Bid writers up and down the country must have their heads in their hands after the fiasco that has ensued from the West Coast Rail Franchise debacle, especially the bid team for Virgin who, undoubtedly, dedicated months of their time to writing a bid which they believed was the strongest bid their team could produce in order to secure the Inter-City West Coast franchise for the Virgin Rail Group.
Unfortunately, it seemed initially that their efforts were in vain, as the provisional decision was to award this opportunity to FirstGroup, who also must have dedicated a large amount of resources to producing their own strongest bid possible. Two independent inquiries have been initiated following the discovery of ‘unacceptable flaws’ in the procurement process run by the Department for Transport, and the scrapping of the provisional decision, which has cost £40 million.
The report following the first inquiry revealed “a lack of transparency, inadequate planning and preparation, as well as a complex and confusing organisational structure with weak quality assurance and insufficient governance oversight” said Sam Laidlaw, lead of the first enquiry, chief executive of Centrica, the owner of British Gas. This report went on to unearth very serious problems inside the Department for Transport and unacceptable flaws in the way the procurement exercise was conducted. Sam Laidlaw is also due to give further evidence today at the House of Commons Select Committee, and his report found damning evidence that Department for Transport officials “wrongly calculated the amount of risk capital bidders would have to offer to guarantee their franchise proposals” and that these miscalculations varied in the ways in which they were inaccurate.
So how do you as an organisation prepare yourself for oversights regarding procurement law, which may ultimately and unfairly cost you the contract? We often are asked to give advice on how to proceed when one of our clients is unsuccessful due to a minor technicality or through no fault of their (or our) own.
You should know your rights, and as such have a grasp of the rules in EU Public Sector Procurement. If you are currently involved in public sector procurement, or are looking to venture into it, it is important that you have a grasp of the rules that contracting authorities are legally obliged to abide by. As bid writers working across every industry, we are experts at producing strong, compelling narrative which will maximise your chances of contract award, but it is important to know when the contracting authority is not playing by the rules, as you have every right to contest a decision that you feel has been made unfairly, during the “Alcatel” mandatory standstill period after the initial contract award decision.