Navigating the Stages of a Restricted Procedure PCR2015 Tender Process

Navigating the complexities of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR2015) can be daunting for schools and other public sector organisations. Understanding the various stages of the tender process under these regulations is crucial to ensure compliance and achieve the best outcomes for your school or Trust. The most common procedure used by schools is the Restricted Procedure.  So here’s a step-by-step guide to understanding a PCR2015[1] Restricted Procedure tender process[2]:

Stage 1: Plan and Prepare

Once you have identified that you need to retender a service and that it needs to be PCR 2015 compliant (Not sure? Find out here), then you will need to plan your tender.

When considering a reasonable timetable for your tender to run, there’s a lot to take into account:

  • staff workloads and availability for tender evaluation, shortlisting and responding to bidder clarification questions at all stages
  • school holiday periods – catering site visits, for example, need to take place during term time as suppliers will want to see the current service
  • staff availability for site visits and presentation days
  • minimum requirements for compliant tenders (see Selection Questionnaire Stage and Standstill Period below)

Serve notice: once you have established when your new contract should start, don’t forget to serve notice to your incumbent provider, if required.

Start to gather information: your documents will need to include detailed information on the current service provision as well as what you would like the new service to include.

Consider TUPE requirements and whether any staff are in the LGPS – bidders will need this information – and the latter can be time consuming as there are several important decisions to be made in this respect.

Stage 2: Tender Document Creation

Next you and your team will need to develop the following tender documents:

  1. Memorandum of Information or Scope, in which you set out your requirements for the new service.
  2. Selection Questionnaire, including questions mandated by legislation.
  3. Invitation to Tender, including the questions which will establish in detail what service the bidders propose to deliver, and the cost of this.
  4. Technical Specification or Statement of Requirements – a separate document offering greater detail in terms of technical requirements (perhaps for an ICT Managed Service) or service requirements (perhaps for a Payroll or HR Administration Service).
  5. Legal Agreement for the new service – this is a mandatory requirement under the Regulations to ensure that all bidders are working on a ‘equal treatment’ basis in respect of the terms and conditions they will be expected to sign up to.

It is important that both the Selection Questionnaire and Invitation to Tender clearly set out the evaluation criteria against which you will score submissions (including pricing), and how these scores will be weighted.

Stage 3: Contract Notice and Selection Questionnaire (SQ) Stage

Once your tender documents are ready the Contract Notice advising bidders of the opportunity needs to be published on the Find a Tender Service.  In addition the accompanying tender documentation needs to be made freely accessible to potential bidders. The bidders can review the documents, ask clarification questions, and submit their responses to the Selection Questionnaire.

If you are regularly running PCR2015 tenders you may wish to consider investing in a procurement portal for this e.g. In-tend, Proactis or Delta (other portals are available)!

This stage of the process must remain open for at least 30 days to ensure compliance with the Regulations.

Stage 4: Selection Questionnaire Scoring

After the SQ submission deadline, responses are carefully evaluated and scored, according to the scoring criteria set out in your documents. If included, this includes gathering customer references. The scores will decide which suppliers to shortlist to the next stage.  We usually recommend five as being the optimum number but this is obviously dependent on a few factors. The shortlisted bidders are invited to the next stage, and the unsuccessful bidders informed of the outcome.  In our view, it’s important to provide feedback as bidders will have invested time in preparing and submitting their bids, even at this early stage.

Stage 5: Invitation To Tender (ITT) Stage

Shortlisted bidders are then invited to submit a comprehensive proposal that details how they intend to meet your school or Trust’s requirements, based on your specifications set out in the Memorandum of Information and other accompanying documents. Bidders also submit a breakdown of the anticipated costs for their proposed service. This stage is critical for assessing the potential of each bidder to deliver the required services effectively.

Stage 6: Site Visit

If appropriate, a site visit is arranged early in the ITT stage. This allows shortlisted bidders to get a firsthand understanding of the school’s specific environment and the precise needs that may be challenging to communicate just through the tender documents.  As mentioned above, for catering tenders we recommend this includes the opportunity for bidders to see the lunch service in action.

Management Information System (MIS), Payroll and HR Admin Tenders

These tenders may also benefit from System Demonstration Days where bidders can show you how their systems work and what they include

Stage 7: Invitation to Tender Scoring

After the ITT deadline, the proposals received are reviewed and scored in line with the criteria and methodology set out in your documents.

Stage 8: Presentation Day

Bidders are invited to a Presentation Day, which offers an opportunity for bidders to showcase their proposals and answer any pressing questions. This can provide crucial insights and may lead you to moderate the scoring as a result.

If you have detailed this in the tender documentation you may wish to further shortlist the number of bidders invited to the presentation e.g. five down to three.

Stage 9: Decision and Contract Award

The contract is awarded to the bidder with the highest score. Unsuccessful bidders are informed of the result, and detailed feedback is provided on their bids. The Notice of Intent to Award (NOITA) correspondence is issued which triggers the 10-day standstill period, allowing for any challenges from bidders.

Please note that if the top scoring bidder is considered unsuitable, the tender cannot be awarded to the bidder in second (or any other!) place. The only option is to abandon the tender and restart it at a later date.

Stage 10: Standstill Period

During the standstill period, bidders review their feedback and have the right to legally challenge the award.  This isn’t where they are simply disgruntled with the decision, there needs to be evidence that the Regulations have been breached.  If this happens we would recommend immediately seeking legal advice.

Once the standstill period has concluded, and assuming no challenges, the legal agreement can be signed and a Contract Award Notice issued on the Find a Tender Service.

Stage 11: Procurement Audit Report

There is a legal requirement to fully document your entire procurement process, including evaluations, and decisions. This report is crucial for record-keeping, future reference, and ensuring transparency.

By following these structured stages, schools can navigate the PCR2015 tender process effectively, ensuring compliance, transparency, and the best possible outcomes for their tender process.

[1] On 28th October 2024 the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 will be replaced with The Procurement Act 2023.  New procedures will apply after this date.

[2] This guide is a high level summary of the process and not a detailed and/or comprehensive explanation.

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