Interacting with Government During a Tender Process

Clients often ask us for tips on navigating the minefield that is communicating with government during tender processes. Naturally, tenderers want to do everything they can to market themselves and develop relationships with government. This can, however, be complicated by guidelines and rules designed to ensure probity in public sector procurement processes. The following tips will help you to engage appropriately and effectively with government during a procurement process.

Take advantage of the period before a tender is released to communicate with potential customers

Probity requirements are not as strict during this period, so it is a great opportunity for you to develop relationships with potential customers in government and to influence the development of future tenders.

Check annual procurement plans

Agencies' annual procurement plans provide a short summary of their strategic procurement outlook, as well as information on specific procurements expected during the coming year. You can find Commonwealth agency procurement plans on the AusTender website. Annual procurement plans are published before 1 July each year and give advance notice to potential suppliers about expected significant procurements for the forthcoming financial year.

Aim to conduct business on the basis of mutual trust and respect 

Government officials are required to buy goods and services in an ethical, accountable and transparent manner. States and Territories will have different rules around procurement, however these are generally similar. You can read up on the Commonwealth rules for procurement here.

Notify the relevant government agency of any conflicts of interest

You must make a written declaration to the relevant agency of any actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interests prior to taking part in a procurement process. You also have an ongoing obligation to disclose any conflicts that arise through until the completion of the tender process. Conflict of interest include: other employment, prior employment or relationships between contract managers and incumbent providers.

Act with transparency when meeting with procurement contact people

You should maintain transparency in meetings with government employees. If you are submitting a tender application with an agency with which you are already contracted, then you should ensure that any meetings with the current customer are minuted and presided over by a witness.

Maintain contact with the procurement contact person throughout the process

If you read the tender and think that the government agency did not quite get the specification right, or that there are errors in it, you should ring the contact person as early as possible. If you have any questions about the tender, do not hesitate in calling or emailing the contact person. It is also a great opportunity to develop a relationship with the agency and to differentiate yourself from competitors.

Respond to all the Qualitative Criteria in the tender

Do not use a generic response or assume that the person reading your offer knows you, your company, or anything about the services you provide. Tailor your responses to be informative and relative to the criteria that you are responding to. If you have any additional information which you would like to include, but which doesn’t fit in with the criteria, include this as an attachment to your offer and include cross-references.

Carefully prepare any site visits or presentations to the potential client

Ensure that any of your staff involved in site visits or presentations are well briefed on tender requirements and well organised. Keep messages simple. Select three key facts you want evaluators to retain – these are the primary reasons to award the contract to you – then make everything else relate to those three facts.

Submit offers on time, at the correct location and in the correct format

Online submission systems can malfunction and cause you to submit late. Aiming to submit your tender a day before its due date can lessen the risk of this. Often, even if it is the fault of the online tendering system, procurement officials will not accept a late proposal.

Request a debriefing

You should always request a debriefing on your tender following the evaluation process, especially if your bid was unsuccessful. Feedback from the evaluation panel can be extremely useful in understanding how your offering can be improved and can assist you in preparing for your next tender.

Maintain positive relationships

Take a positive approach to any debriefing, and treat it as an opportunity to continue to build your relationship with the agency.