A framework agreement is used in the case of repetitive purchases where there is no guaranteed volume or value of business. The agreement sets out the terms applicable to the contracts formed at the call-off stage i.e. when an order is placed.
The procedure used to set up a framework will be one of the standard procedures e.g. open, restricted, etc. At the end of the process, rather than having a contract there will be a structure in place with either a single supplier or a number of suppliers.
Where there is a single supplier, the users place orders as required at the terms agreed under the Framework Agreement. An example of this type of framework would be for the provision of office stationery.
Where there is more than one supplier - at least 3 (or the number passing the selection criteria if fewer) - the selection of the supplier for specific contracts depends on the original framework’s terms and conditions. Where they are sufficiently specific, the contract may be awarded to a selected supplier. Where there is a need to refine the detail, a further mini-competition will be required involving the suppliers on the framework that are capable of supplying the goods or services. An example of this type of framework would be works consultants with a mini-competition held to appoint, for example, an architect for a particular project.
Suppliers capable of fulfilling the requirements must be consulted in writing and the bid periods must be reasonable, taking into account the circumstances of the requirements. The award decision used for each mini-competition must be based on the award criteria stated in the original contact notice.
The maximum period for a framework will not normally be longer than 4 years. However, call-off contracts arising from the use of the framework may extend beyond this period. It should be noted that there should be reasonableness in respect of such contracts i.e. a significant contract should not normally be awarded just before a framework is to be renewed.
On completion of the tender process to set up the Framework Agreement:
- all remaining bidders must be advised of the proposed award decision including the information detailed in a Regulation 86 notice and the mandatory standstill period observed;
- a contract award notice must be published in the OJEU within 30 days of setting up the Framework Agreement, however, individual notices are not required each time the Framework Agreement is used;
- a contract award notice must be published on Contracts Finder within 90 calendar days of setting up the Framework Agreement but not before publication of the OJEU contract award notice and following each individual contract awarded under the framework agreement;
- Any request from a supplier to be de-briefed must be completed within 15 days of the request.
The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 Regulation 33 sets out in details how the call off from different types of framework agreements should be carried out.