There are many wonderful commissioners of public sector services out there who, together with procurement teams, run efficient, fair and effective public sector tenders.
Equally there are many commissioners who you would do well to avoid. At the very least, you need to be aware of the types of commissioners you will come up against when responding to public sector tenders so you can prepare your bidding strategy and better understand the procurement process – and the underlying human traits that influence it!
COMMON TRAITS OF PUBLIC SECTOR COMMISSIONERS
1. THE RAMBLER: The contract is relatively low value and the service is relatively simple. So, how did the service specification end up being 150 pages long? Well, the commissioning team have a rambler on board. The specification can probably be boiled down to 30 pages but the Rambler has a problem. The Rambler thinks that the more they write, the more important the service will seem. If the importance of the service is elevated, then their own importance can expect the same. The Rambler may be concerned about the fate of their own role and seek to bolster it in this weak attempt to gain status. All at the expense of your precious time. Beware of the Rambler.
2. THE CONTRADICTOR: The flow of the question topics seems in order. Nothing is unusual in this tender until you discover a question that has sub-questions which diverge at right angles from the main question. Not only this, when you cross reference the question with the evaluation criteria, this differs from the context of both the main and sub-questions. You’ve now met the Contradictor. Welcome to the land of confusion.
It goes something like this:
Question: “Please explain how the training you provide your staff will ensure the service outcomes will be achieved. Include within your answer your approach to the following:
• Complaints management.
• Business continuity.
Evaluation Criteria (score 5): The provider shows an excellent understanding of the geography of the area in which the service will operate, will exceed the requirements of the specification and will deliver significant added value.
You will probably want to ask a clarification question to resolve this confusion. When you do, just be on the lookout for the Referrer (described below)!
3. THE REPEATER: Like the taste of a spicy curry that stays with you longer than desired, the Repeater won’t let you forget their presence. Whatever their specialism or area of interest, they will make sure they insert their influence throughout the tender questions. Recruitment and retention is often a focus of the repeater. They may be given a whole question to ask on the subject, but then they manage to slip a recruitment and retention sub-question into many more questions. You’re sick of being asked the same question over and over again but the Repeater doesn’t mind – they think it’s important!
4. THE SADIST: The question is long and intricate. It’s on an important topic - possibly your delivery model. The question contains sub-questions which must be addressed. You count the words in the question (because you’re like that) and it comes to 750. The word limit for your answer is 500. You can hear the Sadist laughing in their commissioning tower as you realise the question is longer than the permitted answer. You ask if words in diagrams can be excluded from the word count. The Sadist squeals in delight and replies in the negative. You ask if appendices can be added outside of the word count. The Sadist roars with laughter. You know the answer.
5. THE REFERRER: The tender requires some clarity. A question and answer (Q&A) document has already been issued and another provider has asked the question (Q1.15) you wanted to. The Referrer’s answer isn’t helpful. They’ve referred the provider to the service specification where they state all will be clear. But you know the service specification is far from clear. You ask the question again but this time in a more helpful way. The next Q&A is issued and you eagerly download the document from the tender portal. There is a reply to your question “Please refer to our answer to Q1.15)”. You’ve just been 'referred' and the cycle goes on and on!
6. THE PRETENDER: Possibly the most dangerous of them all, you must identify and avoid the pretender at all costs (unless you are the incumbent supplier). They are happy with the service they already commission. They are happy with the provider of that service. In fact, they have a great relationship with them and some wonderful plans for the future. However, there’s a fly in the ointment. The procurement / legal officer informs the Pretender that under EU regulations, the service needs to go out to re-tender. The Pretender huffs and puffs. Delays follow. Ultimately, the service goes out to tender. The incumbent provider is relieved to learn they have been re-awarded the contract. As you were.
7. THE PROCRASTINATOR: Writing invitation to tender documents is hard work. The Procrastinator waits until tomorrow to do what can be done today. Tender timescales are pushed back. Eventually the tender is published. Evaluating tender response documents is also hard work. It can be tedious work. The Procrastinator doesn’t like hard or tedious work. Annual leave is booked. A tummy bug is picked up on the flight home. Evaluations are delayed. The contract award date is pushed further back. Bidders are left dangling.
How many of these traits do you recognise in commissioners you’ve dealt with? What other traits have you noticed?
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