Code of Practice
The Code of Practice for Governance of State Bodies 2001 provides that competitive tendering should be the normal procedure in the procurement process of State bodies. Detailed procurement procedures set out in the Green Book in respect of competitive tendering should be applied.
The guidelines provide that less formal procedures may be appropriate for contracts, falling below the threshold where they are not part of the drawdown or framework agreement. This may include, for example, supplies or services less than €5,000 in value. They might be purchased on the basis of verbal quotes of one or more competitive suppliers or service providers.
Supplies or service contracts between €5000 and €50,000 in value may be awarded on the basis of responses to specifications sent by fax or e-mail to at least three suppliers or service contractors. These are indicative only and must be adapted to the nature and scale of the project.
There must be a verifiable audit trail in respect of all procurement procedures.
While contracting authorities need not advertise on the national procurement website, such as e-tenders.gov.ie for services on works below €50,000, they should do so, where appropriate.
Public tenders above €50,000 should be published on the e-tenders.gov.ie website.
In the case of contracts above €50,000 up to the current EU thresholds, that are not part of a framework, the guidelines state that such contract should normally be advertised as part of a formal tendering process. This may be achieved by advertising on e-tenders.gov.ie.
In appropriate cases, the authority may supplement the website advertisement with advertisements in national, local press or trade papers. An advertised tendering procedure may be sent directly to suitably qualified candidates who are competent to participate.
As an alternative to advertising, the authority may issue direct invitations, known as selective or restricted tendering. This may involve invitations to enterprises, appropriately qualified for a particular project or enterprises on a list established in an open and objective basis.
At least five enterprises should normally be invited to submit tenders. The authority should keep a list of enterprises from which they invite tenders. They should advertise at regular intervals, usually annually to allow admission of interested parties on the list. It should be open to suitably qualified candidates at all times.
If the number of enterprises on the list is too large to invite all qualified enterprises, then a sufficient number to secure adequate competition should be selected.
The selection should be by means of specified criteria, randomly, by rotation or a combination.
In relation to evaluation and contract award procedures for larger contracts (above €50,000), they should be awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender. The evaluation should be performed by a team with the required competence.
Transparency and an objective process is demonstrated by the use of a scoring system/marking system based on relevant criteria, including price indicating comparative assessment of tenders under the relevant criteria.
The guidelines recommend the above approach and set out a scoring system for illustration. Contracting authorities may consider it appropriate to ask tenderers to make a presentation in order to deal with technical matters or elaborate on their proposals. However, communications with tenderers must be avoided. They could be interpreted as post-tender negotiations in respect of price resulting in a significant change to the published tender specification.
No time limits are recommended by the guidelines. There should be however sufficient time to allow for preparation and submission of tenders. Account must be taken of the complexity of the project when considering minimum times.
All government departments, local and regional bodies, non-commercial and other bodies which are dependent as to more than 50% of their funding are subject to the EU Directives and guidelines.
The Green Book adopts the principle of Part A and Part B services being priority and non-priority services. Priority services are those which potentially affect trade between EU States. They may include architectural and engineering services. Non-priority services are more localised and may include catering services.
Priority services are subject to the full terms of the Service Directive (above threshold). For non-priority services, information on contracts awarded is to be made available to the Commission.
A 2010 Department of Finance Circular facilitating SME participation in public procurement required public bodies to offer contracts for supplies or services other than work-related services with a value of €25,000 or more to be advertised on e-tenders.gov.ie. The standard figure remains €50,000 for works.
The open procedure rather than the restricted procedure should be used for supplies and general service requirements and general service procurement with an estimated value up to €125,000 and for works and work-related services up to €250,000. Accordingly, the open procedure should become the norm for advertised contracts up to these levels.
Within the above thresholds, awarding authority should not seek documentary verification of credentials and capability, unless the bidder would be close to being deemed the winning bidder. This is by way of reduction of red tape and the burden of documentation on SMEs.
The authorities are ready to be proportional in seeking things such as annual turnover or insurance cover. They are to encourage to seek dividing contracts into lots where this would be appropriate and practical without compromising efficiency and value for money.