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Open Tendering: bidders questions answered

Written by Thornton & Lowe


Jun 07, 2024

Open tendering definition

‘Open tendering’ is a procurement method that allows interested businesses to bid for a contract, without any pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) or prior shortlisting. It's a single stage and usually via the ITT (Invitation to Tender). Also known as an open procedure.

Supplier information, such as references or selection questionnaire (SQ - most recent version and format PPN 03/23) details will still be requested but within a single stage. Open tendering is often used for public sector contracts, as it promotes transparency, competition, and value for money. However, open tendering also has some drawbacks, such as a high administrative burden for the public sector, often a longer evaluation time, and arguably lower chances of success when tendering, especially without effective bid planning and opportunity qualification.

The new Procurement Act 2023, which comes into force 28th October 2024, aims to reform and simplify the public procurement rules in the UK, following its exit from the European Union. The Act will introduce some significant changes to the open tendering process, which will affect both government buyers and suppliers. In this article, we will explain what these changes are, what they mean for you, and how you can prepare for them. As a specialist SME bid writing consultancy, can help you win more public sector tenders through understanding procurement and how to effectively bid within open tendering.

Open tendering under the Procurement Act 2023

The Procurement Act 2023 will replace the current Public Contracts Regulations 2015, which transposed the EU directives on public procurement into UK law. The new Act will create a single legal framework for all public sector procurement, with the aim of making it more flexible, streamlined, and innovative.

The introduction of three main procurement procedures: open, competitive flexible, and limited tendering (direct awards) via frameworks. Open tendering will remain as the default procedure for most contracts, but buyers will have more discretion to use the other two procedures if they can justify their reasons. Competitive flexible tendering will allow post tender negotiations, as well as letting them further tailor the tender process to their specific needs. While limited tendering will allow buyers to award contracts directly to a single supplier in certain circumstances, such as urgency, crisis, or innovation. This is used now by many suppliers as a route to market, so understanding the changes is important.

What is bid planning

Open and previous restricted procedures in government procurement

At one point, the restricted procurement procedure, which involved 2 stages, selection or pre-qualification via a PQQ, followed by shortlisting the top bidders, and inviting them to tender (ITT), was the most frequently used procurement route for the UK public sector.

In recent years, the trend has moved towards the open procedure, or open tendering, including the selection questionnaire within the main tender documents. There are pro's and cons of both, but open tendering can reduce procurement timescales.

Without the restricted procedure, as a result of the Procurement Act 2023 changes, from this perspective, it's impact should be minimised.

The procedure for open tendering

The Open procedure is a straightforward, one-stage procurement process. It is designed to maximise competition by allowing any organisation to submit a tender.

How it Works:

  • Single stage - suppliers respond directly to an advertised contract notice.
  • Full submission - all interested suppliers can request and download the procurement documents and submit their tenders.
  • Evaluation - all submitted tenders are evaluated based on the criteria outlined in the procurement documents.

Advantages of open tendering:

  • High competition - potentially attracts a high volume of responses, encouraging innovative solutions.
  • Accessibility - technically allows organisations of all sizes to participate.
  • Transparency - full documentation is provided upfront, helping suppliers decide if they can meet the requirements (however, this was a requirement with the restricted procedure in more recent years).
  • Shorter timescale - the absence of a pre-qualification stage reduces the overall timescale.

Disadvantages of open tendering:

  • Resource intensive - evaluating a high volume of responses can be time-consuming.
  • Risk of low-quality bids - higher chance of receiving poor-quality submissions due to the open nature of the process.
  • Wasting bidders time - for those new to tendering for public sector contracts, leading to future disengagement in the procurement process.

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Bidders preparation for open tendering

If you want to succeed in open tendering under the new Procurement Act 2023, you will need to prepare well and adapt to the new rules and requirements.

There are lots of free Procurement Act 2023 resources and webinars which you should take advantage of.

You can find more information on the government website.

2 key actions to prepare for open tendering:

  1. Register on Find a Tender - this will be the single platform they refer to, providing additional services and reporting than it does currently.
  2. Review your bid strategy. With open tendering, your bid-no-bid or bid qualification becomes even more important. You will need to assess the feasibility, suitability, and attractiveness of each contract, and decide whether to bid or not. You will also need to allocate enough time and resources for preparing and submitting your bid, and ensure that you meet the deadlines and specifications of the buyer. Without this you will invest time completing the selection questionnaire (built into the single staged open procedure), ITT quality tender responses and your bid pricing - BUT your response could still fail purely based on not passing the pre-qualification element, for example on the core pass/fail questions. Your ITT tender questions and price will not be evaluated!

At Thornton & Lowe, we are committed to helping you win more public sector contracts through open tendering. We have the knowledge, experience, and skills to help you bid efficiently and effectively, with a focus on return on investment (ROI).

Consider what questions you should ask yourself before responding to a tender? Our bid writing courses cover bid strategy and qualification.

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