This glossary aims to provide brief user friendly definitions of words, acronyms and phrases used in relation to public procurement.
Where the relevant timescales for the particular type of procurement process can be shortened e.g. in certain circumstances where a procurement is urgent and the standard timescales are impracticable.
This is an older term for what is now referred to as an award decision notice (also known as a standstill letter).
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:
- technical infrastructure enabling contracting authorities to award public contracts or to conclude framework agreements for works supplies or services;
- advice on the conduct or design of public procurement procedures; or
- preparation and management of procurement procedures on behalf and for the account of the contracting authority concerned.
The public body buying works goods or services (formally referred to as a contracting authority).
The requirement that the contracting authority does not enter into the contract with the winning bidder. An automatic suspension is triggered by a challenging bidder issuing a Claim Form in the High Court and must be maintained until the Court agrees the suspension should be lifted or the claim is otherwise settled or disposed of.
The criteria used by a contracting authority to assess tenders and which collectively determine the most economically advantageous tender.
Award decision notice
Also known as a standstill letter the award decision notice is a communication sent to suppliers informing each of their score and of the outcome of the competitive process. The sending of the notice triggers the start of the standstill period. In particular the award decision notice must explain to each losing bidder the characteristic and relative advantages of the winning bid.
Award notice (aka Contract award notice)
A notice which the contracting authority must send for publication in the FTS and/or in Contracts Finder which provides details of the result of the procurement including the identity of the winning bidder.
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:
- it is established for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest not having an industrial or commercial character
- it has legal personality and
- it has any of the following characteristics:
- it is financed for the most part by the State regional or local authorities or by other bodies governed by public law; or
- it is subject to management supervision by those authorities or bodies; or
- 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 FTS notice (aka Contract Notice) in the FTS or where permitted by the publication of a Prior Information Notice (PIN) in the FTS.
An individual contract awarded under a framework agreement (or dynamic purchasing system) for the provision of particular services goods or works. Also sometimes referred to as a 'specific contract'.
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 as 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:
- the acquisition of supplies or services or both intended for contracting authorities or
- 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 which a Court orders is payable by a contracting authority where a contract which they have entered into is declared to be ineffective. It may also be ordered if the grounds for ineffectiveness are made out but the Court is satisfied that there are reasons in the general interest that require the contract to be maintained.
A name sometimes used to refer to the Public Sector Directive 2004/18/EC.
In a procurement context this generally refers to the European Commission.
Competitive dialogue procedure
The process that allows the contracting authority to discuss different options with bidders with a view to identifying the best solution(s) to meet its needs on which it then invites final tenders. 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 procedure with negotiation also allows dialogue with bidders prior to submission of final tenders. See our award procedure decision tool for more information.
Competitive procedure with negotiation
This process allows contracting authorities to negotiate with more than one supplier in order to select a preferred bidder and to award a contract. See our award procedure decision tool for more information. Bidders must submit an initial tender which is then the basis for any subsequent negotiation. The process can be used provided the criteria set out in Regulation 26(4) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 are met.
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 contracting 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').
The formal term for an OJEU notice / FTS notice.
A defined term in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 meaning a public body that is subject to and must comply with those Regulations. Those contracting authorities listed specifically at Schedule 1 to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 are further classified as central government authorities while contracting authorities that are not expressly listed but nonetheless are caught by the definition are classified as sub-central contracting authorities. The definition of contracting authority includes the State regional and local authorities together with any other body governed by public law.
The UK database of advertisements and award notices maintained by the Crown Commercial Service on behalf of the Cabinet Office to be used by contracting authorities to comply with the advertising and notification obligations of part 4 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The standard EU numerical system of classification which identifies works goods and services in a tendering process. CPV codes must be used by contracting authorities in OJEU notices to categorise their requirements in addition to a description in words. Searchable lists of CPV codes are available here.
Crown Commercial Service
An executive agency of the Cabinet Office that provides advice and guidance 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 under the restricted procedure which is used to purchase commonly used goods works or services which are generally available in the market. It must remain open throughout its period of validity to any Supplier meeting the selection criteria. See Regulation 34 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 for more details. Typically dynamic purchasing systems are used for lower value goods and may involve the contracting authority linking its purchasing IT system to those of suppliers.
European Court of Justice.
(EU) Procurement threshold
The financial threshold above which certain procedural aspects of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016 and the Concession Contracts Regulations 2016 become mandatory. Different thresholds are applicable for (a) central government authorities and (b) sub-central contracting authorities. Since the UK left the EU, the threshold is now set by the UK government every two years.
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.
Defined in Public Contracts Regulations 2015 as any person or organisation offering to supply products provide services or execute work(s) on the market. Essentially a bidder competing to be awarded the contract with the contracting authority or otherwise operating in the market.
The business-to-business purchase and sale of works supplies and services conducted electronically (via the internet or email).
All bidders who are in the same situation being treated in an equivalent manner. Equal treatment is one of the overarching principles of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and the Procurement Directive.
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. Now replaced by the Single Procurement Document (SPD) since the UK left the EU in January 2021.
The European Treaty from which the Procurement Directive derives and which establishes the internal market and free movement principles between European Member States.
Another term for Contract Award Criteria. May sometimes also be used to refer to selection criteria.
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.
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'.
Find a Tender Service (FTS)
The UK-based replacement for the OJEU, used for all procurement notices since the UK left the EU in January 2021.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000.
An agreement between one or more contracting authorities and one or more suppliers which establishes the basis on which subsequent requirements for goods services or works can be met by suppliers appointed to the framework agreement. The procedure for establishing and operating a framework agreement is set out in Regulation 33 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The Government Procurement Agreement which is an agreement established between a number of World trade Organisation (WTO) members designed to ensure fair competition in the government procurement markets. The UK is currently as signatory in its own right. All UK contracting authorities will generally be GPA bodies for the purposes of a mandatory FTS notice.
Guidance published by the Crown Commercial Service on best practice issues relating 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 within the scope and meaning of the NHS (Procurement Patient Choice and Competition)(No.2)) Regulations 2013. These fell within the scope of the light-touch regime of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 on 18 April 2016. Procedures which started before that date remained within the scope of the old Part B Services regime in the Public Contracts Regulations 2006. Health care services are expected to be removed from the procurement regime altogether by the Health and Care Bill.
A remedy which can be obtained by an unsuccessful supplier or other economic operator after the contract has been awarded in circumstances where a contracting authority (1) has failed to place a mandatory FTS notice; or (2) has breached requirements relating to the standstill period thereby denying a supplier the opportunity to challenge an award decision; or (3) has failed to follow call-off requirements under a framework agreement for a call-off contract over the relevant value threshold. See Regulations 99-103 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
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).
A new process under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 which provided the criteria for its use are met now allows for the R&D of an innovative product service or work and its subsequent purchase within the same single procurement process (with transparency and other safeguards built in to it).
Invitation to negotiate (ITN)
A document inviting short-listed bidders in the competitive procedure with negotiation to participate in a negotiation process and setting out the terms applying to that process. It may also be used in the negotiation stage of an innovation partnership.
Invitation to participate in dialogue (ITPD or IPD)
A document inviting short-listed bidders in the competitive dialogue procedure to participate in the dialogue stage of the process and setting out the terms applicable to that stage.
Invitation to submit detailed solutions (ISDS)
A document which may be issued during the dialogue stage of a 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 and the outline solution stage.
Invitation to submit final bids (ITSFB or ISFB)
A document which invites the remaining bidders in a competitive dialogue procedure to submit their final bids. This occurs after dialogue has been closed. Broadly equivalent to an ITT in a restricted procedure.
Invitation to submit outline solutions (ISOS)
A document which may be issued during the dialogue stage of a competitive dialogue procedure which requires the bidders to submit initial outline 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 bidders to submit their bid for the provision of goods services or works. An ITT is used in the restricted procedure or the open procedure.
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.
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. Regulation 68 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 specifically permits use of this approach provided the method of calculating such costs is objectively verifiable and transparent.
A new regime introduced by Regulations 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 previous Part B Services regime. The services covered by the light touch regime are set out at Schedule 3 of the 2015 regulations. As the name suggests they are subject to lighter regulation than other services. If the value of the contract is over the relevant value threshold the contracting authority must advertise it in the FTS but there is flexibility as to the design of the remainder of the procurement process (provided that safeguards around equal treatment and transparency are observed).
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 a means of making a call-off for a multi-supplier framework agreement. It is used to re-open competition between all those suppliers within a framework agreement who are capable of meeting a particular need. The framework agreement must specify the circumstances when a mini-competition may be used and the terms which may be subject to re-opening of competition. The criteria for selecting the most economically advantageous tender must also be set out in the framework agreement.
Most economically advantageous tender (MEAT)
The overarching criterion used to select the winning tender which is assessed through applying the contract award criteria. It may include the best price-quality ratio or instead may use lowest price alone.
Negotiated procedure without notice (or without prior publication)
The use of the negotiated procedure without publication of an OJEU notice. This is only permitted in extremely limited circumstances as it allows negotiation with only one supplier.
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
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). In the UK, it has been replaced by the Find a Tender service since the UK left the EU in January 2021.
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 Official Journal of the European Union.
A standard form notice placed in the Official Journal advertising that a contracting authority is commencing a procurement for goods services or works and seeking responses. The OJEU notice is the formal start of the process and the call for competition. Now replaced in the UK by the FTS notice.
This process under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 that 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 was replaced when the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 came into force. The majority of what were Part B services are now covered by the light touch regime. This includes clinical health care services for procurements commenced on or after 18 April 2016. Prior to this clinical health service procurements were regulated by the Part B Services regime of the 2006 Regulations.
Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)
An older term for what is now referred to as a Selection Questionnaire (SQ).
Prior Information Notice (PIN)
A standard form notice placed in the FTS providing details of a contracting authority intends to procure in future. Use of a prior information notice can in certain circumstances reduce some of the timescales in a procurement. Also in certain circumstances under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 a PIN may be used as a call for competition.
EU Directive 2014/24/EC - from which the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 are derived.
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.
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 were replaced by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
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
The older directive from which the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 were derived.
Public service contract
A contract for the supply of services to a contracting authority.
Public supply contract
A contract for the supply of goods to a public body or for the hire of goods by a contracting authority.
Public works contract
A contract to carry out works for a contracting authority. Particular care is needed when deciding whether a contract falls within the definition of a public works contract as this has been the subject of a substantial amount of case law. Reference should always be made to the precise definition in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and the relevant up to date case law.
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 mainly (but not exclusively) set out in Regulation 84.
A term applicable to the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016. The Regulations apply to entities (utilities) which carry out a relevant activity being an activity in any of the following sectors: gas and heat; electricity water transport ports and airports postal services and the extraction of oil gas coal or other solid fuels.
Directive 07/66/EEC which sets out the remedies which a supplier is entitled to if they suffer loss or damage as a result of a breach of the procurement regulations. It is 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.
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).
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.
The basis on which the contracting authority intends to score bids against the selection criteria or award criteria.
Criteria used by the contracting authority to select the bidders that are to proceed to the next stage of submitting tenders or bids. Selection criteria should only relate to bidders' technical and professional capability and financial and economic standing and certain grounds for disqualification (i.e. they should assess the bidder and not the bidder's proposals or bid).
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.
Selection questionnaire (SQ)
An SQ 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. SQs are used in the restricted procedure, competitive procedure with negotiation and competitive dialogue procedure as a means of selecting a short list of bidders to go forward to the next (tender) stage of the procurement process. The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 contain a restriction on the use of a separate SQ stage for procurements under the value threshold.
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).
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'.
A communication sent (typically by email fax or through an electronic procurement system) which a contracting authority must send to tenderers and candidates following the evaluation of tenders and the making of the contracting authority's contract award decision which explains the outcome of the evaluation the name of the winning bidder and reasons for the contracting authority's decision. This commences the standstill period. Formally called an award decision notice. the content of this letter is subject to the strict requirements of Regulation 86 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
A period normally 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 contracting authority will not enter into the contract with the winning bidder. The standstill period is ten calendar days if the standstill letter is sent by fax or electronically but 15 calendar days if sent by other means.
Sub-central contracting 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.
See EU 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. Transparency is one of the overarching principles of the procurement regulations..
A term applicable to the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016. The Regulations apply to utilities when they carry out a relevant activity. A utility can be: a contracting authority; a public undertaking or an entity which is not a contracting authority or public undertaking but which carry out a relevant activity on the basis of special or exclusive rights.
A bid which is different from the standard bid requested by the contracting authority in the tender documents. Examples of variant bids are those proposing new different or innovative ways of delivering a service from that specified alternative pricing structures or risk profiles. The rules relating to variants are set out in Regulation 45 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
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