Buying things that are over the procurement threshold – part two

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The DfE has updated it’s guidance on how schools can buy high value things and comply with EU procurement rules, including advertising a contract and running a buying process

So, you’re ready to post your advert – what next?

Decide how you will asses the bids

Before you send out your invitation to tender, decide your ‘award criteria’ – the system you’ll use to decide which bid:

  • best meets your specification;
  • is the ‘most economically advantageous’ – the one that best combines price and quality.

Give each criterion a:

  • range of scores – such as one-to-five, with five highest;
  • weighting – a figure you multiply the score by depending on how important the criterion is.

Your award criteria must be available to all the bidders. The DfE recommends you get legal advice on this process.

Timeline

Set deadlines for:

  • the clarification period – when suppliers can ask you questions;
  • when suppliers must submit their bid;
  • the ‘standstill’ period;
  • when you will award the contract.

When setting deadlines, give enough time for suppliers to:

  • understand your needs;
  • ask questions and use the information in your response;
  • write a detailed proposal with costs.

There are specific timescales you need to use. Find out more in the EU procurement directives and UK regulations and get legal advice.

Advertising

You must publish a contract notice on the government service Find a Tender (FTS).

Your advert must:

  • clearly explain what you want;
  • tell suppliers what information you need;
  • explain where the invitation to tender, and documents, are available online;
  • set the timeline;
  • say that you’ll be using evaluation criteria to award the contract to the ‘most economically advantageous tender’.

You can advertise in other places suppliers will look, such as:

  • the government’s Contracts Finder service;
  • newspapers;
  • education publications or websites;
  • trade magazines.

However, you must advertise on FTS first, and make sure everyone gets the same information.

Answering supplier questions

You should have a ‘clarification stage’ – a time when suppliers can ask questions. No matter who asks the question, in most cases you should generally:

  • send the question and reply to all the bidders with the same information;
  • anonymise the question, so no-one knows who asked it.

Do not reveal copyrighted or sensitive information. Ask suppliers if they are happy for you to publish their question and your answer. If they say no, consider their request and give them the opportunity to withdraw the question if you do not agree.

The DfE recommends that you:

  • ask suppliers to email the questions;
  • keep a log of the questions and the answers you gave.

Deciding the winning bid

Assess the bids using the award criteria you sent out in your invitation to tender. You must:

  • not open any bids before the deadline;
  • treat all bids fairly and equally;
  • record how you made your decisions so you can defend them if you have to;
  • keep confidential, secure, auditable records;
  • award the contract to the highest scoring bidder.

You can ask people to clarify things in their bid if it is not clear. You must not negotiate over bids.

Who should assess the bids

It’s best to have at least two people assess each bid. When they’re finished they should compare their scores and:

  • discuss where they’ve scored differently;
  • reach an agreed score.

This is called ‘moderation’. Be aware, the more people involved, the harder it can be to reach an agreed score. Bring in a specialist if you need expert knowledge to assess criteria, such as a quantity surveyor for building projects, or an expert in EU procurement law.

Keeping records

Keep a record of all scores, comments and moderation decisions. There is software you can buy for this process or you can use a spreadsheet.

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