Vicki Stewart, Owner and Director of tender writing consultancy, Tender Victory, brings an update on the Covid-19 situation and how it is affecting current and future tender opportunities within the public sector. She recommends that now is a great time to use past/existing contracts and relationships with buyers to maintain supply agreements or indeed secure new ones, even during lockdown.
The Public Procurement Regulations, which govern the majority of public sector procurement procedures, incorporate Regulation 32. This regulation enables buyers to apply a negotiated procedure, without prior publication (of a contract notice or advert), to directly award contracts OR to extend or modify existing contracts. Regulation 32 has been part of the standard regulations for many years, but is rarely called upon or applied.
The Cabinet Office has issued guidance to buyers relating to the application of this regulation, to enable them to engage with suppliers of urgent or essential goods or services, this can be found here.
As a supplier, steps you can take to encourage the application of the use of Regulation 32 with current or past buying organisations include:
- contact buyers (by email is best as most are not in the office)
- explain to them how your products/services can be used to assist their organisation respond to this current crisis
- note your past/current contracts that could be modified or extended, OR, offer your essential products/services under their ability to direct award under Regulation 32
Some buyers may currently be firefighting imminent demand (e.g. for PPE items) and so may not have yet considered the other options available to them to ensure continuity of supply for other key products or services.
We realise that live tenders have been impacted, as public sector buyers have been tasked with a whole raft of new requirements, have you considered how some of these could suit your business? Buyers are being asked to diversify so could your business diversify too? Could your standard offering be adapted to help in the current situation? There are certainly needs out there that need to be met.
Get in touch with current and past public sector buyers, particularly NHS Trusts and local councils to see if there is a requirement for your product or service either in a straightforward way or a diversified manner.
Have you spotted an opportunity or a gap in the market? Contracts Finder online is a great source of contact information for public sector buyers, you can look up current or past tenders for buying organisations e.g. Met Police and find named contacts with email addresses on there. All of this information is in the public domain so invest a little bit of admin time to find it and you could just put that call in at the right time to secure new business!
How will this affect tendering as we know it?
We are being told that usual procurement cycles should continue where possible, with standard procurement routes and timescales being applied, however our experience of this in the last couple of weeks is that many have been suspended.
It is possible that in addition to the application of Regulation 32, we may also see buyers making use of the accelerated timescales under which to run Open or Restricted Procedure tenders – the accelerated timescales are 15 days following issue of the opportunity. You may therefore need to be prepared for responding to tenders within these timescales.
If a standard tender opportunity presents itself, we recommend it is given serious consideration, as confirmed contracts that will be in place when this uncertain period is over, will provide businesses with some certainty for their future. It is important to note that Regulation 32 should only be applied where the procurement or purchase cannot be planned for.
For existing public sector suppliers that are struggling with cash flow in the current environment, the Cabinet Office has also released guidance on the provision of relief to suppliers suffering due to Covid-19. Access to such relief is dependent on open books with the buyers. The link to the policy note is here
If you need more advice about any of the points Vicki has raised please get in touch.