Foundation rejects non-competitive bids

Foundation rejects non-competitive bids

The Education and Training Foundation is binning contract bids it received under its old non-competitive tendering process.

Foundation interim chief executive Peter Davies told FE Week last month that contracts would have to be awarded through a competitive process in future.

And now, because of this, a number of bids already submitted for a share of the foundation’s £18m government funding, to carry out research and development, are being binned.

We have always been keen to be an open and transparent organisation and these values underpin the way we want to commission delivery.”

The announcement was made in a letter published on Thursday on the foundation’s website and was the result of a board meeting on Friday, September 27.

“We will not be able to proceed with the majority of the bids for work the foundation has received from across the sector, some of which we initially asked for, which were more speculative in nature,” it said in the letter, co-signed by Mr Davies and foundation interim chair David Hughes.

It follows £75,000-worth of contracts being awarded to member organisations such as the Association of Colleges and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education through a non-competitive process. It is understood these contracts will remain in place.

But, it said in the letter: “We have always been keen to be an open and transparent organisation and these values underpin the way we want to commission delivery.”

To achieve this, non-competitive processes with only a single bid would only happen “in exceptional circumstances”.

The letter continued: “All other work will be subject to competition, either through separate open tenders or framework agreements.”

It went on to say the foundation, the FE and skills sector’s self-improvement body, would not commission work based on speculative bids from organisations.

However, such bids may be used to generate tenders “if the proposal fits with our objectives and agreed overall plans”.

“Accordingly, It added that, to avoid disruption, the foundation would be looking at some limited “continuation programmes and pump priming activities” for which it would offer three to nine-month contracts. These contracts could then be extended through a competitive tendering process.

“In this way, we can balance the need to keep work happening, with the need to be open and fair in our commissioning,” the letter said.

Areas eligible for these short contracts would be programmes of work which had previously been funded by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, the Skills Funding Agency, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Other eligible projects included those in line with the foundation’s “mission” and key priorities or where the body of work was finished but “needs some further limited activity to ensure it is available to the foundation or the sector”.

It was acknowledged that time would have been wasted putting together bids that are binned, but certain organisations had submitted proposals the foundation still wanted to pursue.

These could end up composing documents explaining their ideas and inviting other bodies to bid for contracts to turn them into reality.

They would be free to enter the bidding process, but the letter warned there would be no bias towards them winning the contracts.

Contracts that could be put up for tender in the near future cover Teach Too, traineeship and apprenticeship support programmes, National Occupational Standards for teachers and practitioner-led research projects.

Government funding for the foundation, excluding VAT, is £18.8m for August to April next year, and the same figure again for 2014-15.