The economics of the sandwich

Lothian and Borders Police has come in for a bit of ridicule lately, following news that they had issued an incredibly complex PQQ describing their sandwich needs in pedantic detail. Other recent stories include complaints about construction tenders with over one hundred questions and extremely high accreditation requirements. These can seem like impossible hurdles for public sector bid writers. The solutions don’t seem immediately obvious: after all, a few weeks before the newspapers ran their story about sandwiches-by-committee, they ran a different story about widespread (and viscerally detailed!) complaints among the police about the standard of catering in the organisation. Lothian and Borders Police clearly felt they needed to respond with stringent quality requirements in their tender contracts!

How can companies cope with these problems?

It is worth complaining to the government’s mystery shopper program if you find yourself confronted with a public sector tender PQQ request that seems insurmountable for anyone other than an established supplier. Blanket requests for ISO accreditation or similar is probably the most common stumbling block for tender writers. In particular, companies tendering for contracts in the environmental sector have a real problem with ISO14001, which is time consuming and expensive to implement.

The good news is that the Cabinet Office has already taken action to provide alternatives: An example would be that of TUCO, the University Catering Organisation, which was asked to review its PQQ requirements after complaints that it asked too much in ISO accreditation from suppliers. Obviously, procurers have a right to ask for guarantees that their tenders will be fulfilled: now they are simply being asked to provide alternative ways of providing those guarantees. Most of the irreconcilable problems surrounding public sector tender PQQs will relate to the council’s transparency requirements.

Bid writers going for government tenders in the UK should not be afraid to make complaints about poorly written PQQs or confusing requirements. In recent months Win that Bid has seen some particularly egregious examples of poorly constructed PQQs – the inexperienced procurement team in Northern Ireland is a particular offender! This is something that the government seems genuinely intent on changing. In the meantime, it is important to pick the right tender for your business, and Win that Bid can help you find tenders.

Getting the Basics Right

The basic strategy for getting through complex public sector tenders is to be prepared for them in advance. After a few UK tender bids a bid writer will have a library of policies and documents ready to go. It’s worth getting started on building that library now so you can be ready to take the next big opportunity – one thing you really need to avoid is going in unprepared and rushing to hand in the bid at the last minute. To help you along, Win that Bid’s bid management service can advise you on putting together everything you’ll need.