Having clarified any outstanding issues and reached agreement on the bid representing the best offer, under the published award criteria, the contract award decision should be notified to all the tenderers as soon as possible. For all procurements falling within the public procurement rules there must be a mandatory stand still period of at least 10 days between the notification of the award decision and the conclusion of the contract i.e. the formal award. This is to allow the unsuccessful tenderers an opportunity to seek a de-briefing and, if they feel they have grounds for complaint, give them an opportunity to dispute the decision before the contract is concluded.
The actual status of the contract at this stage will depend on the procedure followed and the type of arrangement that has been set up.
If the purpose of the competition was to set up a framework agreement, the ‘contract award’ sets out the framework under which subsequent requirements will be sourced the standstill period would apply when the framework contract is first set up and, where it is a multiple-supplier framework, a voluntary standstill period could apply after each mini-competition. In legal terms, the actual contract is not concluded until a purchase order is issued ordering specified goods or services.
Where the competition was for a specific purpose i.e. not to set up a framework, the formal awarding of the contract creates the legally binding contract. In most cases, the contract process begins when the buyer issues a purchase order and ‘orders’ the goods and services. The exception to this is where the contract is ‘made under seal’ usually where land or property is involved, for example, for major building contracts. Here, the purchase order is an important document however its purpose is more to do with tracking the finances of the contract, than the actual contract itself.
Once the purchase order has been signed, issued and accepted by the supplier or the contract documentation is signed under seal, the contract is legally binding on all parties.
For tenders where the estimated value exceeds the Public Contract Regulation thresholds, a contract award notice must be published on Find a Tender within 48 days of the date of the contract award.
In addition to the mandatory standstill period for public procurements (see above), any bidder asking for a de-briefing must be de-briefed within 15 days of the request (this is regardless of the estimated value of the quotation or tender).
A risk assessment for this stage of the procurement cycle is provided.