By Joanna Frost
3rd Aug 2018
The Cabinet Office mystery shopper results this month act as a timely reminder about the role of presentations when evaluating bids. The mystery shopper service operated by the cabinet office provides suppliers involved in public sector procurement processes the opportunity to report concerns they might have with how a procurement has been undertaken.
This month sees a report on a mini competition undertaken by Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust where the approach being adopted by the NHS Trust was to evaluate the written submissions and then invite the top three scoring tenderers to the presentation/interview stage, which was allocated 25% of the evaluation score. The main concern raised by the supplier was that the presentation stage could have the potential to distort the competition in favour of a preferred supplier, with no objective way to validate this. There was an investigation by the Cabinet Office and the Trust took on board the concerns about the presentation stage and changed this element to be weighted at zero.
Whilst it's natural to want to meet bidders before awarding a contract, meeting only a shortlist of bidders after the tender deadline poses significant risk of challenge. They could well argue that their bid would have won had they had the opportunity to participate in a presentation. Adding to this, for contracts that exceed the EU threshold, the award criteria used must be relevant to the subject matter of the contract and awarding points based on the strength of a presentation itself risks breaching this requirement.
An interview or presentation could be used to assess a different part of the technical requirements from the written tender, typically to demonstrate a product, for example a software solution where the criterion that is being evaluated could relate to its aesthetic and functional characteristics. Interviews may also be used to assess softer criteria, for example communication skills although only if these are relevant to the subject matter of the contract. However, to reduce risks of challenge do ensure all bidders have the opportunity to present and avoid scoring the presentation itself.
Should you have any questions please contact Regional Procurement Advisor Jo Frost via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07990 763928.