Bidding for local government tenders? What you need to know

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 18/09/2018
local government tenders

Local government tenders are one of the most scrutinised in our community. The processes around the construction of a new community centre or park, rubbish collection contracts, road maintenance, the provision of council services – these decisions impact directly on people’s daily lives.

Local governments use ratepayers’ money for these projects, so residents feel they should have a say on how it’s spent. As such, councils carefully outline tender processes with strict guidelines.

A typical council process applies the following principles:

  • Value for money
  • Open and fair competition
  • Accountability
  • Risk management
  • Probity and transparency
  • Sustainability (social, economic and environmental).

Councils are wary of unknown suppliers, yet nervous about awarding tenders to the same few companies, leaving them open to charges of favouritism. It’s for these reasons that tenders are so heavily scrutinised.

In this post, we’ll look at three aspects of local government tendering to see if your company is ready, suitable and has the right team in place for a successful local government bid.

Are you a supplier?

Are you a preferred supplier with a specific council? A preferred supplier has successfully participated in a tender process and is compliant with council requirements. This means the company has policies in place regarding safety, quality and environment and insurance.

On the other hand, a ‘registered supplier’ has registered with council to indicate availability, but has not yet bid for a tender.

Work health and safety

Councils cannot afford to reward a company that does not safeguard its employees. Depending on the council, this could mean anything from a certified work health & safety (WH&S) management system to a one-page policy. Councils may audit these policies over the term of the project and even inspect sites for compliance.

Find out what you would need to do to comply with WH&S guidelines. If you run a small company, the steps you might have to take could far outweigh the advantages of winning the bid. This principle of whether the bid is worth the effort will be explored in the next section.

Are you ready to tender?

To be ready to tender you need a tender team, and members can come from technical departments, accounts, HR, marketing and management. This covers the financial, personnel, brand/goal alignment, solution development, and decision-making branches necessary to write a tender submission.

The first question the team should ask is whether the company should bid. Too many SMEs bid for tenders without the products, personnel or experience to win. The resulting waste of time is exacerbated by the sense of failure an unsuccessful bid engenders.

The team should undertake a SWOT analysis – does the project fit in with strategic goals, is this where you see your company’s involvement in the future? Can you meet the deadlines specified with the resources you have? If not, can you enlist more resources in time?

Check the payments schedule to make sure payments will be arriving over a timeframe that allows you to pay staff and suppliers and meet project deadlines.

Developing the bid plan

At some point a ‘Go - No Go’ decision is made, which should examine thoroughly whether you have or can develop a commercially acceptable solution that addresses the client's requirements and solves their problems.

If the bid is confirmed, the team then sets about:

1. Allocating a bid leader or bid manager

2. Developing a bid plan with deadlines and milestones.

3. Allocating key personnel and management.

4. Developing key messages and selling points.

The bid manager assigns leaders for sections of the submission.

When the bid team is allocated, contentious allocations or impractical deadlines must be reassessed immediately in follow-up consultations. Any changes must be made clear to all as there can be no uncertainty about who is responsible for each section of the bid.

From now on your team must be single-minded, showing no ambiguity when meeting with local government. Deadlines, once set, must be met; every member of the team has the potential to make your tender application run smoothly, or throw a spanner in the works.

Maintaining a tender database

Although each tender submission needs its own response, it’s possible to prepare and keep on file personnel profiles, equipment inventories and client testimonials. The tender team can then access these and tweak them for a specific bid. This is more efficient than discovering you don’t have a decent image of a holidaying staff member just as the application deadline looms.

Similarly, compliance documents need to be current and accessible. Do you have the compliance you need for the bid?

If not, can you be reassessed in time to meet the deadline? Compliance is the first thing wary council assessors will look at, and it should be your priority too.

Local government briefings and the tender portal

Each company will have to use a council-designated online portal to lodge its application. Before the bid is filed, it may pay to contact council for clarification regarding an important technical or commercial requirement during the tender process. There will be a formal process for this, don’t just cold call the reception desk.

It goes without saying you should check and submit your bid on time. The bid plan should clearly state when this is and appoint the person to submit the application. Again, there should be no ambiguity about who has this responsibility.

If you have been using a professional editor to develop your application, make sure no one in the team makes any subsequently changes to the edited bid after sign off. A typo, misspelling of a councillor’s name or an accidentally deleted paragraph reflects badly, so let the editor have the last word.

Finally, if you are unsuccessful, seek a follow up meeting with council to clarify where you went wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always price that counts. Contracts are won on lost on issues including sustainability, community engagement and the potential for the bidder to expand their services in the future, growing alongside the requirements of the community.

If you'd like some professional help with writing or editing your tender submission, contact us.

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