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Posts Tagged ‘Government Procurement’

Request for Tenders for the $5billion national broadband network closed on Wednesday 25 November.  Given the nature and scale of this project there were only five bidders.  Surprisingly, Telstra’s bid as the largest supplier was only 13 pages in total while other bids ran into 100s of pages.  So what is going on here?  A high stakes game of brinkmanship between the Government and Telstra as two opposing 500lb gorillas?  Little wonder there have been strident calls for Telstra’s bid to be set aside as noncompliant.  Why so you ask?

 

Every RFT states that tenders must pass a compliance test before being passed through to the Tender Evaluation Panel for assessment.  If a tender is judged to be noncompliant it is set aside and not considered further – end of game.  Now this process is widely understood and accepted by the business community, but if Telstra is eventfully successful their faith in “the system” will be severely undermined.  I can just see business people across the country throwing their hands in the air saying, “What’s the use! How do we have faith in a system that allows this to happen?” 

 

If Telstra prevails they will have achieved an important commercial outcome for the company.  On the other hand, the implications for the Government could be much more far reaching.  Not only do they run the risk of legal action by the other bidders but, more far reaching, the credibility of the whole government procurement system across hundreds of projects in all industry sectors will be severely undermined. 

 

At Corfocus this makes us very cranky.  Why? Because we consult to companies that want help to win government tenders and one of the central tenets of our services is that the system is transparent and if you put in a compliant tender that makes a strong case and has competitive pricing then you stand a good chance of winning.  In short, the rules apply to all equally and the best tender wins.

 

How can you trust a system that moves the goal posts whenever it suits them and buckles under pressure from 500 lb gorillas?  I hope this does not eventuate but if it does then maybe the whole business community should lodge a No Confidence vote in the government procurement system.  What do you think?

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“Yip ya we’re on the panel!!” is often the celebratory call from companies that have successfully bid for a Standing Offer RFT.  All too often this follows 12 months later with “what’s going on, we having got any business yet”.

 

Now companies know the Request for Tender always carries the caveat of “no guarantee of future business” but they do have an expectation because they have past the “value for money”  test and are now part of whatr they think is a somewhat exclusive club. What they don’t know is that Government often put too many suppliers on the panel, sometimes up to 40 or more.  So much for exclusivity.

 

Too often, it appears, government has scant respect for the time and investment companies put into tenders.  Too often they want to offer their staff the widest possible choice in using whoever they want.  Trouble is that it’s sometimes the small operator who has made a significant investment in breaking into the government market that bears the cost of this largesse.  

 

Now government is always keen for lots of responses when they issue an RFT to ensure a competitive market.  One must wonder if their short sightedness and lack of regard for the cost of tendering might one day catch up with them.  I can just hear the exchange when a government officer enquires why a supplier with a good product did not tender.  It cost us $50,000 and a lot of management capacity to tender last time and you guys put 40 on the panel.  We got no business, so why should we bother this time.” 

Do you have experience in this area?  If so, let’s hear about it.

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Author: Maurice Downing (Corfocus)

Ambiguity makes for witty dialogue and an intriguing plot in Oscar Wilde plays such as The Importance of being Earnest but I am no fan of it outside of the theatre.  And I absolutely hate it when it turns up in Government tender documents.

At Corfocus our clients are companies bidding to win government tenders and I have to say that one of the biggest hurdles they face is not – can they do the job at competitive prices but can they unravel the ambiguities within the Request for Tender documents, especially the all important assessment criteria. 

Our clients often come to us and ask “what’s the difference between demonstrated capability and demonstrated capacity?”  Or it might be how is “demonstrated expertise” different from “demonstrated experience.”  In everyday land these terms are often used interchangeably and create great angst amongst clients who are trying to develop their best tenders, especially the inexperienced.   Check out the thesaurus in Word and you will see what I mean. 

And then there are the following doosies I came across in a recent tender

Criterion 2: The Tenderer is required to demonstrate through a Work Methodology Statement (WMS) how they intend to carry out the works.

Criterion 4: The Tenderer is required to demonstrate through a Works Methodology Statement how they intend to deliver the Services.

What’s the difference?  Can you spot it at a quick glance?  And would you bet the future of your business on your interpretation. Tenderers do every day of the week.  It’s no wonder companies can go into a tail spin and stress out when tendering for government projects.

For goodness sake, when are we going to get some plain speaking in Government tenders? 

Why is it a problem you might say?  It’s a problem because ambiguous RFTs can result in ambiguous tenders from suppliers.  Do they really have to be riddles that companies must unravel?  You know the old saying sh*t out means sh** in.  And it doesn’t have to be this way.   

So why improve it?  Because if the government released better RFTs the chances are the government would get better tenders in response and if they get better tenders then it is highly likely they will get better results.

So isn’t it time government stopped bunburying about in the land of tender and said what they wanted in plain English?  We have all smiled and laughed when Algernon and Jack both claim to be Earnest and the resulting confusion this creates for the rest of the cast.  Ambiguity in all its comical splendour.  But I can tell you it is no laughing matter trying to interpret confusing terminology and assessment criteria and then finding out you lost because you got it wrong.

What do you think?

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