Part 1: How does the UK Government buy from suppliers?
The UK Government issues around 120,000
contracts a year on open frameworks, placing orders worth over £200Bn. The text
below offers an introduction to the routes in which contracts come out and how
to find the ones you want as a supplier. Once you've found the right contracts
for you then you'll still need to complete a response as stated in the contract
notice and you'll need to ensure that yours is the best as determined by the
Contracts are placed
through an extremely wide range of frameworks, portals and direct-action events.
Open frameworks refer to those contracts which are made available to the public
and advertised to an 'open' group against which any firm can respond. There are
many other opportunities that are offered to closed or pre-selected groups.
This may be in areas where specific specialisms are required or in which
detailed contract negotiation is needed or repeat orders warranted. E.g. in
There are a myriad of different specific
routes through which contracts can be issued, with lots of organisations and
regions having their own procurement websites or portals. There are however
some main platforms that the majority flow through (or are supposed to flow through)
and conform to. The main ones to be aware of are:
- OJEU: The Official Journal of the European Union or sometimes refered to as TED (Tenders Electronic Daily). TED is the electronic form of the supplement to the official journal which historically has contained contract and award notices.
- The Digital Marketplace
- Contracts Finder
- although the last two are linked.
OJEU stands for the Official Journal of the
European Union. According to EU legislation all tenders from the public sector
valued above a certain financial threshold must be published here. The
thresholds vary considerably by sector and work type and over time are updated
as inflation and markets change, with Services having a much lower threshold.
As a rule of thumb if the contract is in the millions it's
probably on OJEU. Through the course of setting up CFP we've found a number of
anomalies or contracts that don't appear on OJEU, but are above the threshold.
There could be lots of reasons why this is so, the key being simply to ensure you
aren't missing out on anything!
The Digital Marketplace has been set up to
allow public sector buyers to find technology or people to deliver digital
projects. This covers G-Cloud, Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) sales and
Digital Services sales. G-Cloud is primarily a forum upon which suppliers can
post their services enabling customers to order directly - basically
buying from a catalogue. There are semi-annual calls when suppliers can update
and add their offerings. G-Cloud was designed for cloud services only, but now
includes a wide range of related work. Any technology business looking for
scale with UK Public sector should strongly consider a G-Cloud offer.
Contracts Finder officially posts contract notices for anything
above £10,000 available for open tender from the UK Public Sector, again, this is
incomplete (or simply delayed), which is unsurprising given there are over
120,000 contract opportunities posted every year!
On all these frameworks
buyers are supposed to publish the awards (see our Awards Search) regarding which firm won. Unfortunately the information released is incomplete, but it does
provide useful information when it is published.
Some contract notices
will provide the opportunity to compete to join frameworks which will then put
suppliers on a short list of firms allowed to tender for further opportunities.
While these frameworks can be lucrative, it's also worth noting that there is
no guarantee that firms will win work once on the framework, or indeed that any
work will even be tendered. Each opportunity of this nature is likely to be
subtly different as the organisation posting it will have its own specific
How does Contract Finder Pro help?
As a supplier this can
be quite bewildering (in fact I think it's fairly bewildering to the people
working in procurement too). If you tried to track every source and route
manually you'd need to search through hundreds of opportunities every day.
That's just not practical. Contract Finder Pro was
designed by salespeople and we've optimised it on the things we needed the
- Coverage: We cover all routes
to market used by the public sector so you only need to use CFP to get access
- Ease of Use: sales people are
always in a hurry and don't want to overcomplicate things. We need to see the
tenders quickly and make a judgement about whether they are for us.
- Speed: No one ever has enough
time these days, getting sight of a tender quickly after its released can make
a critical difference to a winning response. We provide daily updates and flash
alerts within an hour for anything that's a match with a short response
- Price: by
focusing and simplifying on just what is actually useful we're able to keep the
monthly charge low.
Check out our Tender Search page
to start looking for contract notices.
The UK Government has
done a lot to improve transparency, with the main open frameworks being
increasingly commonly used and legal arrangements being standardised, however
there are still variations by customer and it is always wise to check the
specific arrangements as notified on the Invitation to Tender. For example
Defence customers require specific DEFCON's (Defence Conditions) and larger
contracts might require Parent Company Gaurantees or minimum required turnovers
of suppliers to be compliant. This can represent a barrier to some suppliers so
be sure before you risk wasting your time bidding!