Is there enough time to follow the rules? | Compliant pre-bid collaboration and procurement
[25 October 2022] Getting a head start on your supply chain before your organisation is allocated funding from the SHDF is a great way to make sure your retrofit project hits all its deadlines.
It is a housing provider’s responsibility to ensure that it complies with all procurement regulations while keeping on track with its retrofit project plans. The best way to do this is to ensure you have a supply chain in place before your organisation is allocated funding. Engaging with contractors early allows them to make necessary changes to meet your timescales.
You should use a procurement method that complies with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. Crucially, you must ensure your tenderers are competing on a level playing field and that the contract is awarded to the most economically advantageous tenderer. This can be difficult if contractors are engaged before procurement, as pre-market consultation can advantage one tenderer over others.
How to ensure pre-market consultation is compliant
Pre-market consultation with potential tenderers can help prepare the market for the opportunity and help shape your procurement specifications. For example, it can help inform you of what is achievable, to identify costs and estimate timings. Therefore, the regulations encourage pre-market consultation as long as it does not prevent transparent, non-discriminatory competition.
A Prior Information Notice (PIN) should be issued to give potential tenderers an equal chance of engaging prior to procurement. A PIN can also act as a call for competition which, by alerting the market to your procurement plans early, can speed up procurement.
Pre-market consultation can provide tenderers with valuable information about your procurement specification. To maintain a level playing field, the regulations set out that you must communicate to all tenderers any information gained by another tenderer during pre-market consultation. It also suggests that you provide extra time to other tenderers so they can get up to speed on this information. It is important that you make clear to potential tenderers that any advice they offer in the pre-market consultation may be shared with other tenderers as part of your compliancy obligations.
Other methods of procurement
It is possible to economise by procuring collaboratively, as part of a bidding consortia or with geographic neighbours, as you may be able to benefit from economies of scale. This can also allow for a more joined-up, simplified approach in a region.
By using a Framework Agreement or Dynamic Purchasing System, you can also speed up procurement. This involves following the procurement specifications laid out in a framework created for a previous retrofit project. If you choose this route, it is important that you are still complying with regulations. Your type of project must have permission to use the framework, and it is your responsibility to ensure the original procurement was itself compliant.
For both methods, there is likely to be a degree of compromise as the procurement specification will not be tailor-made to your project. You should only use these methods if the compromises involved do not limit the overall delivery of your project.