Must I issue an expression of interest (EOI) form?

No. It’s an optional tool designed to help gauge the level of likely response to an ITT and potentially limit the number of participating bidders.

 Must I conduct ‘market soundings’ before issuing an ITT?

No, it’s optional but allows you to enter into pre-tender dialogue with suppliers in order to refine your requirements and assess bidders’ capabilities to tender.

 Where can I find further advice on complying with EU legislation?

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) produces guidance on complying with the latest legislation. There are also companies that provide a subscription-based service to keep people up to date with the latest legislation and its interpretation.

 Must I issue my mini competition invitation to tender to all of the suppliers in the specific lot?

Yes. Customers are required to issue the invitation to tender in the mini-competition process to all suppliers ‘which are capable of performing the proposed contract’. Unless you have used market soundings, or an EOI to determine which suppliers will not be interested you must invite all suppliers within the lot. NB See also below for the particular circumstances relating to potential conflicts of interest.

 How do I decide which lot to use?

Check your statement of requirements against the lot descriptions in the advice and guidance published on this website.

 Can I conduct my mini-competition across both lots?

No. You must determine which lot to use and invite only the suppliers in that lot.

 Must I use all 12 evaluation criteria?

Yes. But you can give one or more of the criteria a weighting of zero: for example if that criterion is not of prime importance in your project or if you are happy to rely on the robust evaluation of that criterion that has already been carried out by the Department.

 What weightings should I give to the evaluation criteria?

This is for you to decide depending on the priorities and requirements of your specific project. However, you may want to assess the robust evaluation of any criteria that have already been carried out by the Department when deciding your weightings.

 Can some criteria be zero-weighted?

Yes. You can give one or more of the criteria a weighting of zero. For example, if that criterion is not of prime importance in your project or if you are happy to rely on the robust evaluation of that criterion that has already been carried out by the Department.

 Can some criteria be zero-weighted?

Yes. You can give one or more of the criteria a weighting of zero. For example, if that criterion is not of prime importance in your project or if you are happy to rely on the robust evaluation of that criterion that has already been carried out by the Department.

 Can I add or substitute other evaluation criteria in my ITT?

The criteria you use, and the weightings applied to each will depend on the priorities for your project. You can give criteria that are not relevant a zero weighting. However, you must not add further criteria that were not part of the framework evaluation. In addition, be aware that any sub-criteria and associated weighting you add must be disclosed to bidders in the interests of fairness and transparency.  

 How do I know which of the four model contracts to select?

A guidance note is published on this website to help you determine which contract should be used.

 Can I invite tenders from a company that has provided consultancy on this or a previous project?

Potential conflicts of interest may occur where, for example, an ICT services framework supplier is separately engaged to work on a project, not necessarily through a DfE framework. The responsibility remains with the ICT contractor not to become placed in a position where, in the reasonable opinion of the Department, there is or may be an actual conflict, or a potential conflict, between the monetary or personal interests of the ICT contractor or such persons and the duties owed to the customer under the provisions of the agreement.

This would apply where a company has had a long-term client-side advisory role and then decides to bid as a service provider to the same client. Even though there would be no direct project specific information known by the bidder, the residual policies and practices information known by the ex-adviser is likely to mean that there will still be a residual conflict of interest.

Clearly over time this conflict is likely to diminish and will eventually disappear; the length of time that this will take will depend on the circumstances of each individual situation, and framework customers will need to seek advice from their legal advisers if the situation arises.

 Can I use the tenders as a selection process to invite a small number of suppliers to present and interview?

The regulations prohibit running a two-stage process in call-off contracts under a framework agreement, so this needs some care. It is acceptable to only call in the tenderers who have a clear chance of winning at the interview stage. This assumes that a proportion of the evaluation marks have been allocated to an interview stage following evaluation of the written responses. Tenderers who are out of contention should not be invited to tender if their tender was so poor that nothing that they could do in an interview would mean that they would be awarded the contract. In this case this would be the continuation of a process rather than a multi-stage process.

Suggested wording in the ITT:

Please endeavour to keep free [Date] as certain tenderers may be invited to [Name of School] for an interview to discuss their tender submission.  The [School] reserves the right to invite all or some tenderers for an interview in order to clarify aspects of their tenders. The final decision on awarding the contract will be made after these interviews (if they are held).

 Do I need to inform all suppliers if, after publication of our ITT, there is a change in circumstances for example a change in funding or a change to the dates of the project?

Yes. A supplier may be more – or less – interested if there is a significant change to the project that affects them.

 There are several of us assessing the tenders. Do we score individually and moderate or keep the original individual scores?

Evaluation must be conducted in a way that gives fair and equal treatment to all bidders. The evaluation process must be transparent and any scoring used must be consistently applied whether there are one or more assessors. A thorough evaluation process will be welcomed by bidders as they will know they have an equal chance of success. It is advisable for evaluations to be carried out by a panel of people with different areas of interest/expertise.

 What do we have to tell the unsuccessful tenderers?

Unsuccessful tenderers will want to know where they went wrong in order to help them bid more effectively in the future. A good, structured debrief will help stimulate competition.

 How long is a reasonable amount of time for tenderers to return an EOI?

Two weeks is a good rule of thumb, depending on the complexity. Potential bidders will want to look carefully at the details to determine if they want to, or can respond.

 How long is a reasonable amount of time for tenderers to return a bid?

Four weeks is a good rule of thumb for the minimum timeframe, depending again on the complexity of the project.

There is no need to allow for the mandatory 40 day for suppliers to submit their responses under EU procurement legislation for contracts over the EU threshold, as this has already been applied when the framework was originally tendered.

 What is the ‘standstill’ period?

The requirements of the new EU Remedies Directive means that it is considered good practice – and strongly recommended for all contracts valued over the EU threshold (currently £156,442 ) – for those awarding contracts under a framework to allow a ‘standstill period’ between the notification of the award to successful and unsuccessful bidders and the formal contract award. The purpose of the standstill period – also referred to as the ‘Alcatel period’ after the EU ruling that formed this requirement – is to allow unsuccessful suppliers to challenge the decision if they feel that it has not been arrived at fairly. Courts adjudicating on challenges brought by disgruntled suppliers will be less inclined to rule contracts as ‘ineffective’ if a standstill period has been properly applied.

 How long is a reasonable amount of time to allow for a ‘standstill’ period?

The standstill or Alcatel period must be 10 calendar days where the first and last day falls on a working day if the notification is sent electronically. The 10 day period is extended to 15 days from the 'relevant sending date' when the 'Alcatel' letter is not sent electronically.

 Is our project a ‘capital building programme’ (i.e. which contract do I use)?

Capital building programmes are major Government-funded projects, normally aggregating procurement for several schools.

If the funding for ICT is granted by the Government through their agents Partnerships for Schools, then you require a contract that is ‘...a capital building programme school...’ Any other funding used requires a non-CBP contract.

 How much information should be revealed about legacy equipment and current contracts including leases and software licences?

You should include as much information as possible about other contracts that would need to run alongside or be replaced by the ones in the tender. You should also include details of any legacy equipment and software that you wish to retain. Current contracts, their term to expiry and the current company that supplies the goods and or services – including leasing arrangements – that may impact upon service delivery should be disclosed. The cost details can be withheld.