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This glossary aims to provide brief user friendly definitions of words, acronyms and phrases used in relation to public procurement.


Accelerated procedure

Where the relevant timescales for the particular type of procurement process can be shortened, e.g., in certain circumstances where a procurement is "urgent".

Alcatel letter

This is an older term for what is now referred to as an award decision notice: a communication sent (typically by email, fax or through an electronic procurement system) which commences the standstill period.

Alcatel period

An older term for what is now referred to as the standstill period.

Ancillary purchasing activities

Defined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 as activities consisting of the provision of support to purchasing activities, in particular in the following forms:—

(a) technical infrastructure enabling contracting authorities to award public contracts or to conclude framework agreements for works, supplies or services;

(b) advice on the conduct or design of public procurement procedures; or

(c) preparation and management of procurement procedures on behalf and for the account of the contracting authority concerned.

See also central purchasing body and centralised purchasing activities.



The public body buying goods or services.

Automatic suspension

The term given to the ability by a challenger to automatically suspend, by issuing a claim form and pending a court hearing, the contracting authority’s right to proceed to award the contract to the winning bidder.

Award criteria

The list of key criteria that is used to assess a supplier’s tender.

Award decision notice

The formal name for a standstill letter.

Award notice

Publication of details of who has been successful in a procurement in the OJEU and/or in contracts finder.

Body governed by public law

A body which falls with the definition of a contracting authority by virtue of it having all of the following characteristics:

(a) it is established for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest, not having an industrial or commercial character;
(b) it has legal personality; and
(c) it has any of the following characteristics:—
    (i) it is financed, for the most part, by the State, regional or local authorities, or by other bodies governed by public law; or
    (ii) it is subject to management supervision by those authorities or bodies; or
     (iii) it has an administrative, managerial or supervisory board, more than half of whose members are appointed by the State, regional or local authorities, or by other bodies governed by public law;  

Call for competition

The formal start of the procurement process by the publication of an OJEU notice (aka Contract Notice) in the OJEU or, where permitted, by the publication of a Prior Information Notice (PIN) in the OJEU.

Call-off contract 

An individual contract awarded under a framework agreement for the provision of particular services, goods or works.


A supplier participating in a procurement prior to reaching the tender stage.  May also be referred to as 'potential provider' or 'potential supplier'.  If the supplier progresses to the next stage (i.e. the tender, dialogue or negotiation stage) it is then generally referred to as the 'tenderer' or 'bidder'.

Central government authority

Defined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 – a contracting authority which is expressly listed in Schedule 1 to those regulations.

Centralised purchasing activities

Defined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 as “activities conducted on a permanent basis in one of the following forms:—

(a) the acquisition of supplies or services, or both, intended for contracting authorities; or
(b) the award of public contracts or the conclusion of framework agreements for works, supplies or services intended for contracting authorities.”

Central purchasing body

Defined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 as "a contracting authority which provides centralised purchasing activities and which may also provide ancillary purchasing activities.”

A UK example is the Crown Commercial Service, who operate various framework agreements.

Civil financial penalty

A fine payable by a contracting authority where a contract which they have entered into is declared to be ineffective.

Classic Directive

A name sometimes used to refer to the 2004 procurement Directive 2004/18/EC.

Clinical services

See health care services.


In a procurement context, this generally refers to the European Commission.

Competitive dialogue procedure

The process that allows the procuring party to discuss different options with bidders before selecting a solution. It can only be used in certain particularly complex contracts where technical solutions are difficult to define or where discussion of the best legal or financial structure is needed. The competitive dialogue procedure can only be used when the open and restricted procedures are not suitable for the procurement and if the conditions set out at Regulation 26(4) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 are met. Note that the competitive with negotiation procedure also allows dialogue with bidders prior to submission of final tenders. See our award procedure decision tool for more information.

Competitive with negotiation procedure 

This process is new in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and allows public authorities to negotiate with more than one supplier in order to select a preferred bidder and to award a contract. It can be used provided the criteria set out in Regulation 26(4) are met (see competitive dialogue procedure for more details).


In the procurement context, this refers to two or more entities which have come together specifically for the purpose of bidding for appointment as a supplier, and can include those parties establishing a special purpose vehicle to be the prime contracting party with the authority.

Contract award decision

The decision made by a contracting authority following the evaluation of tenders which confirms the successful tender and thus the tenderer with whom the contracting authority intends to enter into the contract. The contracting authority notifies tenderers of its contract award decision through the sending of an award decision notice (aka 'standstill letter').

Contract notice

The formal term for OJEU notice.

Contracting authority

A defined term in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, meaning a public body that is subject to the procurement Regulations. Those contracting authorities listed specifically at Schedule 1 to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 are further classified as “central government bodies” while contracting authorities that are not expressly listed but nonetheless are caught by the definition are classified as “sub-central government bodies”.

Contracts finder

The UK database of advertisements and award notices maintained by the Crown Commercial Service, to be used by contracting authorities to comply with the advertising and notification obligations of part 4 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

CPV codes

A numerical system of identifying goods and services in the tendering process. CPV codes are used on OJEU notices to categorise authority's requirements. Searchable lists of CPV codes are available here.

Crown Commercial Service

An executive agency of the Cabinet Office that provides advice on procurement best practice and establishes framework agreements as a central purchasing body, formerly known as Buying Solutions and OGC Buying Solutions, and the Government Procurement Service.

Direct Call Off

Used in the context of contract awards under a framework agreement. It is where the contracting authority selects one of the suppliers appointed to the framework agreement for a specific contract without re-opening competition (i.e without a mini competition). To make a direct call off the contracting authority must be able to identify the supplier to perform the contract based on objective criteria which must be set out in the framework agreement.

Dynamic purchasing systems 

A dynamic purchasing system is a completely electronic system established by a contracting authority to purchase commonly used goods, works or services. Typically this will be for lower value goods and will involve the contracting authority linking its purchasing IT system with the supplier's systems.


European Court of Justice.

EC procurement threshold 

The financial threshold above which certain procedural aspects of the procurement Regulations become mandatory. There are two thresholds, one that applies to most central government bodies and one for other authorities. The current threshold is published on the Cabinet Office website.

Economic and financial standing

A measure by which the contracting authority can ascertain whether the prospective bidder is capable of handling the commercial and financial risks of the proposed contract.

Economic operator

Defined in Public Contracts Regulations 2015 as any person or organisation offering to supply products, services or execute works on the market. Essentially the entity with which the procuring party will enter into a contract.

Electronic procurement

The business-to-business purchase and sale of supplies and services conducted electronically (via the internet or email).

Equal treatment

All bidders being treated in an equivalent manner.

European Single Procurement Document ("ESPD")

A document in a standard form (and recognised across all EU member states) which a supplier participating in a procurement is entitled to submit to the contracting authority, and which must be recognised by the contracting authority, as self-certification that the supplier does not fall within any of the exclusion grounds and that it meets certain selection criteria. The standard form of ESPD is available here.

European Union's Official Journal or the "OJEU"

Published every working day in all official languages of the European Union. It consists of two related series (L for legislation and C for information and notices) and a supplement (S for public procurement). This supplement is where OJEU notices and award notices are published. Typically suppliers access the information via an online portal, such as Tenders Electronic Daily (TED).

EU Treaty

The European Treaty from which the Procurement Directive derives and which establishes the internal market and free movement principles between European Member States.

Evaluation Criteria

Another term for Contract Award Criteria. May sometimes also be used to refer to selection criteria.

Evaluation Methodology

The methodology used by the contracting authority to evaluate suppliers' responses either at selection stage or tender / award stage and which encompasses the criteria to be used, relative weighting of these, scoring methodology etc.

Exclusion Grounds

The grounds under the Public Contracts Regulations which entitle a contracting authority to exclude a supplier from a procurement. There are two types of exclusion grounds, those which are mandatory where the supplier must be excluded if any apply and those which are discretionary where the supplier may be excluded if any apply. Exclusion is subject to the rules on 'self-cleaning'.


The Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Framework agreement 

An agreement which establishes the basis on which subsequent requirements for goods, services or works can be met by suppliers appointed to the framework.


The Government Procurement Agreement. All UK contracting authorities will generally be GPA bodies for the purposes of a mandatory OJEU notice.


Guidance published by the Crown Commercial Service on best practice issues, for example in relation to public procurement. Usually published as a procurement policy note (or PPN).

Health care services

Clinical health care services for the purposes of the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition)(No.2) Regulations 2013. These remain out of the scope of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 until April 2016 (and until then continue to fall under the Part B Services regime).


A remedy which can be obtained by suppliers where a contracting authority has failed to place a mandatory OJEU notice; has breached requirements relating to the standstill period thereby denying a supplier the opportunity to challenge an award decision; or has failed to follow call-off requirements under a framework for a call-off over the EC procurement threshold.

In-house Contracts

In-house contracts (may also be referred to as Teckal contracts) - one of the exceptions to the Public Contracts Regulations i.e. where the contracting authority does not have to follow the regulations in order to award the contract. The exclusion, is subject to strict conditions which are now set out fully in Regulation 12 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and briefly requires the contracting authority to have sufficient control over the contractor; for the contractor to carry out more than 80% of its activities with the controlling contracting authority (or others controlled by the same contracting authority); and for there to be no private capital participation in the contractor.

Invitation to confirm interest

If, where permitted, a Prior Information Notice (PIN) is used as a call for competition, suppliers who have initially expressed an interest in response to the PIN are then invited by the contracting authority to confirm their continuing interest and at the same time are provided with further details of the procurement and contract and the requirements for their responses.


An order of the court requiring a party to either do, or refrain from doing, certain acts (e.g., entering into a contract).

Innovation Partnership

A new process under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 which, provided the criteria for its use are met, now allows for the R&D and purchase of a product or service within the same single procurement process (with transparency and other safeguards built in to it).

Invitation to negotiate (ITN)

A document inviting bidders in the competitive with negotiation procedure to participate in a negotiation process and setting out the terms applying to that process.

Invitation to participate in dialogue (ITPD)

A document inviting bidders in the competitive dialogue procedure to participate in a dialogue process and setting out the terms applicable to that process.

Invitation to submit detailed solutions (ISDS)

A document issued during the dialogue process under the competitive dialogue procedure which requires the bidders to submit full details of their proposed solution. The response may be evaluated, and this may result in a down-selection of bidders. The ISDS will typically be in a dialogue phase following an ISOS.

Invitation to submit final bids (ITSFB)

A document which invites the remaining bidders in the competitive dialogue procedure to submit their final bids at the end of the dialogue process. Broadly equivalent to an ITT in the restricted procedure.

Invitation to submit final tender (ITSFT)

See invitation to submit final bids.

Invitation to submit outline solutions (ISOS)

A document issued during the dialogue process under the competitive dialogue procedure which requires the bidders to submit initial details of their proposed solution. The response may be evaluated, and this may result in a down-selection of bidders.

Invitation to tender (ITT)

A document which invites contractors and suppliers to bid for the provision of goods, services or works. An ITT is used in the restricted procedure.

Life-cycle costing

An approach to assessing the cost of supplying goods, services or works that takes in account the costs of the service/product or work over its entire life cycle. The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 specifically permit use of this approach, provided the method of calculating such costs is objectively verifiable and transparent.

Light-Touch regime

A new regime introduced by the Regulation 74 to 76 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 for (generally speaking, though with a couple of exceptions) services that used to fall under the Part B Services regime. The services covered by the light touch regime are set out at Schedule 3 of the 2015 regulations. If the value of the contract is over £626,000 the contracting authority must advertise it in the OJEU, although there is flexibility as to the design of the remainder of the procurement process.


Used in the context of a technical specification and which can be a means of proof that the works / services / supplies offered by a supplier meet certain characteristics (e.g. environmental characteristics) as specified by the contracting authority. For example, a contracting authority may specify that it requires goods with an ECO label. There a strict rules under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 governing the use of labels - see Regulation 43 for more details.


One of a number of categories of goods or services which a single procurement process has been divided into. The use of lots potentially allows for multiple providers to be appointed following one procurement process. An example might be a computer hardware procurement with one lot for "laptop" and a second lot for "desktops".


A mini competition is held with all those suppliers within a framework agreement who are capable of meeting a particular need when the details of the framework agreement are not sufficient to enable an immediate call-off. Where a procuring party wishes to procure under a framework agreement but the framework has insufficient information to allow the procuring party to confirm which supplier would offer the most economically advantageous tender, then a mini-competition is the method used to select a supplier.

Most economically advantageous tender (MEAT)

The criterion used to select the winning tender. It may include the best price-quality ratio, or instead may use lowest price alone.

Negotiated procedure without notice

The use of the negotiated procedure without publication of an OJEU notice. This is only permitted in extremely limited circumstances.

NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 

Additional regulations which apply to NHS England and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups governing their procurement of health care services. These regulations apply in addition to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Official Journal or "OJEU" 

See European Union's Official Journal.


OGC stands for the Office of Government Commerce, the former organisation responsible for centralising and enhancing government procurement know how and expertise, now replaced principally by the Crown Commercial Service.


The European Union's Official Journal.

OJEU notice

A standard form notice placed in the European Union's Official Journal confirming that a contracting authority is intending to procure goods, services or works.

Open procedure

This process under the procurement Regulations allows all eligible applicants to tender using a single stage procurement process.

Part A Services 

Under the old Public Contracts Regulations 2006, the services listed in Schedule 3 Part A of those regulations.

Part B Services

Under the old Public Contracts Regulations 2006, the services listed in Schedule 3 Part B of those regulations. The old distinction between Part A and Part B services has now been replaced by the “light touch regime” (except in relation to the procurement of clinical health services, which will continue to be regulated by the Part B Services regime of the 2006 Regulations until April 2016.

Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)

A PQQ enables a contracting authority to evaluate the suitability of potential suppliers in relation to their technical knowledge and experience, capability and financial and economic standing. PQQs are used in the restricted procedurecompetitive with negotiation procedure and competitive dialogue procedure as a means of selecting the bidder to go forward to the next stage of the procurement process. The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 contain a restriction of the use of a separate PQQ stage for procurements under the EU threshold.

Prior information notice (PIN)

Publication by an authority in the OJEU of details of what they intend to procure in future. Use of a prior information notice can reduce some of the timescales in a procurement. In certain circumstances under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, may be used as a call for competition.

Procurement Directive

Probably refers to Directive 2014/24/EC, also referred to as the “new” directive, from which the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 are derived.

Procurement documents

This is a defined term in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 meaning "any document produced or referred to by the contracting authority to describe or determine elements of the procurement or the procedure, including the contract notice, the prior information notice where it is used as a means of calling for competition, the technical specifications, the descriptive document, proposed conditions of contract, formats for the presentation of documents by candidates and tenderers, information on generally applicable obligations and any additional documents". You can read more about the duty to publish procurement documents electronically from the date of the OJEU notice in our blog post here.

Public concession contract

A contract under which a supplier enters into an agreement with a public body to have the exclusive right to operate, maintain and carry out investment in a public utility (such as a water supply system) for a given term.

Public Contracts Regulations 2006

The Public Contracts Regulations 2006 are the UK legislation implementing the Public Sector Directive 2004/18/EC setting out procedures for the award of contracts for goods, services and works.

Public Contracts Regulations 2015

The UK legislation which came into force on 26 February 2015, replacing the Public Contracts Regulations 2006.

Public Sector Directive 2004/18/EC

Also now known as the “old” directive; it has been replaced by the Procurement Directive.

Public service contract

A contract for the supply of services to a public body.

Public supply contract

A contract for the supply of goods to a public body or for the hire of goods by a public body.

Public works contract

A contract to carry out works, generally construction projects, for a public body.

Regulation 84 report

The report that, in accordance with Regulation 84 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, the contracting authority must draw up in relation to each procurement process. Content requirements are set out in Regulation 84.

Remedies Directive

Directive 07/66/EEC, which sets out the remedies which a supplier is entitled to for breach of the procurement regulations, and implemented by Part 3 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Request for proposals (RFP)

A request sent to a number of suppliers for their proposals to meet a particular requirement for goods or services. Sometimes used to refer to an ITT.

Reserved Contracts

A contracting authority can restrict those eligible to bid for certain contracts. There are only two circumstances where a contract can be reserved in this way, namely:
- where the contract is reserved for sheltered workshops and sheltered employment programmes (see Regulation 20 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015); and
- where the contract is for a specified light touch service it may be reserved to qualifying organisations (sometimes also referred to as 'mutuals') who have specified characteristics including: an objective to pursue a public service mission; and employee ownership or management based on participatory principles (see Regulation 77 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015).

Restricted procedure 

This process can be used for any procurement and includes two stages. Any interested party may express an interest in tendering for the contract but only those meeting the contracting authority's selection criteria will then be invited to submit a tender. No negotiation with the bidders is permitted.

Scoring methodology

The basis on which bids are to be scored against the selection criteria or award criteria.

Selection criteria 

Criteria used to select the bidders that are to proceed to the next stage of submitting bids. Selection criteria should only relate to technical and professional capability and financial and economic standing and certain grounds for disqualification.

Selection stage

- the stage of a procurement process which assesses suppliers' technical capabilities and experience, economic and financial standing and whether any exclusion grounds apply. This is the first stage of the process under the restricted, competitive dialogue, competitive procedure with negotiation and innovation partnership procedures and can be used to short-list those to be invited to tender. See also 'selection criteria'.


- a means by which a supplier can avoid exclusion under either the mandatory or discretionary exclusion grounds by essentially showing that they have rectified or addressed the circumstances which led to the ground applying and can thus prove their reliability; or that the original event giving rise to the ground occurred more than a specified number of years previously. See Regulation 57 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 for further details.

Specification (aka Technical Specification)

- the document which sets out the contracting authority's detailed technical requirements for works, goods or services and the characteristics they should possess (including any standards or labels required).

Specific contract

Typically used to refer to a call-off contract under a framework agreement.


- Used in the context of a Technical Specification and could be a reference to a national standard, European standard or international standard. When specifying a standard within a Technical Specification the hierarchy to be used is: national standard which transposes a European Standard, then European Standard and then international standard. If only a national standard applies this should be accompanied by 'or equivalent'.

Standstill letter

Communication sent (typically by email, fax or through an electronic procurement system) which commences the standstill period. Formally called an award decision notice, the content of this letter is subject to the strict requirements of Regulation 32 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 or Regulation 86 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (depending on which apply to the procurement).

Standstill period

A period of ten calendar days beginning with the day after the standstill letter (aka award decision notice) is sent and ending on a working day, during which the authority will not enter into the contract.

Sub-central government authority

Defined in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 as all contracting authorities which are not central government authorities. Sub-central authorities may take advantage of certain flexibilities in certain circumstances (for example, the ability to shorten timescales for a procurement process by agreement with bidders, or to use a prior information notice as a call for competition).

Technical or professional ability

One of the permitted criteria for selecting suppliers at the PQQ stage.

Technical Specification - see Specification


The EC procurement threshold.


Being clear with potential suppliers as to what is planned and the steps that will be and have been taken in relation to a procurement process, and performing that procurement process as described in the communications with potential suppliers.  

Variant bids 

A bid which is different from that specifically requested by the contracting authority in the tender documents. Examples of variant bids are those proposing different pricing structures, or new and innovative ways of delivering a service.

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