During recent consultation and feedback from our successful suppliers and bidders, it became evident that suppliers would read Invitation to Tender documents as rigid and prescriptive. Suppliers were concerned at asking questions and seeking clarification by letter and email which is seen as working from a distance. This often leads to frustration with the public sector tender process, at the total lack of opportunity to clarify with an authority, if indeed what they were asking for in the tender documents was really what they needed.
From the suppliers perspective even if they knew they were providing the wrong solution, the rules suggested they had to follow the tender document to the letter or be non-compliant and risk being de-selected from the process.
Arriving from the private sector I could empathise with the frustrations and to ease this administrative and closed working environment Northamptonshire Police Procurement now offer, where appropriate each interested supplier the option of a clarification meeting, if they desire.
This is an opportunity once the supplier has read the tender document to meet with the tender team, receive a brief presentation around our vision and scope of the tender. In addition there is then the opportunity to ask the tender team questions to clarify the intentions and benefits the Force would like to achieve.
All clarification questions and answers are still noted and documented. This is then circulated to all suppliers who will be completing an ITT. However any innovative ideas and commercial thoughts expressed will remain confidential and respected.
This approach has been under trial during 2009 and has added value ensuring the submissions we received from suppliers were fit for purpose, capable of being evaluated offering innovation and value for money.
Adopting this process ultimately saves the supplier's time and our tender team's time and in the long run provides for an efficient process to be adopted for tenders going forward. This has been seen to encourage successful tenders which generate the benefits and savings intended to support our department deliver operational benefits to our Force working in the community.