Since the 1970s, the European Union has adopted legislation to ensure that public sector procurement in the EU is as open, as competitive and as fairly conducted as possible. These principles form the foundation of the entire tender process in the UK, from advertising tenders to upholding EU thresholds.
The EU rules for public sector procurement are contained within a series of Directives that are updated every few years – or when they need to be. In March 2014, three packages of the ‘EU Public Procurement Directive’ were published, setting out the EU legal framework for public sector procurement. These Directives were then transposed into UK law under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and the Public Contracts Regulations (Scotland) 2015. As you can imagine, these publications are extensive and encompass all elements of a huge industry, but navigating them is much easier than most suppliers imagine.
Tracker Intelligence specialises in helping both potential new and existing suppliers to implement early engagement with public sector buyers. With this in mind, we have highlighted the relevant areas of the EU Public Procurement Directives that support early engagement strategies, enabling suppliers to use the structure of procurement to achieve the most effective procurement results.
Market engagement is the process which takes place prior to, during and after procurement. Early market engagement is crucial, because it allows communication between buyers and suppliers before the tender is officially published. This helps to achieve the following:
- Identify potential bidders and solutions
- Build capacity in the market to meet requirements
- Shape the requirements and scope of the contract
- Help suppliers to submit strong bids
According to the EU legal framework, the selection criteria which the tender process in the UK adheres to must be formulated in advance, so that potential tenderers know the basis on which their capacity will be assessed. Potential suppliers will also be informed which EU procurement threshold is appropriate to the contract. Communication between buyers and suppliers before the tender is published means suppliers can more fully prepare to meet the tender requirements and determine the best angle their bid response should take.
Contract award criteria
The EU Public Procurement Directives state that contracting authorities shall base the award of public contracts on the most economically advantageous tender from the point of view of the contracting authority. This means that it is important for potential suppliers to understand what aspects, other than price, are important to the buyer e.g energy efficiency, repair costs and other aspects of life cycle costing.
For early engagement discussions, potential suppliers should put additional effort into research to ensure their goods, works or services are the best option for the buyer, including the best price-quality ratio.
Communicate contract weightings
Early engagement is an opportunity for suppliers to question buyers on their plans for contract weightings. The EU Public Procurement Directives state that the contracting authority shall specify, in procurement documents, the relative weighting which it gives to each of the award criteria. Getting ahead of the competition on the contract weightings is a massive advantage in gaining an in-depth understanding of how the project will be completed and structuring a winning tender bid. By taking the time to network and ask the buyer the right questions around their views, you can understand what works for the buyer and what doesn’t. Contract weightings will reflect this, which in turn will help you structure your bid.
Modifying contract requirements
Not only does early engagement allow potential suppliers to shape contracts and specifications, it opens the space to ask questions in advance. The EU Public Procurement Directives do allow contracts and framework agreements to be modified without requiring a new procurement procedure in certain circumstances. However, through effective and substantial early engagement, communication between buyer and supplier should ideally identify any modifications before the tender is published.
How Tracker can help you engage earlier
Tracker enables early engagement in a number of ways:
- Provides named contacts for networking across both the public and private sectors through Market Leads and Commercial Projects.
- Provides advance notification of upcoming framework renewals and recurring projects through Market Leads.
- Enables you to understand previous requirements through Archive Data, thereby facilitating conversations around future contract requirements.
- Identifies buyer spend patterns including what the contracting authority is buying and from whom via Spend Analysis.
- Provides alert notices and detailed breakdown of frameworks by lots, suppliers and awards.