What is involved in bidding for construction tenders?
To bid for and win construction contracts, you will have to work through the following 5 stages.
Prior Information Stage (PIN)
A Prior Information Notice (PIN) is not a tender but serves as notice that a contract will soon be published. There are two main uses for a PIN - to give suppliers time to prepare for the upcoming contract or to engage with the market and ensure the procurement will fully address their requirements.
The qualification stage is not a feature of every tender, however many construction opportunities will require some form of pre-qualification to generate a shortlist of the most suitable suppliers. The selection criteria that will be used to qualify bidders will be included within the notice, typically focusing on areas such as financial stability, health and safety, quality management and social value.
This stage may be referred to as a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ), Standard Selection Questionnaire (SSQ) or Selection Questionnaire (SQ).
You may also see references to PAS91, which is a pre-qualification questionnaire designed specifically for construction requirements. As the questions are standardised, it offers you the benefit of being able to reuse answers. Some questions can also be skipped if you hold the relevant accreditations, such as: ISO 9001, ISO 14001, PAS 1192 and OHSAS 18001.
Invitation to tender (ITT) Stage
If you have been shortlisted from the Selection Stage, you will be notified with an ITT. If there was no Selection Stage, the buyer is using an open procedure and any supplier may bid for the tender – the notice itself serves as the ITT.
At this stage all the documentation and requirements will have been made available to you, and standard documentation you can expect are:
- Instructions – details of the contract, timescales and submission requirements – expect to include proof of accreditation, case studies, and social value plans.
- The specification or service requirement - a detailed breakdown of what the buyer is looking to purchase.
- The tender response document (technical response) – this contains the questions that you will have to answer and be scored against.
- The pricing response document – a document to provide details of costs and proposed payment profile.
The evaluation stage considers several factors to both determine your eligibility and your suitability for the contract. The evaluation will consider:
- Do you meet the eligibility criteria – if you have been shortlisted, this will have already been addressed.
- Are there any grounds for exclusion – is there anything that might prevent you from being able to deliver the contract?
- Have you completed all of the requirements – are there any missing questions or documents?
- Technical and price evaluation – the quality of your responses and pricing will be compared to the other bidders. A detailed breakdown of how this is evaluated can be found in ‘How to tender for construction contracts’.
Once the evaluation has been completed, the supplier with the highest overall score will be offered a contract from the work. If you are the winning supplier, it would be worthwhile to keep a record of the responses provided and use them to help shape future proposals.
It is also at this stage that Contract Award Notices get published. These are summaries of the procurement, detailing requirements, process, number of tenders received, and the winners of the contract. For high value contracts this is mandatory, but for low value notices it is not mandatory and very few of these are ever published.