Public Sector Procurement Process: Tendering for Public Sector Contracts

Is your business looking to start tendering for public sector contracts to help you grow this year and beyond? Understanding the public sector procurement process is the best place to start if you want to improve your chances of winning valuable public tenders.

In this beginner’s guide to public tendering, we take you through what a public sector tender is, what the public sector tendering process involves, and what benefits there are for winning tender opportunities for your business so you can become a true tender expert.

This information will help you understand the public sector tender process and offer insight on how to bid for contracts in the public sector.

Make the public procurement process easier with Tracker. We give you the tools and resources you need to understand public procurement procedures and win more tenders.

Sign up for a free trial today and start using Tracker’s contracts finder and other procurement tools to search for, bid on, and win more public sector tenders.

What are Tenders?

To understand the world of government procurement and the public tender process, you need to first know what tenders are.

In business, and especially the procurement industry, the term “tenders” refers to the contract opportunities published by public sector organisations for goods, services, works, and utilities. The UK government and public bodies support new suppliers, like SMEs, to supply them with these goods or services directly or as a part of the supply chain.

The public sector procurement process requires that a contract notice is published to generate competing offers for the specified business the public sector organisation requires. These calls for public sector bids take different structured forms called public tender procedures — Open Tenders and Restricted Tenders are the most commonly used in the public tendering process — but essentially, they will set out details of what the public sector body wants supplied.

Thus the term “tenders” is now used to cover any public tender opportunities.

How Do Tenders Differ from Procurement Frameworks?

Procurement frameworks are also known as framework agreements. They are similar to tenders in that contracting authorities such as local government or central government departments will use them to find suppliers when they need goods, services, or works.

The difference is that instead of awarding the public sector contract to only one supplier, a framework allows public sector buyers to compile a shortlist of multiple suppliers who they can call on to deliver goods or services as agreed upon over a specified timeframe. This is ideal for local or central government bodies that require large-volume buying and need to minimise the resources that would otherwise be spent on repeating the tender process each time.

Sign up for Tracker to explore active framework agreements and win new framework contracts from central and local government departments.

Understanding Public Procurement Policy

We can’t answer the question ‘What is public procurement?’ without mentioning the procurement policies that govern UK public tenders.

Because government spend involves the taxpayer’s money, public sector procurement policy is essential. In order to ensure value for money along with free and open competition on every public sector contract that is published, there are various public sector procurement regulations in the UK, such as the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Procurement policies for government are developed and implemented under the direction of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), which is also in charge of the legal framework for UK public sector procurement. These procurement ‘rules’ are updated regularly.

Important policies include the Public Procurement Bill, Public Contracts Regulations 2015, Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016, and Concession Contracts Regulations 2016.

Follow Tracker’s Procurement News to keep up to date with the latest in public procurement in the UK.

What is the Public Sector Procurement Process?

The tendering process in public sector procurement involves four main procedures. These four procurement procedures are used by public sector bodies to award contracts in the public procurement process. The Contract Notice will state which of these will be used.

The contracting authority will base its final decision on various factors, including quality, experience, time frames, price, and social value.

These are the 5 most common procedures in the public sector procurement tender process in the UK:

1. Open Procedure

Advertised public sector tenders invite interested parties to submit tenders by a set date. These are evaluated and contracts are awarded to the winning party/parties.

2. Restricted Procedure

This public tender procedure takes two stages. In the first selection stage, all applicants have to complete a Selection Questionnaire (SQ) and a shortlist of suppliers is identified from the responses. In the second stage, the shortlisted suppliers are invited to respond to an Invitation to Tender (ITT). These returned tenders are evaluated and the contract award is announced.

3. Competitive Dialogue & Competitive Procedure with Negotiation

These public tender procedures are used for more complex public procurement contracts and share many similarities, with the major difference being that the Competitive Dialogue is more flexible and the Competitive Procedure with Negotiation is more structured.

Following the publication of the contract notice on Find a Tender Service (FTS) and the selection process, the public sector body/awarding authority negotiates with companies to develop suitable solutions. This public procurement tender process is followed by an Invitation to Tender and contract award. A good example might be a software project where a public sector organisation knows what they want to achieve but not how it will be done.

The Negotiated tender procedure is used in limited circumstances and involves the public sector bodies entering into contract negotiations with one or more suppliers.

4. Negotiated Procedure Without Prior Publication

This tender procedure involves the public sector buyer going straight into negotiation without publishing a contract notice. The buyer will need to publish an award notice afterwards to formally justify the use of this procedure.

The Negotiated Procedure Without Prior Publication procedure should only be used in special cases, such as when commissioning a unique work of art, buying from the only supplier of a product or service (e.g. the Ministry of Defence sourcing defence spares), or emergency situations (e.g. sourcing PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic).

5. Innovation Partnership

The Innovation Partnership tender procedure is a fairly new and rarely used procedure. It is aimed at Research & Development work and encourages suppliers to develop new and innovative solutions that are not yet available on the market.

This type of procedure typically appeals to small businesses that are often involved in innovation and development in their respective industries.

Start bidding for government contracts in the UK with confidence with Tracker or get in touch with us to find out how our procurement tools can help your business grow.

Where to Find Public Tenders in the UK?

Public procurement regulations require all public sector organisations to publish contract notices that are over set values or ‘thresholds’ during the government tendering process. For example, all UK public contracts that are above threshold must be advertised on the Find a Tender Service (FTS) using a contract notice.

The UK’s home countries — England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales — all have their own procurement portals which publish tenders. Sometimes the threshold is lower than for FTS. For example, English contracts worth over £12,000 are published on Contracts Finder, whereas contracts usually have to be worth more than £118,000 to be published on FTS.

Some public sector bodies will also publish tenders on their own websites.

Tracker is a source of public sector & government tenders — our expert research team track down tender notices under the thresholds as well as high-value contracts to create the UK’s most comprehensive database of public sector contracts.

Bidding for government contracts is easy with Tracker. Sign up for our Tender Alerts tool to get daily alerts about the latest public sector tenders!

What are the Business Benefits of Winning Public Sector Tenders in the UK?

The Government spent £379 billion on public sector procurement in 2021/22 across the UK, which makes them the largest purchaser in the UK in many industry markets. Winning tenders is the only way to win your share of this lucrative market.

It’s not just the value of the market that makes public sector organisations attractive customers. Consider these other benefits of having the government as your customer:

  • A public sector organisation will not go bust owing suppliers money

  • Payment terms are generally more favourable

  • Payments are better honoured than in the private sector — public sector bodies are required to pay suppliers within 30 days

Therefore, public sector procurement and tendering can provide both high quantity and quality business opportunities.

Ready to claim your share of this lucrative marketplace? Sign up for Tracker today to start finding and winning more public sector contracts.

How to Find Public Sector Tenders in Europe?

Although the UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, Tracker customers are still benefiting from access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date source of public sector contract opportunities and associated intelligence, including those originating within the EU.

The public sector is a vibrant, diverse, and positive marketplace for suppliers of all sizes and specialisms — in the UK and globally. While Brexit creates challenges and change, the overall opportunity — aligned to increased investment into areas such as health, defence, education, and infrastructure — remains vast.

Tracker offers more tender alerts than any other provider in Europe. Our business intelligence tool makes it easy for you to identify public and private sector tendering opportunities, access meaningful market and industry news, and get the competitor insight you need to keep your business one step ahead of the competition.

Learn more about the procurement tools that can help you find public sector tenders in Europe and engage earlier with buyers through Market Intelligence. Tracker also provides valuable information to customers on how to tender for government contracts successfully and gain access to OJEU notices & awards.

OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union)

While UK public sector tenders are published on Find a Tender Service (FTS) post-Brexit, the OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) is a publication where all public sector tenders valued at a specific threshold under EU legislation must be published. It is the official online journal where all public tenders are published daily in every official EU language.

All contract notices issued by public sector bodies within the European Union interested in buying or supplying goods, services or works over a specified threshold must be published in the OJEU. This published advertisement is called a contract notice.

You can instantly access OJEU notices and awards with a Tracker subscription.

Sign up for Tracker today or get in touch with our team to find out how you can use our tools to win more public contracts in the UK and beyond.

Tracker: Simplifying Public Sector Procurement in the UK

Procurement in the public sector doesn’t have to be complicated and time-consuming. With Tracker’s industry leading procurement tools and insights, the UK government tender process is made simple so you can put your best foot forward in winning new business.

We’ve answered the question of ‘What is public sector procurement?’ and unpacked the public procurement processes so you can improve your chances of winning more public tenders and help your business grow. The next step is expanding this knowledge by reading our procurement resources and news articles to find out how to bid for government contracts in the UK and, more importantly, how to win public tenders.

Now that you understand the public sector procurement process, are you ready to find and win more business working alongside the public and private sectors?

Test drive Tracker’s contracts finder for yourself with our free 3-day trial and gain access to more tender notices from Europe’s largest publisher.

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