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Podcast | Season 1 | Episode 22: Procurement Hints & Tips

What opportunities are available to schools and academies? How can you ensure that your organisation is appealing and receives bids? When is the best time of the year to access the marketplace? Hear from Pat Condon about the right moves you can make to attract the best suppliers.

๐Ÿ“Ž Tendering Outsourced Services โ€“ Procurement Hints & Tips

  • Advice on the marketplace including key timings
  • Perceived risks to a contractor
  • Legalities
  • Tender document hints and tips
  • Tender process hints and tips

๐Ÿ’ก Pat Condon, Head of Procurement, Crescent Purchasing Consortium

๐Ÿ“˜ The episode is sponsored by Crescent Purchasing Consortium

๐Ÿซ This session was recorded live on 13th November 2019 in the Business & Finance Theatre of the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

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Pat Condon

Morning everybody. Thank you very much for taking the time. I'm going to be talking today about tendering for outsource services. So the content of today's presentation I want to start with a background to who we are, who are CPL group. I'll then move on to advice concerning the outsourcing marketplace, what that looks like, what contractors are looking for, and then move on to the tendering aspects, including risk, TUPE pensions, tender documents, hints and tips and processes. Some tips. What I would say this is a very high level overview. So I won't be going into massive amounts of detail. So what I'd like to talk about first of all, is CPL group. I'm gonna spend two minutes doing this CPL group is a registered charity. So we're owned by the education sector. In 2009, the further education sector brought us away from Salford Uni. So everything we do all of our frameworks and deals with schools, as you will see them on the DfE website are designed specifically for education. So we're unique in that way that we only concentrate on education with all of our frameworks.

Pat Condon

As a charity, we have three businesses, Cresent Purchasing of which I'm the Head of Procurement. Tenet Education Services, which is a consultancy arm of the business, Tenet Procurement Services, which is operating in the wider public sector and then we have Cresent Learning. That's where we provide all of you guys with lots and lots of free advice, lots of available documents to download. So anything you need to know or want to know about procurement we will have on our FE database.

Pat Condon

So let's start talking about outsource services and some advice in consideration of the marketplace and how that looks. There's no shortage your business suppliers are constantly telling us that they're doing lots of lots of tenders throughout the year. There is tonnes of work. And if you look at what's happened in the marketplace with Carillion, for example, and also other issues that have arisen with other organisations, there are opportunities available particularly in the schools and academies marketplace. So how do you ensure that you are of interest well, to gain that interest you need to prepare well in advance Before you get to the marketplace, don't rush it. If you rush, then you run the risk of the tenders not being interested in providing you with a bid. If you're not confident in procuring the services yourselves, use a consultancy that can help you. There are lots of consultants out there. What I will say is that ours as part of the charity is a fixed fee. It's fully transparent, and you won't see costs that are not up front and so you know exactly what you're paying, and then prepare and develop your spectacular ITT well in advance of your ITT issue date.

Pat Condon

Yeah, we call it the silly season. Suppliers constantly tell us that there are too many operators looking for renewals during the summer periods. If you do that you run the risk of not getting enough bids. Now. I understand that operationally, you may wish to change your catering and do all the works during the summer period. When you do you think about other outsourced services, building cleaning, and gardening, etc, those can be done at other times of the year. I've already said about allowing sufficient timeframe for your tender process. And there are various ways that you can take this to the marketplace. You can use a framework, which is the sort of service that our organisation provides. In doing that you can warm up the marketplace in conjunction with the framework provider, if you're going to do a full OJEU process, and just by a show of hands, who has actually done a full OJEU process for anything outsourced within your institutions? Yeah, okay. So you know, it's a very timely and an expensive process yet. We don't know what's happening with Brexit other than we've got till the end of January, but we do know that there will be a portal from government that will be needs to be accessed if you're doing overdue procurements after the 31st of January, and always allow enough time for your responses

Pat Condon

What I would say as a guide If you are out to market on a framework, four to six weeks, is the minimum timeframe that you should apply for responses. If you're going OJEU, then everything is dictated by law. So your timescales are all dictated, and you have to comply with those. So we put location, location, location. If you are in certain areas of the country, and you are difficult to service, you may find that you don't elicit the number of bids that you're looking to get to satisfy your financial regulations. So think about that. One of the areas of the UK that we do know suffers is the Southwest. When you're setting everything up. Remember to include site visits. It allows all contractors an opportunity to come in and talk to you and to glean information. What you need to do with those site visits, is ensure that you treat all the contractors equally when you're holding those with it. So there's no advantage given to anybody in particular.

Pat Condon

So I'm going to talk a little bit about capital investment and it mainly is attributable to outsource catering. If you've done outsource catering before you know that if you're having a refresher of your equipment, the capital costs to the supplier are and can be expensive. What they do is they recover that cost over the lifetime of the contract. You need to be aware that if you run into difficulties with the contractor during the term of the contracts that they will normally have built in remedies within the contract that allow them to recover elements of that capital expenditure if you're terminating the contract early. So always be aware of the T&C's that you're signing up to. Don't just assume that everything is for free. So what did the contractor see as the perceived risks in dealing in education? So financial stability in our marketplace, you would have normally expected that whether you're a trust or under an LEA control, somebody's paying the bills and the bills are getting paid within 30 days in the FE sector, there are colleges that have gone to the wall and are currently going through and shut down. And that is very upsetting and very distressing for those of us who work in education. But suppliers are on to this now. And they're checking financial stability of institutions before they will bit and as it says there, a poor credit score can deter a contractor from actually giving you a bid. They're very interested in your student numbers. They want all the information relating to the trends, so they will know what the demographic trends are based on LMI local market intelligence, but they will also want to know from you what are your plans? If you're a MAT? Are you looking to acquire more schools to come into the MAT? Or are you looking conversely to dispose of some institutions? So all of this needs to be taken care of in your ITT, so that the contractor is fully informed so contractors will also need all of your TUPE information. And there are various levels of this if you are outsourcing for the first time and have come out of an LEA control, you will need to get all of the information from the council about what are your your staffing,your pension indemnities and liabilities. If it's an LGPS scheme, that contractor will need to know all of the details of that scheme, exact costs, exact liabilities so that they can cost that into their bid over the timeframe of the contract.

Pat Condon

As it says there if LGPS does apply, then please don't hide the detail. So we're moving on now to the tender document itself and hints and tips. Your tender document is you shot window, who likes preparing tenders, not many people. They can be difficult, they can be complex. They're full of jargon. They're full of contractual terms and conditions, KPIs and SLA s and everything else that goes with it. But a poor tender document is a turn off to a supplier, they may not bid because they can look through your documentation and go, you know what doesn't look like they put a lot of effort into this. I'm not going to bid on this one. And we do hear that from contractors in the marketplace, that sometimes the paperwork that's come through is not of a standard that allows them to bid because there's too much information missing. Put some time and effort into preparing the tender though. And that can really pay benefits for you when it comes to securing bids. And again, if you're uncomfortable in doing that for outsourcing, there are plenty of procurement consultancies out there who will provide that service. What I would say is always check exactly what you're getting for your money when you use consultants and we have written several articles on that that have been published in the Education Business Weekly.

Pat Condon

So what makes a good ITT. Outlining your aims and objectives. What would you consider to be a successful appointment? What does it look like? What does your service need to be to ensure that your learner's are getting the very best that they can get from that contract? You provide details on your current service provision, provide things this is deliberately taken catering here, as mentioned that copies of menus pricing, your opening hours, your pending arrangements, don't be afraid to put some photographs in. That just gives a little bit more idea to the contractor of what you envisage it looking like. I've already mentioned TUPE. Imperative that that is correct, and fully, fully accurate. All of your sales data needs to be included. So the contractor again, has a really strong idea of what they're likely to generate in turnover throughout the term, the contracts, if you know your footfall data that's really useful as well because then they can work out the average cost per student that's going through. Also things like free lunches needs to be included. If you're giving free lunches away. They need to have that cost in it. I've already mentioned student number projections over the lifetime of the contracts. It's also useful if you put in when they can access the premises. But important at the bottom is your future growth plans, acquisitions and disposals as a map, and particularly any accommodation plans you've got for new builds.

Pat Condon

One other thing I would say is if you want to city centre campus, and around the corner you have Starbucks, KFC, Subway, all of that will be factored in by the contractor when they're preparing their bid that they're likely to use lose footfall to the high street. You can work with them though to put more high street relevant services in place. So let's look at the process itself. You've got your ITT you all want presentations to see the quality of what's being offered. Encourage them to bring a few offers only you don't want to be overwhelmed and always avoid Mondays and they always tend to prepare the food the night before for the presentation on the day so you don't want something's been left over from Friday trust me.

Pat Condon

Now this bit is important when you're preparing ITT you will have disclosed in your ITT exactly how you're going to score events. And that's exactly what you must do. You can't introduce scoring because somebody in the institution says, You know what, I don't like them. And let's add this in. And let's, let's call this instead, you must go exactly what you said. As well as that you have to score exactly how you said you will score it. So the award criteria has to be the award criteria, you can't mess about with it, you can't fudge it. And the reason for that is simple. If your contract exceeds a certain value, then you run the risk of a supplier challenge. And supplier challenges can end up in the courts, and nobody wants to be dragged through the courts trust me. If you've never seen it, there's a document that comes out of Crown Commercial Services called the mystery shopper scheme. It's published quarterly a details across the public sector, all of the instances of reported issues with public sector bodies when procuring goods and services, and it makes a very interesting read and then at the bottom and we've seen this done, we've seen contracts that have started running services have started to be provided, and there are still issues to be sorted and clarified. Get everything sorted before you sign the contract and start the operation if possible. And to do that, I'd come back to the issue around the timings and making sure you allow enough time for the process from start to finish to be completed. Don't rush it because it will never work if it's rushed. Okay, that that completes the presentation. Thank you all very much indeed.