not really a suitable tool for selecting a provider in such cases.

      This probably means that the mental health clients won’t receive the best level of care, which quite possibly will mean that the overall cost to the taxpayer increases as other interventions become necessary instead of dealing with any problems at an earlier stage.

  44. Hello
    I am facing a brand new situation. I am a project buyer and the company, that I work for, sell customized products. Since I don’t really know what exactly the company will sell, How am I gonna sign a frame Agreement with the supplier? I won’t have the quantity and the part numbers list…. If I get the supplier full price list, and negotiate a general discount for anything I buy, will be money loss…… any suggestion?

  45. We are about to enter into a contract framework for transport services and are concerned as previous writers that once a contract framework has been let (for whatever period) then this restricts further operators from being accepted onto the framework for that period. We are struggling to understand how this can keep the overall flexibility, competition and cost effectiveness that we currently have if this really is the case.

    We do see the benefits that a framework arrangement can but feel that there must be a legal way of getting new operators onto a contract framework during any let period. It is owrth noting that many of teh opeartors would be willing for this to happen.

    Also could you provide guidance on what would happen if an existing operator on a framework changed to a new company or mereged with a different operator.

    Many thanks

    • Dear Doug,

      Many thanks for your comment. There is no way of getting new operators onto a framework agreement during the lifetime of that agreement. The agreement is intended to fix the purchaser(s) and the suppliers at the time it is awarded. Although there is nothing to prevent a new operator from sub-contracting to one of the operators that is party to the agreement.

      If flexibility is an important consideration then you need to balance including a larger number of operators on the framework, against the overhead of administering a larger supply pool and the lower income that each operator will derive.

      It’s important to remember that just because you have a framework agreement, it doesn’t follow that you are necessarily tied into using that agreement for every contract. There is nothing to prevent you running a separate tender exercise, if it’s worth the additional cost and inconvenience.

      Like many procurement law issues, the situation regarding a merger or a takeover is not completely clear. If the changes are ‘materially different’ then it is considered to be a new contract and so it must be re-tendered. In the case of a framework it might not be necessary to re-tender, but the affected supplier should probably not be considered as a party to the agreement any longer.

  46. Taxi tender framework agreement
    I have been working with fife council for the last 5 Years doing school contracts and been in the framework system for to tender for jobs same again this year,but this year i did not fill out one page with 3 paragraphs (abc) i got excluded from being in the tendering process,this was a mistake on my behalf but they will not move on there discision.this is £5000 per month jobs will have to go
    Can anyone help

      • Ian, it may be worth pointing out to Fife that they have a duty to inform you of any obvious errors or omissions, simply excluding you because you made an easily corrected and obvious mistake isn’t on. Write to them and suggest that they are being unfair, that it may cause the loss of local jobs copying in your local councillors and that you may challenge the procurement and see what result that has.

      • Thanks for your comments but they are not interested my concern is that every year tender has been for one year this years tenders, is for 3 years,which is why i am anoyed

      • I understand your annoyance Ian. I work for a large public sector organisation in Procurement and we take threats of “challenge” very seriously as the law is now very much on the side of the supplier/bidders. If you have not specifically told them that you are considering challenging the process I would do so. The threat of an injunction alone should send shiver up their legal department’s spine. Best of luck in any case.

      • The procurement dept (or other dept) cant open the document until after the deadline, so wouldnt be able to inform you of the mistake in order for you to get it back in on time. Discretion is used where justifyable, such as large value contracts to the authority, not the bidder. The taxi market is highly saturated and your competition is very high, so unfortunatly for yourself, this should be a lesson learnt for next time.

    • Im sorry,but working in a government sector myself and to avoid “challenge” there has to be a set of rules that applies to everybody….i would have omitted it also.You should have read the instructions clearly and filled in the document correctly. By not reading and complying with the rules you have not followed the correct procedure,ultimately its your fault and not the councils.Remember the Public sector has to be transparent and fair, its not up to the council to tell you were you have gone wrong (well…..only in a de-brief) because they would have to do it for everyone.
      Just think…..if they give allowances to you they have to be given allowances to evreybody! they could then “challenge” your inclusion. Laayrs suggests “conflict”…the council ommited you to avoid conflict! they have done no wrong whatsoever and would laugh at your challenge….you have even admitted whos fault it is.
      Your also assuming that if you had filled it in correctly you would have won the contract………they have no obligation to award it just because they have done in the past.
      The Public sector has to be strict and fair…..its tax payers
      money they are using.

      • Jon, omitting bidders because they have made an obvious error is simply a case of cutting your own noise off! There appears to be a trend within public sector procurement to focus more on running a compliant process than achieving value for money. Excluding a bidder particularly to a framework simply reduces the level of competition. Engaging with bidders, particularly SME’s only produces a more dynamic market and a better competition. There is no suggestion that the organisation point out all errors or comment on the quality of a submission up-front, but is it fair to SME’s that may not be familiar with this process to exclude them for a genuine omission! Any authority that does not take seriously an informal challenge has not got an eye on value for money!

      • I am not happy with there response they are saying the same thing over and over again,we know they have kept to the rules but this was a genuine mistake,I have only got there word for it that it was not filled in anyway.If it was a one year tender I would just wait and apply next year and make sure it did not happen again but it was for 3 years.I will be out of business by that time,no one can go out there in this climate and find £5000.00 worth of work a month.Tenders are all out and I cannot get any of them but through out the years things will change in transport,can they include my company to tender ? That’s all I am asking now.

  47. A number of Councils came together a number of years ago to set up a framework agreement with a range of suppliers:

    – Since then a number of other Councils have chosen to use this Framework Agreement without advertising the fact. Under what circumstances is this possible, given that the parties to the original agreement must remain the same?
    – The Councils operating the original Framework are believed to want to operate a 12 month extension? In what circumstances can this be done?
    – One Council, not part of the original purchasing group, is proposing to use the framework from some months hence and operate it for four years, ending 2 years after the original framework was set up. Surely the life of the framework is limited to four years, and if it is possible to tag on, only the timeframe imposed on the original framework could apply? They are also planning to run a mini-competition, using only the suppliers to the original contract, to provide what they believe will be lower prices over the term of their Framework. Is this not tantamount to carrying out a tender exercise without advertising it or offering it to all potential suppliers?

    I would be grateful for your comments.

  48. Hi, could a private company advertise a framework on OJEU and make it available to non private organisations funded with public money such as charities, third sector, voluntary org’s, churches etc.?

  49. Hi there,

    I am currently undertaking some research onto framework agreements for construction in schools in the UK.

    My main queries are as follows:

    If a number of architects, say 6, are appointed to a framework agreement with an Education Authority, can that authority chose it’s preferred architect for any construction works to the school without a competition between all appointed parties?

    If the framework agreement for an Education Authority has been advertised on the OJEU for a certain amount of money and a school wants to procure a new building whose value far exceeds that in the original OJEU notice, can that building be procured under the original framework without the need for anew OJEU notice?

    Many thanks for your help!


    • Hi Ben,

      The answer to both parts of your question is No!

      In a framework agreement there are two ways in which a call off contract can be awarded. Firstly, if the terms of the agreement are specific enough, the requirement can be evaluated using the existing award criteria and contract awarded on the basis of the original bids provided.

      The second method is to run a mini-competition between all of the qualified suppliers. The original bids and award criteria must still be respected, but in an architectural contract for example, the specific individuals nominated and their charge out rates are likely to vary from project to project.

      So the authority cannot choose its preferred architect, as though they were listed in a catalogue, they have to consider all the participants against the award criteria, which may be supplemented by additional information in a mini-competition.

      The answer to the second part of your question is that frameworks have a finite value and once call off contracts have been awarded against the framework that exhaust that value, then a new stand alone contract, or a new framework should be put in place.

      I suspect that in many cases the finite value part of the equation is not monitored effectively, particularly if the framework is being used by a group of authorities. The other ‘abuse’ that may be prevalent is that the authority picks a very high value for the framework, which is not based on any analysis of spending plans and realistically is unlikely to be reached, e.g. many of the OGC Buying Solutions frameworks.

      • Dear Tim,

        We are currently in a situation where we provide a specialist residential education service. This service has education included as they are residential schools. The framework we did not get on was for residential services (those without edusation- childrens homes) but residential services who offer education as well were eligible for the framework if they also offered a core service, whereas were are not. This now means that our competitors who offer core services and education services will have all referrals whether education is required or not, through the successful providers first.

        This feels quite unfair as we offer a quality education service but as we do not offer what amounts to a completely service different service provision in a core service we will now lose referrals.

        Do we have any recoourse?

        Our sister comapny who do offer a core service have been successful- can we use their place on the framework to integrate ourselves?

        Many thanks,


  50. Is it possible to have a ‘framework contract’ within a framework, i.e. if a buyer cannot define the volume of goods/services they will need can they place a contract? Indeed is there such a thing as a ‘framework contract’?

    • A framework agreement is defined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 as follows:

      “framework agreement” means an agreement or other arrangement between one or more contracting authorities and one or more economic operators which establishes the terms (in particular the terms as to price and, where appropriate, quantity) under which the economic operator will enter into one or more contracts with a contracting authority in the period during which the framework agreement applies;

      The main purpose of such an agreement is for situations where the buyer is unable to define the volume of goods/services they will need, or the timing of deliveries. The terms of the agreement are framed to allow call-off contracts to be placed as and when the provision of the goods/services are needed.

      There is no need for an additional framework agreement to do this.

  51. Hello,

    I have a legal scenario which I hope you could give your professional opinion / insight into. This will help me with my studies surrounding this field.

    Given the following scenario, where does the land lie in terms of legality of the agreement?

    A suppier has a Framework Agreement setup with a company, which was setup by a senior employee of the company. Following the agreement is completed with this supplier, the senior employee leaves the company to become the suppliers senior employee.

    I understand that this is not a very detailed scenario but any comments are appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Phil,

      I’m afraid we’re not really qualified to give you an answer on this query as on the facts presented above I think it is an employment law matter, rather than procurement law.

      There is nothing in the Public Contracts Regulations relating to such an issue. It would clearly be of some concern to the organisation to ensure that the tenders for the framework agreement had been evaluated fairly. If there were any irregularities in the evaluation then the other suppliers who tendered might be able to seek damages.

      As it is a framework agreement rather than a contract, it is likely that there is no binding obligation to purchase from the company. If the organisation has concerns that the agreement does not provide best value, they could carry out another tender process to establish a new framework agreement and just leave the other one dormant.

  52. Hi gents

    Would a multi-provider framework agreement with a combination of call off methods i.e. direct award for contracts up to say £50k and the re-opening of mini-competition over that £50k threshold be in breach of the regulations/directives?

    • Hi Robert,

      Yes it would be in breach of the regulations. The framework agreement allows you to simplify the arrangements for multiple contracts for similar goods or services, by awarding the master agreement (the framework) and then awarding call-off’s based on the terms and conditions in that agreement.

      The value of all contracts for similar goods and services awarded during the financial year must be aggregated and it is the aggregate value that determines whether the contract is over the OJEU threshold. That is, the value of the individual contracts has no relevance, so even a £10,000 contract should be awarded through a framework, or advertised separately in the OJEU, if the aggregate value of all similar contracts takes it over the relevant threshold.

      There’s nothing to stop you running a separate tender exercise for a £50k contract, but you couldn’t just directly award the contract, it would have to go through the OJEU process.

  53. Tim

    I wonder if you could help. I understand that a framework can not be used if the effect is to restrict, prevent or distort competition.

    A framework we are examining makes use of a Most Favoured Customer clause which prevents any suppliers on the framework from offering better pricing to any other party. In our view this has the effect of reducing and distorting competition because, in effect, it sets a price floor below which these suppliers may not operate, even if they wish to.

    Additionally, we believe that the presence of the clause creates a monopolistic position for the framework operator who are a private company acting as agent for a government department. They earn significant fees from each transaction and have created a position wit their framework where it has become impossible for any other procuring organisation to compete. This alone, we believe, is a distortion of the market, restricting competition.

    I would welcome your thoughts on whether the presence of the MVC clause restricts, prevents or distorts competition in contravention of the EU regulations.

    Thank you


  54. When making a Direct Award under a multi-supplier framework covered by the Utilities Contracts (Scotland) Regulations do the other suppliers need to be notified of the process and the award?

    • Alan,

      Thanks for your questions, the situation is the same under the UK regulations and the Scottish regulations so I’ll answer them both here.

      Firstly, regarding the process, if it’s a multi-supplier framework the process will depend on the type of award procedure that was used to put the framework agreement in place. If it was an Open or a Restricted procedure then the utility can choose a supplier based on the original bids, or conduct a mini-competition. The option of using the negotiated procedure is also always available, which may provide more flexibility.

      If the utility is selecting a supplier based on the original bids then there is no requirement to notify all the framework suppliers that they are doing so, although in terms of transparency and future competitiveness there may be advantages in doing so. In the situation where you are conducting a mini-competition or using the negotiated procedure it is clearly sensible to notify all of the framework suppliers that you are doing so in order to obtain a competitive response.

      Moving on to the award stage, a utility is not required to publish a contract award notice in the Official Journal (OJEU) where it awards a contract under a framework agreement. Although again it might be considered good practice and improve competition for the future if at least the other framework suppliers are notified.

  55. Do you have to state value or volume on the OJEU advert fo a framework, what is the min. requirement?

    • Neil,

      If you don’t complete the value field in the contract notice it will still get published, i.e. the Publications Office will not block publication if this value is omitted.

      Although I am not aware of any cases in the UK, I am aware that there have been informal infringement proceedings initiated against contracting authorities, in other EEA countries, who have not included this information in a contract notice.

      Although it doesn’t always seem so a framework agreement is meant to be based on the anticipated requirements of the organisation or organisations that are party to the agreement.

  56. Hi…I am working with an African country using UK contract law. I would like an opinion on if a framework agreement is enforcable at law by the purchaser. Example – framework agreement set up…no committment by purchaser to buy…call off made…holder of framework agreement rejects…can a bid security be used to compensate purchaser…or court enforces? …I think not…but would welcome expert opinion. Thx John

    • John,

      Thanks for your question.

      It all depends on the contractual terms that are attached to the framework. Most frameworks in the UK are completed on a ‘no obligation’ basis, i.e. they set-out the terms and conditions on which a call-off may be concluded but there is no obligation on the purchaser to make call -offs, or on the supplier(s) to fulfill them.

      But there is no reason why the contract cannot place obligations on one or both parties and put in place financial or other penalties if one of the parties doesn’t fulfill their obligations.

      • Tim, thanks. However, advice I have had is that FAs without ‘consideration’ are not enforceable unless structured as ‘deeds’. Thoughts?

      • John,

        I’m afraid you are getting outside the boundaries of my expertise. I suspect that you are correct, i.e. that it would be difficult for a purchaser to enforce an agreement on a supplier.

  57. I m MBA finalist at CU, my organization awards framework agreement for commmon use items to suppliers once a year, after a length of tender evaluation processes of more than 8,000 tender docuuments. My question is what mechanism can be adopted to minimize tender evauation process from say 4 months to a possible shorter period.

    • Erasto,

      I’m not entirely clear how the tender process in your organisation operates, but from what you say it seems very cumbersome.

      The first step I would take would be to increase the length of the contracts beyond one year, as it seems unwieldy to spend 4 months awarding a contract that is only going to last 12 months.

      Are you saying that there are 8,000 suppliers submitting tenders? If so, my next step would be to drastically reduce this number by having a pre-qualification process to shortlist the suppliers most likely to eventually win a contract, so that you don’t waste their time or your organisation’s time in evaluating bids that have no real hope.

  58. I wonder if you could answer the following questions around framework agreements?

    Firstly, do we have to specifically have to name individual Trusts and organisations or can we just put a generic group i.e. any public sector organisation. Is there anything preventing us including private organisations in the tender?

    In addition with regard to mini competitions are we covered to have the right to re negotiate price if the volume of business is increased if the number of trusts on the framework increase?

    Many thanks

    • Neil,

      Thanks very much for your questions.

      The official UK guidance is contained in a Procurement Policy Note published in September 2010, which is available on the archived Office of Government Commerce pages (

      The guidance talks about making sure that “immediate
      identification of the contracting authorities concerned” is possible. It then goes on to discuss identifying authorities by class, but in my opinion this is where things start to get on to thin ice. A framework can only last for four years and is meant to be based on contracts that its constituent members intend to award, while allowing flexibility in terms of timing or quantity. It should therefore not be too difficult to identify the constituent members on this basis.

      Where it starts to get difficult is where an organisation is trying to set-up a framework that can potentially be used by a very large number of organisations, e.g. OGC Buying Solutions, or as we must now call it the Government Procurement Service. These are almost always established without any consultation with the potential constituents and so any estimate of contract volume, etc., is highly suspect. There’s also no real transparency, responsibility or accountability in these arrangements and on the whole my view is that they don’t work particularly well.

      I would recommend that in establishing any framework it pays to keep its scope fairly modest, in terms of participants, while retaining some flexibility. The limited research that has been carried out in this area shows that you don’t need a huge volume of business in order to achieve the best discounts, i.e. the discount level increases fairly rapidly and then plateau’s.

      On your second point about adding new trusts to the framework, this is absolutely not allowed. The parties to the framework must all be clearly identified at the outset, once it is established all participants both supplier and buyer are either in or they are out. No-one can join at a later stage. The terms of the original agreement must also be respected throughout its term, i.e. if the price is fixed, or there are fixed discounts from list price, etc., these cannot be re-negotiated in the mini-competition.

  59. We are due to start a tender process with a public sector body in the coming months. The tender is a framework for 4 years. I have been advised by the authorities procurment team that whilst it doesnt say so in the documents they will have the facility to continue ordering on the framework for an additonal 2 years beyond the end of the term. Are they right, or must this additonal time option be stated within the contract documents?

    • Doesnt sound right to me. If its not in the document I would suggest it cannot apply.
      I believe that frameworks could not extend beyond 4 years.

      Ask them to issue a covering letter to all applicants

    • Steven,

      A contracting authority can use a framework agreement to place a call off contract only within the 4 year lifetime of the framework. The contract that is called off can be delivered beyond the term of the framework, but no new call-offs can be issued.

      For example, under a financial consultancy services framework, a call off contract to develop a new staff pension scheme could be entered into 3yrs and 11 months into the term of the framework. The pension scheme contract might run for 12 or 18 months, or longer i.e. 17 months beyond the end of the parent framework agreement.

      But, no new consultancy projects could be contracted under the framework after the end of the 4 year period. So perhaps a couple of months after the pension services contract was placed it became obvious that there was a need to look at life insurance provision as a staff benefit, then it would not be possible to use the same framework to appoint consultants to develop a scheme.

  60. The non medical non clinical framework states what the supplier fee is for each agency supplying temporary staff. The agency introduces candidates to our department and states what the charge would be for that person but doesn’t disclose what the workers are paid. Can the agency effectively increase their fee by seperately negotiating how much they will pay the worker or are they bound to pay the worker in line with the agreement even if the worker would be happy to take less money?

    • Hi Ann,

      I would say that this is mainly a contractual issue, rather than a procurement related one, although there may be some crossover. I assume that the framework was tendered on the basis of the fee’s quoted by each agency and it was clearly intended that the remuneration paid to the worker was to be separate? If this was the case then presumably the resulting contract reflects that approach, i.e. that the agency is only entitled to their fee and not part of the workers remuneration.

      I’m surprised that the agencies aren’t required to disclose to you what they are paying the workers as this would appear to be a significant obstacle in properly managing the contract. Can I suggest that you ask the agencies what they are paying and if they refuse it would perhaps indicate that they are negotiating with individual workers to boost their remuneration.

  61. Hi Tim can you advise me if by entering into a 3 year framework agreement with 2 other successful bidders, who on are an equal footing with us, and by replacing the 2 orginal contractors, that contract now requires a quote for every job, with the posible of several hundred individual jobs per year, of values from say £25 to a thousand pounds per job therefore fragmenting the original contract, and therefore because in theory, but not I believe not in practise we may not get any jobs, therefore would we be still liable for Tupe.from the previous contractors. Is there any recent decsions by the EAT on this matter.

    • Hi Terry,

      A quote may, or may not be required for every job it depends on how the framework has been set-up. Regulation 19, paragraph 7 of the Public Contracts Regulations states:

      Where the contracting authority concludes a framework agreement with more than one economic operator, a specific contract may be awarded—

      (a) by application of the terms laid down in the framework agreement without re-opening competition; or

      (b) where not all the terms of the proposed contract are laid down in the framework agreement, by re-opening competition between the economic operators which are parties to that framework agreement and which are capable of performing the proposed contract in accordance with paragraphs (8) and (9).

      So, in plain English this means that if the terms of the framework agreement are specific enough the contracting authority should be able to evaluate which of the three contractors provides the best value for money for this particular contract, depending on the range and type of goods and services required and award the contract as appropriate. If they are not specific enough and in my opinion this is probably the case most of the time, then all three contractors should be invited to submit a quote for the specific contract. It’s important to note that legally you aren’t able to change any of the terms laid down in the framework agreement, just apply them to the specific of the call-off contract, although I suspect that in many cases it doesn’t actually happen like this.

      I’m a long way from being an expert on TUPE, and the case-law doesn’t appear to provide very clear guidance as to what to expect. The decisions of the employment appeal tribunal in Kimberley Group Housing case and Clearsprings Management Ltd case gave an indication of how the courts might tackle these issues, but I would be reluctant to assume that TUPE either did or didn’t apply as the specific circumstances of each case appear to have significant influence.

      Both cases arose following the establishment of a contract by the Home Office to provide accommodation for asylum seekers.

      In the Kimberley case, the tribunal felt a sensible approach would be to look at the proportion of work done by each contractor before deciding where their employees transferred. The contractor that took on the bulk of the work would get all the employees.

      In the Clearsprings case, the tribunal decided if activities carried out by the original contractor were so fragmented that under the new contract it was impossible to identify which incoming contractor employees should transfer to, then the employees could not be transferred.

      As the framework agreement itself provides no guarantee of work being awarded to you, it would seem that the principle of the Clearsprings case would apply, i.e. the work is fragmented and it’s not possible to identify in advance where the work will be performed, so the employees should not be transferred under TUPE. But I would either take specific legal advice on this from your solicitor and/or price for the possibility that you may have to take on the employees.

  62. Hi, I was wondering if you could help me answer this question? There is an existing framework agreement running it started Jan 2010 and it runs on a 2 year provision with the possibility of an extended year. If a council then joins this agreement Sept 2011 do they have an end date of Sept 13/14 or Jan 12/13?

    I hope you can assist?
    kind regards,

    • Hi Tom,

      The framework agreement runs from January 2010 to December 2012, but it included a provision in the original agreement to extend it by a further year to December 2013. This means that, on the assumption that the agreement is extended, any contracting authority, e.g. a council, that is a ‘party’ to the agreement can place a call-off contract under the terms of the agreement up until December 2013.

      The important issue here is whether the council that is joining in September 2011 is actually a party to the agreement. A framework agreement is supposed to be closed from its formation until its termination, i.e. the contracting authorities and the suppliers who are party to the agreement are identified at the outset and no new authorities or suppliers can join. It is this aspect where frameworks have been considerably abused, as many have been set up using terms such as ‘the UK public sector’ to define the authorities who are party to the agreement. The European Commission has expressed concern to the UK Government on a number of occasions over this practice. In September 2010, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), which has now been absorbed into the Efficiency & Reform Group of the Cabinet Office, issued a Procurement Policy Note (PPN) ‘Need to ensure that bodies permitted to use frameworks are adequately identified and clarification is issued if necessary.’ PPN’s are issued to all public contracting authorities and all authorities are supposed to comply with their requirements, but frequently the information doesn’t reach the staff on the front line who are putting these contracts in place.

      This PPN states that it is permissible to identify the contracting authorities permitted to use a framework by specifying a recognisable “class” of contracting authority may be used – e.g. “Central Government Departments” or “all county and district councils in Norfolk and Suffolk”. In my opinion this is still far too loose, in the vast majority of cases the authorities so identified have not participated in the drawing up of the agreement, or given any indication of their likely spend for the goods and services to be provided under the agreement. It is now quite often the case that an authority may be identified in several different frameworks for the same type of goods and services and can simply choose which framework to use. Where is the transparency in that?

      So to go back to your original question. If you are concerned about whether a specific council is entitled to use the framework agreement, have a look at the original contract notice published in the Official Journal (OJEU) and see how the ‘parties’ were identified. We can help find the relevant notice for you if you don’t have easy access to it (give us a phone on, 0800 270 0249, or email us at . It may be quite easy and straightforward to challenge that the council is entitled to use the framework at all.

  63. i have published a call off document from a framework agreement, but there are errors in it.

    some suppliers have already downloaded it but i need to recall it, am i within my rights to recall the document and re-issue it


    • Michael,

      Yes there should be absolutely no problem in recalling the document and re-issuing it without the errors. The important issue is to ensure that you treat all the suppliers equally.


  64. We have the situation where a major company in our industry agreed a 10 year framework agreement with a large county council, some years ago. They are now touting this agreement around numerous other local authorities and inviting them to purchase from this framework agreement, therefore denying existing suppliers such as ourselves to even provide a quote. None of these councils have any geographical or any other kind of relationship with the County Council. We have already lost several hundreds of thousands in turnover, with the potential of even more in teh coming months. Can this be challenged?

  65. Hi there

    Can you tell me if it is legal for one supplier to be included in a single framework agreement twice (ie. once as a prime contractor, and secondly as a significant sub-contractor to another company)?


    • Hi Michael,

      On the face of it there’s nothing in the Regulations that prevents a supplier being included once as a prime contractor and also as a sub-contractor to another prime contractor. Some public sector organisations specify that this type of structure is not allowed in their tender documents and in some cases you can see that it might adversely affect proper competition.

      In short, there’s no legal reason to prevent such an arrangement.

  66. With regards to your statement above ‘A disadvantage of a framework agreement for a purchasing authority is that they are relatively unresponsive to change – there may be new suppliers and/or new solutions within the market that were not included when the framework agreement was initially set up’ I have noticed on a US government website that they are able to set up a framework agreement where annually they publish an advertisment asking for names of qualified suppliers to be added to the roster and also they can add ‘responsible’ suppliers at any time the supplier makes a written request [subject to qualification requirements] It then goes on to detail the process to be undetaken when contracts are awarded.

    My question is.. Is it legal for a UK public sector organisation to set up this kind of framework agreement which allows new suppliers to be added after the intial set up?


    • Hazel,

      There are a couple of ways in which we can answer your question.

      Firstly, new suppliers cannot be added to an existing framework agreement, it is essentially designed as a closed system where there are specifically nominated contracting authorities who can make purchases using the framework and there are a specified number of suppliers who can be awarded contracts under the term of that framework. This often gets blurred particularly on the contracting authority side, when purchasing consortia establish frameworks for a wide range of organisations, such as those established by OGC Buying Solutions. In principle though, all authorities that can use the framework should be clearly identifiable and new authorities cannot join at a later stage.

      There is nothing to stop a new framework being formed every 12 months, the difference being that all the suppliers would have to re-bid every year in order to gain admission to the framework which is different to the situation you described in your comment.

      There is a procedure called a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) which is designed for use with commodity items, i.e. products or services that it’s fairly easy to specify as off the shelf. It’s a purely electronic procedure and allows a framework to be set-up that new suppliers can join during the lifetime of the DPS. This hasn’t been a huge success in Europe as in designing the rules of operation the European Commission made it fairly cumbersome to use, so that in almost any situation it would actually be easier just to set up a framework.

  67. Hi Tim,

    I am currently studying Framework agreements and the question has come up in revision topics ‘European laws are irrelevant to us in the UK – Discuss’
    Please can you advise me please.



    • Stuart,

      Sorry I’m probably a bit late in replying to your question.

      I’m no expert on European legislation as we specialise just in procurement legislation. But, my view is that it’s fairly obvious that the majority of our legislation is now derived in Brussels and the UK simply implements it, more or less as designed by the European Commission into UK law.

      Procurement law in particular is driven by European Directives, European Regulations and the decisions reached by the European Court of Justice. European law takes precedence over UK law in that if there are any infringements of the directive and UK law has been inadequate in correctly transposing the requirements of that Directive then the Commission are quite likely to take action to force UK legislators to amend the UK legislation as well as resolving any individual issues that have arisen.

  68. Hi tim,

    Im currently doing my dissertation on framework agreements aswell, and would love to have some your your thoughts on some issues.

    Why do you think Framework Agreements are predominantly used by larger contractors ??

    And how do you feel the governments recent propsals to make Frameworks more open to small and medium size business’s will effect this ??

    • Hi James,

      It’s not that the larger contractors are using frameworks, as it’s the contracting authority that decides whether to use a framework.

      It tends to be that the more well known frameworks are the large ones set up by OGC buying solutions, or by groups of authorities acting together. This in turn means that the value and/or geographical range of the requirement is much larger, which obviously plays to the strengths of a larger company with a strong balance sheet and a national presence.

      I’m not sure that the type of frameworks that I’m describing above will become more accessible to SME’s. But perhaps UK public sector organisations will more often question whether all of the goods and services they are purchasing are best sourced in this way, or whether it makes sense to have a more diverse, innovative, local source of supply.

  69. Hi,

    I am currently doing a dissertation around the use of framework agreements in the highway maintenance sector and how effective they are in line with the HA’s Best Value principles.

    I am struggling to find any references that point out when the use of framework agreements really took off, and whether there is was a specific reason for their popularity? Recession?

    Could you shed any light on the matter?



    • Alex,

      The G-Cat framework for IT equipment, established by the Central Computer & Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in 1996, was certainly amongst the first public sector frameworks.

      Although the CCTA and its successor body strongly asserted that G-Cat complied with the European directives, the European Commission was not convinced and in 2000 issued “pre-infringement” notices requesting further information on the operation of G-Cat and S-Cat, the IT services framework. Although the case did not lead to formal infringement proceedings, it reflects the lack of legal certainty as to whether frameworks were permitted in the public sector and how they should be operated.

      The Public Contracts Regulations 2006, based on the 2004 European Directive clarified the legal basis and also regulate the conduct of framework agreements in the public sector. So in answer to your question I would say that their use has been increasing from 2006 onwards, although perhaps not always in full compliance with the legislation.

      My view is that properly used, frameworks are an excellent method of procurement and avoid unnecessary repetitive tendering exercises. Unfortunately far too many contracting authorities use a framework as a lazy shortcut to avoid their own tender exercise when that would probably be a more appropriate route.

  70. This has been by far the most popular post on our blog since Diane wrote it 6 months ago and it still keeps topping the popularity rankings every week.

    A question for those of you reading it now though. Does it answer all of your questions, or are there any areas you’d like us to expand on?

    • It is useful, thank you.

      I work for an IT company and I’m trying to source a list of frameworks that are currently running, specific to IT supplies and services to the Public Sector. Do you know if there is a list in existance which encompasses the majority of Public Sector frameworks, such as OGC Buying Solutions Commoditised IT Hardware and Software, CPC frameworks, HE regional consortia frameworks like NWUPC (North West Universities Purchasing Consortium) Audio Visual framework etc, or do I have to either wait for them to appear on the OJEU, go to the individual sites to find them? My problem with the latter is that I’m relatively new to the industry so unsure where to find details of organisations that run frameworks.

      Many thanks for your time.

      • Hi Gwin,

        I’m afraid that we don’t know of any list of framework agreements that are currently running. At the moment the only solution I can suggest is as you say yourself to visit each of the authorities that establish frameworks and keep an eye out on those published in the Official Journal (OJEU). If it is something that other people would value we will consider setting up such a list on Tenders Direct.


  71. Hi Guys, I am currently writing a dissertation on Frameworks and my hypothesis is “The recession of 2008 – 2010 will reduce the use of Framework Agreements in the public sector in the UK”.

    Could you give me your opinions on; if Frameworks only prosper in good economic times? and are public sector clients going to follow some of the private companies by ditching their frameworks and reverting to lowest bid wins?

    Many Thanks

    • Hi Annie,

      Thanks for your questions.

      I’m not at all sure that I agree with the premise of your dissertation, i.e. I think the recession may well increase the use of frameworks.

      Once they have been set up frameworks provide an easier way of purchasing as there is no need to go out to tender for the repetitive call-off requirements. As cuts in the public sector take effect and the number of staff reduces I would actually expect to see an increase in the use of frameworks.

      There are also many frameworks that are established and then not used to their full extent, because the purchasers at the front line don’t know that the framework exists, or because they have a preference for an alternative. It seems to me increasingly likely that the use of specific frameworks will be mandated.

      I think your second point about moving to lowest price bids, is also wide of the mark. Firstly there’s no conflict between using frameworks and going for the lowest price. It’s perfectly possible to award a framework on lowest price criteria. Importantly though the lowest price does not necessarily, or even often, provide the best value, at least not unless the criteria have been set very well. Essentially an evaluation on the basis of most economically advantageous tender, is awarded, or perhaps should be awarded, to the lowest price bid that meets the specification.

      These are interesting questions you have raised, so I’d be interested to hear if anyone has any different views?

      • hi, as a beginner i just want to clear some concepts in framework agreements i.e.
        1. is it used in times of urgency?
        2. can we maintain integrity and on the other hand obtain best value for money?
        3. do we have to tender in framework agreements or is it just like single source procurement where one chooses a supplier without any tender?

        it will be really appreciated,
        thank you!

  72. What’s the average negotiated Overhead and Profit mark up for a 1- 3 year framework agreement within the public sector?

    • Simon,

      I’m afraid there’s no simple answer to your question. It’s exactly the same as in the wider business world, it will depend on the market sector, the level of specialisation, the level of demand and supply, the element of risk, etc.

      For example, construction contracts normally have a low profit margin in the low single figures, but the overall value is high and so there’s an adequate return in monetary revenue to satisfy the shareholders. Conversely a consultancy service contract will have a much higher margin, perhaps 50, 60, 70% or more.

      I don’t think you can approach bidding to the public sector on the basis of ‘I’m going to apply my standard 30% profit margin,’ to this contract. You need to evaluate the likely competition and determine who your competitors are likely to be and what price they are likely to bid at. Although public bodies do sometimes ask what level of profit margin you are applying, it is unlikely to be the deciding factor, they are much more interested in the overall cost to themselves.


      Tim Williams

      • Hi Simon,

        I agree with Tim’s comments and from my experience I would like to add the following: you don’t specify which industry sector you are in but for commodity products with many suppliers nationwide profit almost becomes secondary and a company has to evaluate the worth of being included on a framework agreement. For example there may be a value in kudos where a company receives favourable and ongoing press coverage, you may get decent testimonials which may help with other bids or maybe inclusion allows a business to expand and take advantage of economies of scale when purchasing components with which to make the finished product. Many bids for this type of product are “supported” bids which means that a company will dip into a marketing fund to help finance the bid.

        Conversely if the product or service is so specialised that there are few contenders this offers more opportunities for profit and the emphasis on differentiating yourself from the competitors is based on a “best fit” and value proposition.

        Best wishes

  73. if the award criteria of a framework agreement is advertised as a most economically advantageous tender, can the award criteria then be changed in the contract document to a lowest price award ?

    • Hi Archie,

      At first sight I thought the answer to this one was quite straightforward, i.e. once the award criteria have been published then they can’t be changed. However, thinking about it in a bit more detail, it probably is possible to change them between publishing an Official Journal notice and issuing the invitation to tender documents to the candidates, provided the change is made clear to everyone.

      It’s clearly not ideal to make such a change and as with any change that departs from the normal procedures the contracting authority is exposing themselves to a potential challenge. The authority could probably protect themselves against any challenge by publishing an additional information notice in the OJEU.

      Unsatisfactory although it is, I actually can’t see any reason why a contracting authority cannot change the award criteria at any point up until the deadline for the submission of tenders, provided that they make everyone aware of the changes and that they are not distorting the competition by doing so.

      Once the framework agreement has been concluded though, the award criteria can not be changed for any of the call off’s awarded under the terms of that agreement. So even if a mini-competition is being held the same award criteria must be used, although they can potentially be supplemented with additional criteria.

      • Hi Tim,
        Thanks for that.You seem quite well informed in what is to me a minefield.
        The “change” from MEAT as advertised was given in the contract document as:”Instructed via this term contract based on which contractors are available and who has the lowest price for the works instructed, at the discretion of the Manager of Property Conservation.See seperately how works are instructed. Open to only the contractors appointed under the term contract”.To my knowledge no additional information notification was made.Unfortunately we,(20 on contract) along with many other contractors priced the works on the consideration of MEAT, not lowest price, only to be told that we are unlikely to be considered for call offs because of our not being in the lowest price bracket.There is a 36% variation between lowest and highest.You may see other subjectives from this.I would value your response.

        I look forward to hearing from you



      • Archie,

        From what you say, it sounds as though the contracting authority is changing the terms of the framework contract after it has been concluded, i.e. it is only at the call-off stage that they have introduced the change from MEAT (Most Economically Advantageous Tender) to lowest price.

        If this framework (or term contract) is covered by the Public Contracts Regulations (PCR) then it seems that they are breaching those regulations. I can give you some pointers on how to raise a complaint, if this is the case. Even if it’s not covered by the PCR, it may well be actionable as a breach of contract.

        If you would like to email me at Tenders Direct I’d be happy to offer some further advice.

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