Procurement frequently asked questions

Public sector procurement is often seen as complex, so we've published answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) we receive about each of the topics listed below: 

FAQ’s – The procurement Process

Public sector procurement is often seen as complex. The information below answers some of the common questions and queries about the procurement process:

What type of things does the Council purchase?

The range of goods and services required across all council services is vast.

Examples include: vehicles, stationery, office equipment, cleaning materials, books, furniture, construction, catering, care services, foodstuff, bus services, refuse collection, IT hardware, consultants, maintenance, etc.

What is the procurement process?

Argyll & Bute Council conduct their procurements using one of the following processes:

  • Open: EU level procurement - any organisation can express an interest and request tender documents.
  • Restricted: EU level procurement - a two-stage process where any organisation can express their interest. They then go through a pre-qualification assessment using the ESPD. Once these assessments are complete, only the most suitable applicants are invited to tender.
  • Single Stage - Below EU threshold equivalent of Open tender.
  • Dual Stage - below EU threshold equivalent of Restricted tender.
  • Quick Quote: the tender documentation is issued to a restricted list of suppliers.

Who can I contact for more information on procurement?

The council has a dedicated Procurement and Commissioning Team (PCT) that is responsible for issuing and receiving all tenders and managing contracts.

Alternatively, you can email any general procurement queries to procurement@argyll-bute.gov.uk

FAQ’s Tenders

The information below answers some of the common questions and queries.

How do I find out about supplier opportunities?

All current tenders for goods, services and works are advertised on the Public Contracts Scotland website – www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk

What happens if I can't get my tender in on time?

Tenders must be returned by the date advertised. Any received after the deadline may not be considered. All tenders are opened at the same time to ensure a fair process.

How are tenders evaluated?

Argyll & Bute Council has an obligation to offer the best value for money services to its taxpayers and requires an exceptional standard of performance from its contractors and suppliers. Therefore, when selecting a supplier, the council must ensure that the supplier will provide value for money, and that services will be delivered effectively.

In the list of evaluation criteria, cost and quality are usually the most important criteria.

Details of the specific evaluation criteria and the relative weighting of the criteria are included in the tender documents that suppliers receive with the invitation to tender (ITT).

At any time during the tender process suppliers may be invited to give a presentation/product demonstration or attend a meeting/interview to aid the evaluation process. The council may also conduct site visits to see first-hand how potential suppliers organise their work.

Why is the tender process so formal?

This is to make sure that the process is handled in a consistently fair and competitive manner. We are always happy to answer questions specifically about a tender and specification if you have any. We will ensure consistency in the information provided to contractors and in the way in which we communicate with them.

How much information do I need to provide on contract award criteria?

The contract notice, will state the relative weightings given to each of the award criteria.

The weightings can be expressed as a single figure or as an appropriate range. Where the purchaser believes it is not possible to give weightings for demonstrable reasons, award criteria will be stated in descending order of importance.

Is it now possible to specify a particular brand of product?

The rules on specification of brands have not changed. Brands can only be specified, exceptionally, when it is not feasible to specify the requirement in technical or performance terms. If there is a reference to a brand this will be accompanied by the words 'or equivalent'.

Are there any circumstances in which bidders must be excluded?

Bidders convicted by final judgement of money laundering, fraud, corruption, bribery or participation in a criminal organisation must be excluded.

FAQ Contracts

The information below is intended to answer some of the more common questions and queries.

How do I respond to a Contract Notice?

If you see a council contract advertised that you or your company is interested in tendering for, you should lodge an official Expression of Interest. Details of how to do this will be given in the contract notice advert together with any deadline for completion.

What information will I need to provide when applying for contracts?

The contract notice or advert will detail what procurement procedure is being utilised i.e. open, restricted or Quick Quote.

Each tender process will require the supplier to provide some or all of the following information and this will be specified in the notice:

  • Financial information - Details from each of the last two years may be required. Where requested, private and public limited companies must submit their fully audited accounts as registered with Companies House. Other suppliers should forward copies of financial statements, business plans or a certified statement of turnover. This information is assessed to ensure the company is financially stable enough for the contract in question. Other financial details, for instance; insurance cover, may also be required.
  • Equal opportunity - The council supports equal opportunity laws, and requires all suppliers to comply with equal opportunities legislation. Suppliers will be asked to detail and possibly provide evidence of how equality issues are included in a company's employment practices.
  • Sustainability - Certain types of tender will ask for information in relation to sustainable procurement and this will generally relate to social, economic or environmental considerations, and may incorporate requests for information on community benefits that will be provided as part of the contract.
  • Health and safety - The council is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for everyone it works with.  Suppliers must provide information about their company's safety policies, operational safety procedures and risk assessments. Find out more in our Health and Safety at Work section (including our Contractor Health and Safety Performance Standards)
  • Experience and technical ability - The council needs to assess whether a company has the relevant experience, resources and technical ability to carry out the categories of work or to provide the type and quality of service required.
  • Suppliers should provide details of similar work carried out over recent years. They must also provide contact details of referees so that confidential references can be directly obtained by the council. Further details may be required for particular contracts

How likely am I to win a Council contract?

As long as certain criteria is met, such as financial stability, satisfactory health and safety environments and that services are provided to a high quality at a competitive cost, there is no reason why companies cannot attract business from the council. Argyll & Bute Council applies fairness and equality of treatment in awarding contracts in line with achieving best value for citizens and the taxpayer.

How can I improve my chances of winning a Council contract?

You need to clearly demonstrate that you can meet the required standards and service delivery requirements at the most economically advantageous cost.

How are contracts monitored?

The contractor will be expected to deliver or provide the service in accordance with the requirements set out in the contract papers and proposals on how to carry it out.

Suppliers and contractors working for the Council are regularly monitored to assess their compliance with predefined performance criteria. The contract conditions are strictly applied and explanations sought if a contractor fails to perform to the levels required. 

What options do I have if I think I have not had fair treatment or I have a concern or issue about a Procurement exercise carried out by Argyll and Bute Council?

Suppliers are entitled to be treated fairly. We are committed to making sure our Procurement processes are fair and that we treat suppliers equally as part of an open fair an transparent process. We encourage our suppliers to ask us for feedback on our processes. If that option does not give you the satisfaction required then there is the option of referring the matter further. This option is called the Single Point of Enquiry (SPoE), set up by the Scottish Government and is designed to help suppliers who are having issues or concerns with a procurement exercise being carried out by Scottish public sector organisations. It aims to provide an independent, impartial and confidential service for suppliers and potential suppliers to the Scottish public sector. 

They do this by:

  • offering advice and assistance regarding the procurement rules and regulations which must be followed by public bodies within Scotland;
  • providing information on how contracts are advertised and awarded;
  • Working with suppliers and buying organisations to try to resolve concerns informally.

It is important that, in the first instance, to seek to resolve concerns fully with the buying organisation. The SPoE will be unable to progress with your enquiry any further until you have done so.

FAQs Electronic Procurement

The information below answers some common questions and queries.

What is e-tendering?

E-tendering refers to the electronic advertising of requirements for good or services, registering suppliers, issuing and receiving tender documents and evaluating responses over the internet, using tools such as the Public Contracts Scotland website.

What is e-procurement?

E-procurement combines internet technology with procurement best practice to streamline the purchasing processes, increase efficiency in the ordering process and reduce costs for both contracting authorities and suppliers.

What are the benefits of e-procurement to suppliers?

Participating suppliers can realise many benefits from online or e-procurement, including:

  • increased visibility and access to markets without additional marketing efforts
  • a single point of access to Argyll & Bute Council's 'market'
  • faster and more efficient tendering
  • increased order accuracy through electronic ordering
  • a consistent purchase order format.

Overall, e-procurement can help suppliers reduce costs in process, marketing, and admin operations.

Who can I contact for more information on procurement?

The Council has a dedicated Procurement and Commissioning Team (PCT) that is responsible for issue and receipt of all tenders and management of contracts. For contact details, see our Procurement and Commissioning Team’s contact details.

Tenders are submitted online via PCS. All documents related to tenders should be clearly marked with the tender title and reference number.

Alternatively, you can email any general procurement queries to procurement@argyll-bute.gov.uk

FAQ EU Directives

The information below is intended to answer some of the more common questions and queries.

What rules and regulations should I be aware of?

As a local authority, there are regulations which the Council has to follow when procuring goods, works and services. It is important that if you wish to contract with Argyll & Bute Council you are fully aware of the rules and regulations which govern the way we operate.

For instance, we have a legal requirement to comply with the European Union (EU) procurement directives, which govern the way in which public sector procurement is conducted for contracts above specified thresholds. These rules alter the way in which contracts are awarded, based on the value of the purchase.

Where can I obtain copies of the EU Directives?

Copies of the Directives can be obtained on the European Union website (http://europa.eu/european-union/index_en)