Tendering during a pandemic

Procurement and tendering can be complicated and time consuming at the best of times, but in times of a crisis, it may seem like running an effective tender process is almost impossible. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the case.

CPL Group have created a step-by-step guide which provides you with hints and tips that facilitate compliance whilst making sure you can complete an effective tendering process.

Current contract / provision

Should you need to extend your current contract: discuss with your supplier about extending the contract beyond its current term. We recommend not to agree a new contract end date yet but to establish that this would be a viable option if the tender process needs to be delayed. Your current supplier will value the advanced warning as it will allow them to make any arrangements that are necessary.

Prepare your in-house team if your service is currently delivered in-house: Make sure your onsite team including HR, are prepared for the scenario that the inhouse service will need to be continued to be delivered for a period. Check that everything is in place to ensure the service can continue seamlessly until the new contract is in place.

Supplier site visits

Site visits are extremely useful when you are tendering for services as it allows the potential supplier to view the applicable areas of your building. A visit isn’t going to be possible if your organisation has adopted a work from home policy or is restricting access to your buildings. When a visit is unable to take place, we recommend considering the following options to assist suppliers submitting bids:

Photographs – insert photos of the relevant areas into the tender document to provide suppliers with visual imagery of the areas covered by the service contract.

Videos – produce a video of the area to provide a virtual tour of the site or the main areas which will be covered by the service contract.

Conference call question and answer session – consider offering a telephone or video conference call instead of a site visit, allowing suppliers to hear your requirements and ask clarification questions on the content of the tender document. We strongly recommend inviting all suppliers onto the same call to ensure they all hear the same information and are given the same opportunity to ask questions. We recommend minuting the call and distributing the notes circulated via your e-tendering portal to ensure transparency and to provide an audit trail.

Supplier site visits and an effective tender pack should always contain the following pieces of information whether tendering for goods or services:

Specification – based on the site’s requirements under the new contract.

Site plans (if applicable) – provide all detailed site plans that you possess so suppliers can fully understand the site layout.

Square meterage details (if applicable) – provide as much accurate detail on the square meterage of your site as possible. This is extremely important when tendering for cleaning contracts.

TUPE (if applicable) – accurate TUPE details are integral to allowing the interested suppliers to understand your current staffing structures, numbers, terms and conditions etc. Should you be unable to delay your tender process, suppliers could always submit their proposals based on TUPE data. Bids based on TUPE would be limited in achieving economies of scale but if you have no other option then this would be a key piece of information to allow suppliers to submit.

Contract terms – all tender packs must include the terms and conditions so that all stakeholders are fully aware of the contractual requirements throughout the life of the contract. This is important in today’s climate with contractual concerns amongst all parties.

Site plans, square meterage details and TUPE are integral if applicable to the procurement exercise, but for some projects these will not be required so an accurate specification and contract terms are key.


Should you require presentations as part of your assessment criteria, this provides added complications regarding human contact and we would recommend the following to ensure compliance:

Bids not yet received

Assessment criteria amended – if you haven’t received any bids and the deadline date has not passed, you have the opportunity to amend the presentation questions in the assessment criteria to require a written response instead. These criteria would then be evaluated along with the rest of the bidder’s submission. We recommend contacting all the suppliers involved to make sure that they accept this change to ensure compliance. We expect suppliers to prefer this method of submission as it removes the need to attend site and put themselves or any stakeholders at risk.

Video conference presentations – if all stakeholders have the facility to conduct video conference presentations, the supplier could conduct their presentation against the agreed assessment criteria using this method. We recommend for only the key stakeholders to be involved in this option so as to limit the concerns regarding IT and any delays with the technology.

Bids already received

Suppliers resubmit presentation criteria as written responses – you could message all suppliers and request that due to the current circumstances, you now require written submissions in place of the presentation criteria whilst providing them with adequate time to provide a response. This can then be evaluated as part of the written responses meaning you can fulfil 100% of the criteria and award to the highest scoring supplier.

Award without conducting presentations – if you have presentations specified within your assessment criteria, the deadline date has passed and the bids have been opened, it is imperative that you are transparent with your suppliers to ensure compliance. You could award without conducting them and inform suppliers you intend to do this via your e-tendering portal. The weighting for the presentations within the assessment criteria would then be removed and only the written responses would be evaluated. An example of this would be if you had the weightings at written responses at 80 per cent and presentations at 20 per cent then you would only assess the responses against the 80 per cent and award to the highest scoring supplier at this level.


Make sure that all communication is via the compliant channels such as an e-tendering portal, you keep all suppliers informed at all key stages of the decision-making process and you provide suppliers with regular updates.

New Procurement Policy Note

Should you have an urgent requirement for goods, services or works due to COVID-19 and you need to procure this under the Public Contract Regulations 2015 (PCRs), there are various options available, including: direct award due to extreme urgency, direct award due to absence of competition or protection of exclusive rights, call off from an existing framework agreement or dynamic purchasing system, call for competition using a standard procedure with accelerated timescales and extending or modifying a contract during its term.

Please see Procurement Policy Note 01/20: Responding to COVID-19 for further information

CPL Group

CPC and Tenet Education Services are not-for-profit organisations which are part of CPL Group, an education owned charity that gives back to the sector. CPC provides deals designed for education covering a variety of products and services, 12 deals are recommended by the DfE. CPC membership is free of charge to all institutions. Tenet provides procurement consultancy support.