How important is winning your next Public Sector Contract to you? Pretty important? You bet your life it is! So how would it help you to have copies of the recent bids your competitors have produced, on your desk, whilst you get stuck into the latest proposal?
It’s got to greatly assist you. It almost feels like cheating – but it’s perfectly legitimate! So why is it that so many organisations don’t get hold of their competitors’ recent documents when there is a really easy way to do it.
You get this information just by asking for it, from the department or organisation who received the information in the first place. They have to send it to you (subject to a few restrictions) within 21 days.
This is all enshrined in the Freedom of Information act which presupposes that any information received by a Public body is, by its nature in the Public domain and any citizen is entitled to have it. It further presumes that once the citizen (or commercial organisation) gets the information, they will exploit it for commercial purposes.
Of course, there are a few exceptions. Personal information, information which if disclosed would adversely affect the ability of the country to defend itself or for the parties involved to negotiate in an on-going contractual or legal situation, may be withheld. But the limitations are very few and the presumption is that the information may and will be released unless it can be shown that the act specifically disallows it. Hardly any information normally contained within a tender submission is exempt.
So the route is that you ask for the information specifically, e.g. “all of the competing tender responses in the competition for the XYZ contract” and wait for the documents to arrive in the post (or by email). If they don’t come, after 21 days you can go to the Information Commissioner’s Office Website, fill in a simple form and shortly after that they will make it happen for you.
The corollary for this is, of course, that you competitors have access to your tender responses too. Indeed, they are probably reading them as you read this! If you want to know how to stop them, watch out for our next post on this site or start a thread.
Of course, Sixfold has some experience of this. Andy Haigh’s new book, “Winning Public Sector Contracts” published by The Guardian Professional, covers many of the approaches. Why not give him a call on 01227 860375 if you want to have a private chat.