Shedding new light on public tenders
The regulations surrounding public tenders are a practical obstacle to innovative and high-quality solutions. The government wants to change this, and in a few days’ time, the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency will be releasing new guidance for innovation-friendly tendering. A lot of sector commentators think this is a step in the right direction.
A lot of people think executing a public tender that results in the best solution in terms of price and quality is hard. The difficulty lies in satisfying the fundamental principles applying to public tenders—i.e. the principles of openness, equality, transparency, proportionality and mutuality—in a way that can’t be disputed or open to appeal.
“The intention with the rules governing public tendering is good, but unfortunately results in sub-optimal solutions in practice. The current supporting data for tendering means that satisfying quality standards is too easy. It’s common for all tenderers to get full marks for everything, with ultimately, just price deciding. This means that the assignments always go to the cheapest, and seldom the best, supplier,” comments Johan Möller, Business Developer at Coor Service Management.
Obviously, that wasn’t the original intention. The government has expressed clear wishes to find tender formats and also favor innovative, high-quality solutions. And accordingly, the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency formulated guidance on competition-oriented dialogue in 2010, and around year-end 2011, the Agency was re-assigned by the government to produce new guidelines for innovation-friendly tendering. Nova met Agneeta Anderson, who heads up Tender Support at the Agency, to discuss this issue.
The intention with the rules governing public tendering is good, but unfortunately results in sub-optimal solutions in practice.Johan Möller, Business Developer, Coor Service Management
“Both issues of guidance are designed to help public authorities find tender formats where supporting data is not so closely specified. This might be a functional specification, with the client expressing a need, and the supplier then responding with one or more proposals for solutions,” explains Agneeta, “the big difference between the two formats is that ‘competition-oriented dialogue’ is a fairly extensive and time-consuming method primarily suited to large and complex tendering processes, such as complex construction projects. ‘Innovation-friendly tendering’ is not as process controlled, and suits more players in this context—for small or large tenders for goods or services.
“In fact, the new guidance for ‘innovation-friendly tendering can be used for all types of public tender. It helps tendering authorities and units with what they should be thinking about, and how they can execute functional tenders, for example. And I think it would be great for tendering for different FM and other services,” continues Agneeta.
The new guidance is published on 1 November, and offers information, know-how and support on how innovative solutions can be favored in public tenders. The guidance contains practical recommendations and advice to authorities so they don’t paint themselves into a corner on existing solutions, but rather open up to innovative thinking. The objective is for more procurement to be executed in a way that considers alternative and innovative solutions for the good or service out to tender.
“Deciding public tenders on price exclusively wasn’t the original intention. The regulations surrounding public tenders were the obvious starting-point, but it’s fully possible to prioritize creativity, quality and innovation within this framework. Hopefully, the new guidance will help public authorities select the best solution that also considers quality and pricing,” comments Agneeta.
Coor Service Management is looking forward to this new guidance, hoping that it will favor professional, ambitious and innovative suppliers.
“We assume far-reaching responsibility for the services we deliver, and strive to continuously develop and tailor our delivery so that it optimizes our customers’ operations. We see huge potential in the public sector, which we’d love to realize. Hopefully, the forthcoming guidance for innovation-driven tendering would be a step in the right direction,” concludes Johan Möller of Coor Service Management.
Want to find out more?
The guidance on ‘competition-oriented dialogue’ and ‘innovation-friendly tendering’ is available for download at www.upphandlingsstod.se.
Readers can also contact the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency, who will be happy to respond to questions and provide more info. Irina Svensson (email@example.com) manages ‘competition-oriented dialogue’ and Niklas Tideklev (firstname.lastname@example.org) heads up ‘innovation-friendly tendering.’
Agneeta Andersson (email@example.com) is Head of Tendering Support at the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency, which has been assigned by the Swedish government to offer guidance and support on public tenders for tendering authorities and suppliers.