One of the most frequent questions we are asked at Tenders Direct is ‘Am I entitled to feedback if I get knocked out at the PQQ stage?‘ This is a very important question as pre-qualification is used much more often in the UK than in the rest of Europe. The chart below shows the relative proportion that each of the four main tender procedures (Open, Restricted, Competitive Dialogue or Negotiated) was used in the UK and in Europe.
On January 1st 2010 new financial thresholds, which govern whether or not a contract must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), came into force. There’s often a lot of confusion about these thresholds, so I’ll try and explain a bit of the background as well as the actual values of the new thresholds.
On Sunday the Remedies Directive (2007/66/EC) was implemented in UK legislation. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) had drafted ‘The Public Contracts (Amendment) Regulations 2009’ (SI 2009/2992). While in Scotland the Scottish Procurement Directorate (SPD) had drafted The Public Contracts and Utilities Contracts (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2009 (SSI 2009/428). Although both sets of regulations are implementing the same European Directive there are some significant differences in the detail, although in this article I’ll only concentrate on the main effects.
One of the best ways to improve your tender and PQQ (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire) submissions is to learn from the mistakes and merits of your previous efforts. You can do this by requesting feedback on your performance during the tender process from the awarding authority.
If you have ever attempted to read the public procurement directives then you will know there are a number of regulations governing the advertising and award of public sector contracts.
Contracts that fall below the EC procurement thresholds are not subject to these directives. Below threshold contracts are subject to the rules and principles of the EC Treaty (including non-discrimination, equal treatment, transparency etc), and European Court of Justice case-law has indicated these contracts should be ‘sufficiently’ advertised. However, aside from these rather ambiguous guidelines, there are no real rules regulating these contracts.
OJEU tenders are required to follow specific regulations on timescales to allow suppliers adequate time to respond to tenders, not usually less than 22 days. Below threshold tenders, however, often have much tighter deadlines. To make this situation worse, below threshold contracts are found in literally hundreds of places, including websites, local and national newspapers, and trade journals, meaning that they cannot always be identified as soon as they are advertised.
It is therefore particularly important to respond to these contracts as soon as possible. In fact, regardless of whether it is a below threshold or OJEU tender, it is advisable to make initial contact with the awarding authority as early as possible. This can only increase the time you have to prepare your bid or Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. It also means that the authority should keep you informed of any changes or further information relating to the tender. Responding to the tender notice does not bind you to bidding for the contract, but if you miss the deadline, then you have missed your opportunity. As the old saying goes “you snooze, you lose!”