How Do Public Tenders Work?

If you’ve ever asked yourself, "how do public tenders work?" then you’re not alone. The public sector tendering process is structured and must follow certain procedures. Before your organisation starts searching for relevant contract opportunities to bid on, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the public sector tendering process.

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The Public Procurement Process

In the public procurement process, the term “public tender” refers to a contract opportunity that is published by a public sector organisation to invite competing offers from one or more suppliers who can provide the goods, services, products, works or utilities that an organisation requires.

The decision about which supplier is awarded the contract is ultimately made on the basis of price and quality with tenders evaluated against a set of pre-announced criteria.

Publishing

The public sector tender notice will then be published and the tender process is open to all qualified bidders.

Public sector organisations that issue contract notices have a well-defined public bidding process and the whole public sector tendering process is governed by clear rules, set out in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, to ensure that the selection process is fair and transparent to all bidders.

Once the tender notice is published, there is a time limit for suppliers to express interest or submit a tender, depending on the procedure being followed.

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Public Tendering Process

Strictly speaking, a “tender” is the actual bid that is submitted by a business to win work, but in the public sector procurement context, it is used more loosely to cover the whole public procurement tender process — from the publication of the public sector contract notice to the bidding on the contract itself.

The public procurement tendering process starts with a contract notice, which is published by a public sector organisation to generate competing offers to meet the specific requirements outlined in the contract notice.

The four procurement procedures most frequently used by public sector bodies are Open Procedure, Restricted Procedure, Competitive Dialogue and Negotiated Procurement. When applying for public sector tenders, a contract notice will inform you which of the four public procurement procedures should be used.

The next steps in the public sector tender process are slightly more complicated because these invitations to tender take different structured forms, depending on the procedure chosen.

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What happens after you bid for public sector tenders?

If you bid for public sector or government contracts and are considered a suitable supplier, you will be shortlisted by the contracting authority and receive an invitation to tender.

If your tender application is unsuccessful, you can request feedback from the awarding body to help you improve your likelihood of winning future bids on public sector tenders.

Any supplier can enter the UK government supply chain by winning public contracts. Contract portals like those offered by Tracker Intelligence help simplify the bid process by making tenders easier to find, allowing you to find and bid on more public sector tenders.

The Market

The UK government spends approximately £284 billion on public procurement, including goods and suppliers annually, which is about a third of its public expenditure.

Due to the UK withdrawing itself from the European Union on 31 January 2020, the UK-wide e-notification procurement service Find a Tender Service (FTS) has replaced the OJEU as the place where UK-based public sector bodies publish above threshold contract notices and awards. Information and FAQs on FTS are available in the Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 08/20.

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