Within the UK, anyone has the right to request non-confidential information recorded by a public body under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act (FOISA).
Submitting a Freedom of Information (FOI) request does not necessarily mean you will receive all the requested information, but this process can give you access to useful market information that might not be accessible otherwise. Contracting Authorities are obligated to consider the merits of the request and respond within 20 days of the request, meaning you could receive none, some or all of the requested information.
When not to use an FOI request
A formal FOI forces a buyer to provide you with the requested information, and by putting this obligation on them, you could be doing yourself a disservice if you did not try going through other sources first. Submitting an FOI request should, in most cases, be a last resort.
Market Research where a Contract Award Notice (CAN) has been published
If you are conducting market research, CANs can be a valuable source of information. From these, you can learn about the buyer’s needs, who they awarded business to, expiry/renewal dates, and contact details for the department responsible for the procurement. This information can be used by you to create an understanding of the marketplace or to start a relationship with buyers for future opportunities/information gathering.
Always check to see if a CAN exists for a particular notice, there is no need to submit an FOI request if award details have been published – as all standard non-confidential information will be included.
To request information in support of a live tender proposal
If you are bidding for a tender, it would not benefit you to try and request information from the buyer through an FOI request.
All relevant information for the tender should be within the provided documents. If there is something missing or needs clarification, there are transparency rules meaning all questions should be answered by the buyer publicly and made available to all bidders.
When to use an FOI request
While submitting an FOI request is not the recommended first action, there are some instances where it could be beneficial.
If no CAN has been published
The lack of award notices for low-value tenders is a common occurrence as there is no requirement for buyers to publish this information. If you require access to some of these details, an FOI request could be the best option for getting access to this information. In this situation, we advise that you weigh up what is most important – developing a relationship with the buyer or gaining access to the information. If you are purely gathering information, and have no intention of working with the buyer, an FOI may be the most efficient option.
You require access to information not included in CANs
If you would like access to non-confidential information, that is not included within Contract Award Notices (CAN) or available elsewhere, such as the names of other bidders or copies of winning submissions, an FOI request would be the only channel you can use to request it.
You wish to challenge a procurement decision
There may be rare instances where you suspect the procurement did not fully comply with Public Contract Regulations 2015. In such circumstances, an FOI request can be used to request the information needed to assess your assumptions.
What information can I request through an FOI request?
Common information requested through FOI requests includes:
- Copies of winning bids
- Value of winning tenders
- Contract expiry dates
- Estimated renewal dates
- Number of bidders
- Details of all bidders
- Ranking of all bidders
Tenders Direct and FOI Requests
In this post, we have provided you with recommendations of when to use FOI requests and alternative methods of gaining information. To help you further, we can take the hassle out of your information-gathering activities.
Archive of CANs and historical notices
Tenders Direct has an archive of all notices published in the UK and ROI, as well as applicable notices from the OJEU. This includes CANs and expired notices, which you can use for market research and finding buyer contact details. You can also use our Competitor Tracking Alerts to receive alerts whenever your rivals are announced as winners of high-value contracts.
Advance Tender Alerts
Rather than search through CANs looking for contract end dates, our Advance Tender Alerts will notify you up to 6 months before a notice is due for renewal. This gives you plenty of time to start planning and gathering all the necessary information.
FOI request functionality
The Freedom of Information request feature is included as standard with a subscription to Tenders Direct, and is available on all expired notices, Advance Tender Alerts, and contract award notices. Clicking the FOI request link will generate a prepopulated request for you, all you have to do is edit this to suit your needs and click send. The buyer will receive the request, along with details of which tender it relates to, and will have 20 days to respond in compliance with FOIA and FOISA.
Tenders Direct is the UK’s most accurate tender alert service.
We are the only provider to guarantee that with us – you’ll never miss a tender.
For more information about how we can help you find and win more work in the public sector, please visit www.tendersdirect.co.uk or call us on 0800 222 9009