The most economically advantageous tender (MEAT) criterion enables the contracting authority to take account of criteria that reflect qualitative, technical and sustainable aspects of the tender submission as well as price when reaching an award decision.
Any criteria used must be linked to the subject-matter of the contract in question. The Regulations state that award criteria shall be considered to be linked to the subject matter of the contract where they relate to the works, supplies or services to be provided under that contract in any respect and at any stage of their life-cycle, including factors involved in:
- the specific process of production, provision or trading of those works, supplies or services; or
- a specific process for another stage of their lifecycle,
even where those factors do not form part of their material substance.
As early as possible in the process, preferably when the requirement is advertised on the Find a Tender Service, the criteria will be published and advised to the potential tenderers.
The relative weighting of each criterion used to assess the submissions must be stated or, where this is not possible for objective reasons, they should be stated in descending order of importance.
Quite often the award criteria stated in the contract notice and/or the tender documentation will be made up of a number of sub-criteria. These sub-criteria and their weightings should also be notified to the tenderers - the sub-criteria detail could probably be provided within the tender documentation rather than in the contract notice.
The legislation lists the following criteria (although this list is not exhaustive):
- price or cost using a cost-effectiveness approach
- technical merit
- aesthetic and functional characteristics
- social characteristics
- environmental characteristics
- innovative characteristics
- after-sales service and technical assistance
- delivery conditions such as date, process and period
It is also permissible for the cost element to take the form of a fixed price or cost on the basis of which tenderers will compete on quality criteria only.
Award criteria most not have the effect of conferring an unrestricted freedom of choice on the contracting authority.
When including sustainability-based criteria it is important to remember these criteria must be 'linked to the subject matter of the contract' and be proportionate for the contract.
The contract notice must indicate that the MEAT criterion will be used to award the contract. The details of the individual award criteria should be stated in the contract notice and must be stated in the contract documentation.
Once stated, the criteria must be applied as stated and cannot be changed at a later date, particularly not after the tender return deadline.