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:
- What type of things does the Council purchase?
- What is the procurement process?
- Who can I contact for more information on procurement?
- FAQs Tenders
- FAQs Contracts
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 and Bute Council conduct their procurements using one of the following processes:
- Open: any organisation can express an interest and request tender documents.
- Restricted: a two-stage process where any organisation can express their interest. They then go through a pre-qualification assessment using the SPD template which assesses a supplier’s capability to deliver the contract. Once these assessments are complete, only the most suitable applicants are invited to tender.
- Quick Quote: the tender documentation is issued to a restricted list of suppliers.
Who can I contact for more information on procurement, contracts and tendering?
The Council has a dedicated Procurement, Commercial and Contract Management Team (PCCMT) that is responsible for issuing and receiving all tenders and managing contracts.
Alternatively, you can email any general procurement queries to email@example.com.
The information below answers some of the common questions and queries.
- How do I find out about supplier opportunities?
- What happens if I can't get my tender in on time?
- How are tenders evaluated?
- Why is the tender process so formal?
- How much information do I need to provide on contract award criteria?
- Is it now possible to specify a particular brand of product?
- Are there any circumstances in which bidders must be excluded?
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. Suppliers are encouraged to register on the website, which takes no more than 10 minutes, to allow them to be notified of any upcoming tender opportunities.
Tenders for goods, services and works are advertised on the Public Contracts Scotland website. There you will be able to see details of current and forthcoming contracts plus information on contract awards and past tenders. It is also useful to see who has won contracts within Argyll and Bute to contact them for any sub-contracting opportunities.
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.
Argyll and 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. This means that quality and price are taken into account when assessing a tender.
Details of the specific tender 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. This means that the supplier must look at each of the weightings put against the award criteria and provide appropriate information and evidence that would allow them to achieve the top marks stated.
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.
The information below is intended to answer some of the more common questions and queries.
- How do I respond to a Contract Notice?
- What information will I need to provide when applying for contracts?
- How can I improve my chances of winning a Council contract?
- How are contracts monitored?
- 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?
How do I respond to a Contract Notice?
If you see a council contract advertised on PCS 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?
Each tender process will require the supplier to provide some or all of the following information and this will be specified in the notice:
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.
Therefore please provide as much information as possible that answers the questions that are being asked to ensure the Council can determine the experience and ability of your organisation.
REMEMBER – the Council cannot take prior knowledge of your ability, experience into account if it is not specifically detailed in your tender response. Many suppliers have failed in their bids when they have relied on their past working relationship with us without specifying this in writing.
How can I improve my chances of winning a Council contract?
- Answer the questions that are being asked, look at the weightings and provide a response in line with the weightings of each question.
- You need to clearly demonstrate that you can meet the required standards and service delivery requirements at the most economically advantageous cost.
- Please make sure you read the question fully – if there are bullet points included in the question, ensure your response covers all of them.
- Responses will not score as highly if they are generic and are just copied and pasted into the tender return. Higher points will be achieved if the responses are specific to the contract being tendered for.
- Remember – even if you have worked with Argyll and Bute Council in the past, evaluators cannot take any prior knowledge of your organisation into account when evaluating your tender response.
- Sometimes, different evaluators will see different sections of tender returns, rather than full returns being sent to the same evaluators. If you think information is useful for more than one question, please provide it in as many responses as you would like it to be considered for. We would prefer some duplication than not being able to score you on information that could be relevant.
- Please make document titles very clear in relation to which section/question they are responding to – if there are multiple documents for one question, they can be uploaded as a Zip file for clarity.
- Please follow the format requested for the tender return, rather than creating your own submission style. The preference is for any word/excel documents provided to be completed and returned in the same format rather than as pdfs, although we will accept pdfs.
- If a word/page count is included ensure your response sticks to it, to avoid some information provided not being evaluated.
- Ask someone within your organisation to proof-read your bid to ensure you have answered the questions asked and that the information provided is current and relevant.
Questions on technical/professional ability based on past experience:
- If we request a specific number, we need that number of examples of past experience to be provided – if more are provided, we will need to clarify with bidders which examples are to be evaluated.
- The Contract Notice on PCS and the SPD/ITT documents narrate the full scope of the contract and should be read in full prior to answering.
- Examples will be sought from a specific time period (eg: within the last 5 years). It is essential to ensure that the examples provided are within the time period specified, or they will not be considered as part of the evaluation.
- In respect of a Works Contract, if a programme of works is requested ensure it includes all elements required within the programme. Some questions may ask for supporting statements in addition to the programme, please ensure you provide all information required.
- If we have requested prices in a specific format, please include the information as requested, as we are required to compare tender returns on a like-for-like basis.
- Where the Council states a maximum budget available for the contract within the ITT documents, tenderers should ensure that their bid is within this budget. If the bid exceeds the budget it may be treated as a non-compliant bid, and may not be eligible for award.
The contractor will be expected to deliver or provide the service in accordance with the requirements set out in the contract 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.