From pens, toilet rolls, stationary, office equipment to catering, you know you’ll need them.
For many school business leaders one of the most complex tasks they undertake is the tendering and procurement of new goods and services.
Many schools end up allowing contracts to roll over in an almost perpetual state, using the same supplier for years, rather than carry out a new procurement exercise.
Complex OJEU tendering rules, the identification of suitable suppliers and lack of knowledge over how to run a tender process can all be reasons why some SBLs fail to adhere to their own Best Value principles. One alternative to running a full tender can be to use a procurement framework.
What is a procurement framework?
A procurement framework or Framework Agreement, is an arrangement where a body (a purchasing consortium, the Government or a Local Authority) carries out a process to pre-select suppliers and sets terms and prices for a period in advance (up to three years).
The frameworks that were used in this process are then available for schools to use as and when required. The tender process takes place in advance, and then suppliers are called on to deliver the pre-agreed specification when required.
What are the benefits of using one?
Aside from the hassle of having to run your own process, using a procurement framework means:
- The prices quoted are fixed and have already been tested for best value.
- A wide range of suppliers have been invited to tender - a wider range than might be interested in your single job.
- The frameworks will contain detailed information about the products and the services that are available to you.
- Terms and conditions of the tender and purchase agreement are already in place, and will usually have been written by an expert who has your school’s best interests at heart.
- Frameworks will have already been checked for legal compliance, so your due diligence is already done.
So how does it work?
First off, you need to find a framework provider. There are a few to choose from, but the DfE’s Find a Framework service is a great place to start.
It will take you through a question process to lead you to the perfect framework and provide for whatever you’re sourcing. Or there is a list of all of the available frameworks.
Once you have found your framework, you need to complete a specification, outlining your exact requirements, so that suppliers can provide an accurate quote. Remember, the more detail you put in, the more likely you’ll find the right supplier.
When your quotes come back, there are two options:
Firstly you can carry out a mini competition to select the provider that most closely meets the needs of your school. Use your normal Best Value practice here - it’s not always about the lowest price, you can award on previous relevant experience, appropriateness of the goods offered, or other factors which are specific and important to your school.
The second option is a direct award. This can happen where there is only one supplier in the framework. If the goods or services you need are straightforward and of relatively low unit value, this is a great option, as you can award the contract to a single supplier straight away.
Just remember that before you award any contracts, you do still need to seek all the usual authorisations as set out in your Scheme of Delegation.
Hillary Goldsmith is a school business leadership consultant.