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The tender process up to submission

The tender process from issue of tender documents (by the client’s professional advisors) to the pre-qualified tenderers, to submission of the tender sum, (ie the contractor’s price to carry out the works), is as follows:

Issuing the tenders

Traditionally, all tender documents would be assembled and boxed into identical packages and issued to tenderers by post at the same time. This could include a huge amount of information, depending on the size of the tender, which could be very expensive.

The method of issuing the tender information has changed markedly in recent years with the adoption of electronic tendering techniques. E-tendering provides a framework where both clients and tenderers can reduce their costs, remove unnecessary administration and streamline the overall tendering process. It allows for tender documents to be made available online and also for tenders to be submitted online. This has made the process far simpler and less cumbersome.

Assessing a suitable tender period

It is important to give contractors a suitable period to respond to tender enquiries. This period will vary on a project-by-project basis, but some of the key factors include:

  • The complexity of the project
  • The size of the project
  • Time of year (eg Christmas period)
  • Market conditions

Setting the right tender period is also crucial to avoid contractors from withdrawing. If a contractor deems that they do not have enough time, they are more likely to withdraw from the tender rather than risk submitting what they feel would be a substandard bid, and too long a period can potentially lead to difficulties with validity of subcontractor and other quotations.

During the tender process

Almost all tender processes will prompt questions from tenderers. This is positive as it shows that contractors are reviewing the tender documents. The absence of any questions should cause some concern and should prompt enquiries as to whether tenderers are reviewing the tenders.

It is important that any tender queries raised are answered back to all tendering contractors and not just those who asked the question. This is to ensure fairness, confirm everyone is being fed the same important information, and ensure that no one is given an unfair advantage. The name of the tenderer raising the query should not be mentioned. With an online tendering system, responding to queries is straightforward as it is usually done through the online portal. For a traditional tender, the responses can simply be sent via correspondence (via a blind copy to ensure tenderers’ identities are protected).

Tender addenda

Tender addenda are not desirable as they can give tenderers the impression of disorganisation within the project team. However, it is accepted that sometimes they are inevitable; this may be due to new information being made available after the tender submissions (eg the release of survey information).

Tender queries may also necessitate an addendum being issued (eg if a tenderer asks for the release of a particular survey that is mentioned but is not included in the contract information). If a tender addendum is required it should be issued as soon as possible. As much information as possible should be included in a single addendum rather than issuing too many.

Tender withdrawals

Despite all the steps taken above, it is still possible that one or more of the tenderers will withdraw from the tender process. This can happen for a number of reasons but typically because tenderers’ work commitments pick up and they do not have the necessary resources to complete the tender response; and/or having reviewed the information they do not think they will be competitive or believe the project is too risky.

Your task

Identify the activities that a contracting organisation, working towards submitting a tender response, needs to complete during the tender period and then assess what you consider to be a fair period of time to allow for these activities to be carried out.

Justify your answers with your fellow learners.

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This article is from the free online course:

Pre-Contract Management for Construction Projects: The Basics

Coventry University