GPS to review controversial tender process

The Government Procurement Service (GPS) has promised to re-examine the controversial new tendering process for public sector contracts after coming under fire from catering equipment suppliers.

However, its pledge has come too late to reverse any decisions that manufacturers are unhappy with this year, as the GPS says it won’t review the process until at least 2013.

The GPS agreed to look at the format for future tenders during a meeting between managing director David Shields and CESA representatives last week.

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CESA called for the meeting after suppliers voiced concerns that the new system was onerous and over-complicated.

Although there will not be any immediate changes to the process, the GPS has offered to help catering equipment companies who were unsuccessful in tendering for a place on the framework agreement this year. It said it was prepared to explain the process and outline how to complete tenders more effectively on a “one to one basis.”

In addition, GPS and CESA will work together to set up training seminars to help companies to submit compliant proposals.

The tendering process is part of some significant changes being implemented inside GPS, including the launch of a new e-sourcing system and the adoption of an open procurement procedure. It aims to deliver tendering exercises within 120 working days from the notification of a tendering exercise opportunity to the award of a framework agreement.

The catering framework was one of the first tenders delivered on the new e-sourcing system, but has attracted complaints from suppliers over the excessive level of information requested.

In its meeting, GPS told CESA that the increased number of questions was a result of “disaggregating the questions to the requirement of the ecommerce system.”

The GPS also said that in future it will “engage earlier” with CESA and its members to ensure that the consultation process is more effective. It also agreed to work with CESA to establish working groups of member companies to develop generic specifications for the tendering process.

While some suppliers will argue that the GPS should have taken on board the industry’s views at a much earlier stage, CESA chair Mick Shaddock said the outcome of last week’s meeting should be taken positively by the industry.

“We set out to make GPS aware of members concerns about the process this year,” he said. “Consultation in the future will be better and there will be time to take account of CESA members’ concerns. In the short term, GPS will help individual companies who are struggling with the new tendering process.”

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