Procurement Essentials is a new series of articles to help you overcome common hurdles, understand key concepts, and make your life as a buyer of everyday goods and services easier.
Published 17 January 2022
Last updated 10 July 2023
However complex the contract, a well-planned and transparent bid evaluation process is essential in achieving the right procurement outcome.
Here’s our guide on how to get it right.
How to carry out the bid evaluation process
Bid evaluation takes place after the deadline passes for tender submissions. It involves the examination of bids to identify a preferred supplier.
A thorough approach is required throughout the process to ensure all bids are treated fairly and equally, and the correct conclusions are reached after balancing all your criteria. A poorly planned and executed process could derail your procurement and lead to expensive legal challenges.
Make sure you consider all of the following factors:
The role of evaluators
Firstly, take time to choose the right evaluation team for your procurement. Small groups work better than just 1 person, bringing a balanced perspective to the scoring process. Ideally you should include a combination of financial, technical, and purchasing expertise within your team.
For most people, taking part in an evaluation process is a step away from their day job. Providing sufficient training and guidance from the outset will help ensure a successful outcome.
Start by making sure your evaluators are clear on the bid evaluation process and what your requirement is. At least one member of the evaluation team, usually the procurement lead, should be well trained on compliance and the core principles of The Public Contracts Regulations (PCR) 2015. These are concerned with fairness, transparency and equal treatment of suppliers.
The procurement lead should also ensure compliance with your organisational policies.
Confidentiality, equality and conflicts of interest
All evaluators must be aware of the importance of confidentiality. For example, not sharing documentation with third parties and knowing how to transmit emails and electronic documents securely. They must also know the importance of treating bidders fairly and equally and putting all preconceived ideas (unconscious bias) to one side.
You’ll need to demonstrate that your evaluation methods used were fair in the event of any Freedom of Information request being received.
Finally, consider the need for your evaluators to complete a conflict of interest form at the start of the process, particularly for politically sensitive or complex contracts.
Record keeping/audit trail
Keeping a thorough and well-documented evidence trail is the only way to have a transparent justification for awarding the contract to a bidder and to provide a full debrief to unsuccessful bidders. Your record keeping needs to provide clear evidence to show:
- how the award criteria has been considered
- how the scoring methodology has been applied
- reasons for the evaluator’s decision
It is a legal requirement to keep all records for a minimum of 3 years from the date of contract award.
Our eSourcing Tool enables Crown Commercial Service customers to conduct their procurements electronically and ensure an audit trail is maintained.
Scores should be allocated in accordance with your award criteria set out in the tender documents. A copy of your criteria and scoring approach should be kept on hand by evaluators to refer to throughout the process.
The scoring stage usually focuses on 2 components – price and quality. The scoring and weighting for each component can vary from tender to tender depending on your requirement. Numerous scoring methods have been developed to evaluate bids. You’ll need to determine which scoring method is best suited to your project.
It should be clear to evaluators what each score represents in order to ensure consistent application. Avoid using descriptions which are open to interpretation, e.g. “1 = Below Par” or “0 = Unacceptable”. A more effective scoring document would read “1 = Insufficient evidence that the contract can be fulfilled; evidence is weak and / or incomplete” and that “0 = No evidence that they have the expertise or experience required to fulfil the contract”.
Evaluators must ensure that each tender submission is assessed against these evaluation criteria only. They should be objective and not award scores based on comparing tenders against each other.
This is contact between buyer and bidder to address aspects of the tender which are unclear. At this stage the bidder may be asked to clarify or complete the relevant information. Clarification is not an opportunity for bidders to improve their bids. It must not provide a competitive advantage to a particular supplier.
Make sure the evaluators are clear on your clarification process and how to record clarification questions and answers. There should be a single approved communication route for all clarification correspondence with suppliers.
Finally, clarification questions and answers should always be included within the final contract to ensure they’re legally binding.
Once individual scoring is complete, evaluators should send their scores and evaluation reports to a moderator for review. The moderator should be someone who has not been part of the original evaluation team. They should ideally possess strong facilitation skills.
Individual evaluators may come to different scoring conclusions. The purpose of the moderation process is to review these independent evaluation scores to reach a consensus.
The moderation process should not be closed until all evaluators and the moderator are satisfied with the scoring.
Finalising the process
Once an award decision has been made then all bidders, successful and unsuccessful, must be notified in writing, containing the information required by PCR 2015.
A mandatory 10 day standstill period then follows. This gives unsuccessful bidders an opportunity to consider feedback, request further information or call for a review of the decision.
During the standstill period, a single point of contact is critical. Other members of the evaluation team should not engage in direct communication with any bidder.
Completing an evaluation report
Finally, you should always prepare an evaluation report which records the outcome and captures any evidence supporting your scores. This ensures that the process is properly recorded and can stand up to both internal and external scrutiny.
Find out more
See the government guidance note for further information on bid evaluation. More information and guidance for public and third sector buyers, as well as full details of all of our commercial agreements, can be found in the latest CCS digital brochure.
More: Frameworks help public and third sector buyers to procure goods and services. Find out how.