So what is a tender?

Published by SMETenders on

The word ‘tenders’ refers to the contract opportunities published by public sector organisations for goods and services. Strictly speaking, a ‘tender’ is a bid submitted by a business to win work, but in the public sector procurement context it is used more loosely to cover the whole process from the contract notice to the tender bid itself.


The public procurement process starts with a contract notice, which is published by a public sector organisation. They are looking to generate competing offers to meet their needs and specific requirements.  These calls for bids take different structured forms, depending on the value of the requirement. The contract notice will set out details of what the public sector body wants supplied.


If a contract is worth less than about £100,000, the rules and processes are simpler and notices need only be advertised in the UK.  Contracts worth more (the exact threshold is in Euros and depends on exactly who is buy what) have to be advertised throughout the EU using set forms and rules as laid down in the Public Procurement Regulations. The contract notice has to be sent to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and must use a set form. Most use either the open or restricted procedure (see below).


There are four main OJEU procurement procedures used to award contracts. The contract notice which will state which one is being used.

Open procedure– The awarding body advertise for interested parties to submit their tender bids by a set date. The bids are then evaluated and contracts are awarded to the winning party/parties. The procedure is called open because any company can submit a tender. Once the tenders are returned, they are evaluated and the contracts awarded to the winning party/parties.

Restricted procedure– This is a two-stage procedure. In the first selection stage suppliers are asked to fill in a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). Based on responses to the PQQ, a shortlist of suppliers is identified and they receive an Invitation to Tender – i.e. to submit a tender. Once the tenders are returned, they are evaluated and the contracts awarded to the winning party/parties.

Competitive Dialogue procedure– This procedure is used for more complex procurements. The public sector organisation may know what they want to achieve but not how best to go about it. Following publication of an OJEU Contract Notice and selection process, the awarding body negotiates with companies to develop suitable solutions, followed by an Invitation to Tender (ITT) and contract award.

Negotiated procedure– This process is used in limited circumstances and sees the public sector body enter into contract negotiations with one or more suppliers.


In reality, you don’t have to worry too much about the terminology. Just look out for the notices for contract you might be interested in, and follow the instructions for how to submit a bid.

And of course, you can always contact us for any help you might need when it comes to making a bid. Just call 0161 820 2341 or email

Categories: Tutorial