Having prepared the appropriate documentation (Request for Quotation - RFQ or Request for Tender RFT), how and when that documentation will be issued will depend on the process being followed and how the potential bidders have or will be identified i.e. was the requirement publicly advertised.
Requirement not advertised
This is most likely where there is a low value requirement and you are:
- Using a quotation procedure,
- Carrying out a lower value tender under your institution’s internal procedures and you are permitted to select the tenderers (without advertising), or;
- Conducting a mini-competition under an existing framework agreement.
Here it is important that:
- The documentation is issued to all the potential bidders at the same time and in the same manner i.e. electronically or in hard copy. This it to ensure fairness of treatment.
- The bidders are given clear instructions on where, when and to whom their bids are to be submitted.
- Any queries that arise from one bidder, assuming that they are reasonable, should be answered and then the question and answer notified to all the bidders without identifying the source of the initial enquiry.
The emphasis is to not only treat all the potential bidders in the same way but to be seen to do so.
Requirement is advertised
When the requirement has been advertised you will issue the documentation in response to applications from interested parties. The documentation should be made available for download from Contracts Finder or your electronic tendering portal, the potential suppliers can assess when it suits them.
It is important to maintain a record of to whom, and when, documentation was issued. This not only provides an audit trail of the process you have followed, but also demonstrates, in the event of a very low bid submission rate, that you did endeavour to create an appropriate level of competition for the requirement.
Note: Where there is a very low response to a tender or quotation it could be that your specification is not sufficiently clear, is too restrictive or, perhaps, is locking out alternative suppliers. If it is the latter, you need to ensure that the specification does not leave your institution open to challenge on the grounds of an unfair or biased specification.
Return of Quotations and Tenders
It is important that a standard process is followed when quotations and tenders are returned to the institution or department. This is to ensure that, again, all bidders are treated fairly and are seen to be treated fairly. The use of a stated closing date and time, after which submissions will not be considered, means that all bidders have the same time by which to make their bids however it also protects you. If your procurement is above the EU thresholds, it is mandatory to use an electronic tendering system for the submission of bids.
The use of sealed bids also protects the purchaser by minimising the opportunity for accusations of disclosure of one bidder’s bid details to a competitor.
A recommended sequence of events is available as an example of best practice when dealing with sealed bids, however most electronic tendering systems will record this information automatically.
A risk assessment for this stage of the procurement cycle is provided.