The competitive process

There is an inherent desire to obtain optimum value for money in terms of the goods and services procured by your institution to carry out its work in an efficient, effective and economic manner. There is also a probity-based requirement to be able to demonstrate that reasonable steps have been taken to achieve this desired VfM.  This can be shown through the use of appropriate levels of competition between potential suppliers of the required products.

The use of quotation and tender procedures serves two main purposes:

  • the process should endeavour to identify potential suppliers that are capable of supplying the required product:
    - to a quality that meets the needs of the user
    - at a price that represents value for money
    - at the time the goods/services are needed by the user
    - in a quantity that meets the needs of the user; and
    - to the location required by the user
  • To provide evidence of the use of fair, open, transparent and non-discriminatory methods of placing business with the supplier.  The procedures provide protection to the buyer carrying out the procurement process as well as to the institution.

A quotation is a simple process using standard documentation to investigate the availability of suppliers for a product needed and to identify the prices, delivery timescales etc for them.  A quotation is an indication of the expected cost.  You can accept it, reject it or not respond at all.

A tender is a much more detailed and robust process used to investigate the availability and capability of supplier for the product needed and to identify the prices, delivery timescales and quality etc for them.  A tender is a legal offer to do something, which you must accept or reject. Higher value procurements are subject to competition under the EU Public Procurement Rules.  It is recommended that any requirement falling under the EU Rules is referred to the institution's central Procurement Office for advice and action.

A mini competition is a simplified tender process that can be conducted on framework contracts. For this process a specification is produced and sent out to all suppliers on the identified framework.  The framework agreement will usually have identified the award criteria to be used to evaluate suppliers bids along with the terms and conditions of contract.  When running a mini competition there is no need to conduct a pre qualification stage to assess the suppliers financial and technical abilities as this will have already been completed by the framework owner.

An overview of the steps to be followed in a competitive process is given here.