Keeping your procurement process on track

29 May 2020 | by Lorraine Ashover

Be in no doubt, school procurement has been affected by the lockdown.

Some school suppliers have furloughed some or all of their business development teams.

This increases the risk of schools having to put their procurement processes on hold because these companies don’t have the resources to put in a bid.

It’s also bad news for the incumbent supplier, who may miss out if they are unable to put in a properly prepared bid at renewal time.  Great for your school if you’re not keen to retain them!  Not so great if you do.

Recently, we helped a school prepare the bidding process for an occupational health contract. The original line-up of five bidders quickly went down to two, leaving us with no option but to reopen the process* so that it wasn’t just a two-horse race.

Here’s some advice on handling procurement processes during this difficult time:

Be transparent. Make bidders aware at every stage what is happening and the reasons behind your decisions if you need to extend deadlines or re-open the process.

Ask questions; we contact every prospective bidder to make sure that if they were to win the contract that they would be able to fulfil their obligations. For example, if it is a reprographics contract we would expect bidders to reassure us that there would be no equipment supply issues.

Go virtual. Site visits are difficult in the current restrictions and will continue to be a tricky proposition even after the lockdown is eased. Try recording a visit on your mobile instead – if it’s a catering procurement capture key areas such as queueing, dining and kitchen areas. Supplement the video with a detailed site plan.

If you cannot start your contract procurement process consider extending existing contracts so you can renew in January or Easter. The worst should be past us by then and it will also help spread the contract renewal load more evenly in future years.

Lorraine Ashover is managing director of Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services Limited. Focused exclusively on the school sector, Minerva has helped schools tender £65 million worth of contracts and generated more than £2.5 million of revenue, refunds and ongoing annual savings for its clients over the past four years.

* Please note this is not permitted for an OJEU process only a ‘below threshold’ tender.