‘Simple’ tender process complicates business practice

Claire Lowson of Minale Tatterfield devoted many public words of praise to her client Transport for London (DW 14 September), which I’m sure TfL appreciated. But her support of simplifying the public sector tender process was somewhat misguided.

Let me illustrate what happens when a ‘simple’ tender process is put in place.

Last year the Energy Saving Trust instigated one such scheme for their design requirements, resulting in more than 200 applications. From this scheme, 11 design businesses were to be shortlisted and one to be appointed.

We were one of the 200-plus applicants who received a three-line e-mail (openly copied to all applicants) saying our application had been unsuccessful. Where is the benefit to the design industry (or public sector) when only 5 per cent of applicants will make it to the shortlist and less than half of 1 per cent will get some work? Even if the EST had kicked off with the normal ‘complex’ Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, it would have received 100 or so applications. And, as mentioned in my last letter (DW 24 August), ‘complex’ procedures will not deter about 300 companies from trying to get on a major Government department’s roster.

Public sector design work is no hidden pot of gold, as so often portrayed in the media: it is massively over-subscribed, intensely competitive and requires special skills. We love working for the public sector, but our 11 Government roster positions were hard-won and a ‘simple’ process would just waste lots more people’s time and benefit nobody.

Of greater use would be an extension of the central supplier database being rolled out by the Government’s Small Business Service. The objective here is to obviate the need to endlessly resubmit detailed company information for every tender.

David Bartholomew, Managing director, Folio Creative Communication, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AA

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