last updated: 30th January 2015

Having prepared the appropriate documentation, 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 ie 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 ie 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.  If the documentation is available for download from your institution’s web site or electronic tendering portal, the potential suppliers can assess when it suits them. Where it is not available on-line and has to be sent by email, the documentation must be issued within 6 days of the request and in sufficient time to enable the bidder to respond. 

Where documentation is available for download from the web, the system should create a log of the activity, recording who downloaded the documentation and when.  The sector’s electronic tendering portal Intend FE has this facility and is useful where a simple means of on-line distribution of tender and quotation documents is required.

Record keeping
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.

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 here.  This represents best practice when dealing with sealed bids.

A risk assessment is provided.

Note: Request for Quotation (RFQ) and Request for Tender (RFT)

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