buyers

Timescales under the 2015 Public Contracts Regulations – updated

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We regularly receive queries regarding the minimum timescales that apply in each type of procurement procedure. These timescales specify the number of calendar days required between a notice being sent to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) for publication and the deadline for submission of responses.

The timescales can often cause concern with both suppliers and buyers due to the delay between submission of a notice to the OJEU and it’s publication. It can take at least 48 hours for a notice to be published after it is submitted, during which time there is an embargo on it being advertised nationally (for more information please see this blog).

It is worth remembering that the regulations require that “adequate” time is given. These minimum time limits are a safeguard, but it may be the case in some circumstances that they are not “adequate” depending on the scale and complexity of a tender.

Prior to outlining the various timescales and any reductions that can be applied, it is worth clarifying that reductions applied to notices that were sent electronically – or when documents were made available electronically – are no longer applicable as both of these are now mandatory under Regulation 51 and Regulation 53.

It is also worth noting that for some procedures different time limits apply to sub-central contracting authorities (ie: all contracting authorities which are not central government departments or organisations. Central government authorities are detailed within Schedule 1). Where applicable, details of these differing time limits have been provided below.

 

The Timescales

Open Procedure

Normally 35 calendar days.
This can be reduced to 30 days if tender responses are submitted electronically.

Or

15 calendar days if a Prior Information Notice (PIN) has been published for at least 35 days and no longer than 12 months.
The purpose of a PIN is to alert potential tenderers of forthcoming contracts which will be advertised. As prior warning of the notice has been given it is understood that a substantial reduction can be granted however to ensure this is not abused the age of the PIN is significant. An exception to this is granted to “social and other specific services” (i.e. those potentially subject to the Light Touch Regime). These types of services can apply this reduction using a PIN that was published over 12 months prior.

Accelerated Open Procedure

15 calendar days.
No further reductions apply.
If this procedure is being used then the contracting authority must specify in the tender itself the reason for the urgency of the procurement.
This is a new procedure type under the 2015 regulations. The justification for accelerating a procedure is discussed in more detail within this blog post.

Restricted Procedure

Competitive Procedure With Negotiation (previously referred to as the “Negotiated Procedure”)

Both of these procedures have the same rules surrounding minimum timescales.

Stage 1 (pre-qualification stage)

30 calendar days.
No reductions are applicable to this stage.

Or

Sub-central contracting authorities can substitute the contract notice (this stage 1) with the publication of a PIN. This PIN must clearly state that it is the call for competition and that the buyer will be proceeding straight to the second stage. Further information on this can be found here.

Stage 2

Normally 30 calendar days.
This can be reduced to 25 calendar days if tender responses are submitted electronically.

Or

10 calendar days if a Prior Information Notice has been published for at least 35 days and no longer than 12 months.
This can only be used where the stage 1 contract notice has been published. The use of a PIN as a call for competition does not qualify the stage 2 for this reduction.
The purpose of a PIN is to alert potential tenderers of forthcoming contracts which will be advertised. If prior warning of the notice has been given it is understood that a substantial reduction can be granted however to ensure this is not abused the age of the PIN is significant. An exception to this is granted to “social and other specific services” (i.e. those potentially subject to the Light Touch Regime). These types of services can apply a reduction using a PIN that was published over 12 months prior.

Or

Sub-central contracting authorities can agree any timescale with bidders and if not agreed with bidders then the buyer can set a time limit to as low as 10 calendar days.

Accelerated Restricted Procedure and Accelerated Open Procedure With Negotiation (previously referred to as the “Accelerated Negotiated Procedure”)

Both of these procedures have the same rules surrounding minimum timescales.

Stage 1 (pre-qualification stage)

15 calendar days.
No further reductions apply.
If this procedure is being used then the contracting authority must specify in the tender itself the reason for the urgency of the procurement. The justification for accelerating a procedure is discussed in more detail within this blog post.

Stage 2

10 calendar days.
No further reductions apply.
The intention to use the accelerated procedure and the justification must have been specified within the first stage advert as mentioned above.

Innovation Partnership

As described in Regulation 31(2), this procurement procedure is intended for use when “an innovative product, service or works that cannot be met by (those) … already available on the market” is required.

Stage 1 (pre-qualification stage)

30 calendar days.
No reductions are applicable to this stage.

Stage 2

Normally 30 calendar days.
This can be reduced to 25 calendar days if tender responses submitted electronically.

Or

10 calendar days if a Prior Information Notice (PIN) has been published for at least 35 days and no longer than 12 months.
The purpose of a PIN is to alert potential tenderers of forthcoming contracts which will be advertised. As prior warning of the notice has been given it is understood that a substantial reduction can be granted however to ensure this is not abused the age of the PIN is significant. An exception to this is granted to “social and other specific services” (i.e. those potentially subject to the Light Touch Regime). These types of services can apply this reduction using a PIN that was published over 12 months prior.

Or

Sub-central contracting authorities, can agree any timescale with bidders and if not agreed with bidders then the buyer can set a time limit to as low as 10 calendar days.

Accelerated Innovation Partnership

Stage 1 (pre-qualification stage)

15 calendar days.
No further reductions apply.
If this procedure is being used then the contracting authority must specify in the tender itself the reason for the urgency of the procurement. The justification for accelerating a procedure is discussed in more detail within this blog post.

Stage 2

10 calendar days.
No further reductions apply.
The intention to use the accelerated procedure and the justification must have been specified within the first stage advert as mentioned above.

Competitive Dialogue

Stage 1 (pre-qualification stage)

30 calendar days.
No further reductions apply.

Subsequent Dialogue Stages

There are no explicit rules regarding the time limits for these stages.

What is the impact on buyers and suppliers?

The majority of the timescales have been reduced and more flexibility granted to buyers, especially sub-central contracting authorities. However, the process has been complicated by the new publication policies.

Buyers are often confused as to when the time limits are to commence. It is clear from the legislation that they start from the point the notice is sent for publication, but this seems unfair to suppliers due to the usual delay of at least 48 hours before publication in the OJEU.

As can be seen above, many procedures only require 15 days; if 15 days is specified and there is a full 48 hour delay in the notice being advertised nationally, then the notice is only public for 13 days.

Buyers, of course, cannot be expected to guess when the notice will be published by the OJEU; they are obligated to specify their tender deadline dates at the point of sending the notice for publication.

Depending on how they source tender opportunities, suppliers may only see a notice days after it is published. With an already tight window of opportunity, this can leave them with even less time to consider their options and decide whether or not to commit to a bid.

Should the deadlines perhaps all be extended by an additional 2 days? Or has this already been accounted for within the timescales?

Regardless, it could be argued that this is counteracted by the “adequate time limits” requirement. As previously mentioned, buyers are to allow for an adequate time period irrespective of whether the minimum time limits are 15 days, if this does not allow adequate time then they must allow for longer. How many buyers are aware of this obligation though?


The myTenders service provides all the required functionality to allow buyers to publish tender notices, conduct competitions, manage contracts, and guarantee compliance with regulations.

If you’re a supplier, Tenders Direct can ensure that you’re the first to know of opportunities when they are made publicly available. Questions? Leave a comment or call us on 0800 222 9009.

 

1 reply »

  1. The main issue in practice is that procurement documents are rarely ‘issued’ in a satisfactory form i.e. without a number of corrections having to be provided subsequently, usually as a result of Clarification Questions received by the Contracting Authority. This raises the question of what timescale, in relation to the minimum prescribed by the Regulations, should be regarded as sufficient in such circumstances and at what point the clock should start ticking. There is a strong argument for the position that the procurement documents should be deemed not to hae been issued until an acceptble version i.e a basically consistent and complete version has been provided by the Contracting Authority. Such a position would carry with it an incentive for Authorities to do their job properly rather than issuing a load of rubbish and relying on the particpants to do their job for them via Clarification Questions.

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