Finding Public Sector Tenders

27/10/2010

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In uncertain times, the public sector provides a welcome constant stream of contracts. However, there is the small matter of finding them! The guide below shows you where to look.

Each year, the public sector procures around £220 billion on works, goods and services. This ranges from the NHS, to the police services, to education authorities as well as local and central government. In today’s economic climate, the fact that the public sector normally pay promptly makes them excellent clients, offering businesses vital stability. All public bodies should be viewed as a key potential customer, with:

  • Local government spending £27 billion on bought-in goods and services
  • Regional spend in the NHS estimated to be around £12 billion
  • Civil government spending £15 billion
  • Up to 600 new contract opportunities a week

The good news is it’s free to look through tender opportunities, you simply need to decide which kind you wish to go for.  As mentioned in our tendering advice guide, there is no point punching above your weight. If you cannot fulfil all criteria, it will make you less likely to be chosen. Instead, look for opportunities working as a sub-contractor on larger projects.

High Value Public Tenders

EU regulations stipulate that higher value (above £100,000) tenders have to be published across Europe and the European Economic area. However, contracts which are advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) as high-value can still be viable options for a lot of SMEs.

The EU thresholds dictate the total potential value of the contract, for the lifetime of that contract. Therefore the annual total value could well be under £100,000 and therefore applicable to SMEs. For instance, a contract for a central government body with a value of £120,000 for three years is only £40,000 per annum: a sum well within the range of most SMEs.

Despite various websites advertising a tender finding service, it is actually free to search for tenders on the official Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) website. The TED website is the online supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). The website is updated five times a week.

Although you may find some contracts are too big, it’s worth following up ‘contract award announcements’ where the work is related to what your organisation does. The main contractor may be involved in sub-contractor procurement, such as a construction project.

Using the TED website

You can use the search function to look for current tenders. The ‘Full text’ field allows you to put in key words, such as as typical services you provide, or your locality. The other input boxes on the search form have a + symbol which offers a list of options to select from.

To simply look at all available tenders, choose ‘Business Opportunities’ from the left-side menu. You can then drill down to your country and view all tenders as a list. The contracts are numbered chronologically, so you can check back each week to see new contracts.

For more information, a free book is available aimed at SMEs looking to take advantage of the service.

Tenders Electronic Daily website

Low Value Public Sector Tenders

There are regional websites which display all public contracts under £100,000, falling below the advertising thresholds of the OJEU. When combining all contract sizes, there are over 3000 new opportunities every month.

There are tender websites for England, Wales, and Scotland (you are not limited by your own location). Some offer the opportunity to save searches, and even get email alerts sent to you relevant to your organisation. These smaller contracts, which aren’t listed on the TED website, are completely free to review.

To get started, visit the following websites:

Whilst the websites make things easier, don’t assume every single tender is on them. Sometimes there isn’t a replacement for the old-fashioned approach, so it’s well worth picking up the phone and getting to decision makers. By building rapport, you may get valuable insights into what’s coming up.


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