Eight Tips for Bidding for OJEU Contracts

Bidding for large EU contracts may seem challenging. However, the process is easier than you think. Moreover, the focus on transparency can work to your advantage. Here’s what you need to understand.

EU procurement laws state that contracts over certain values must be advertised through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) to select the most economically advantageous bidder to deliver the contract. OJEU tender notices are published by a wide range of bodies across the whole of the public sector. These include central government departments, local authorities, educational establishments and NHS trusts.

When a potential contract is above the OJEU threshold, the tender is likely to follow a stringent process. Many companies, especially those used to competing only in the private sector, are daunted by the whole environment. However, the very strict rules, processes and terminology of OJEU bids can be your friend. Effectively, once you master them, you know exactly what you’re being scored against and what you need to provide to be in with a good chance of success. Also, as there is an EU directive to break large contracts into lots, it is becoming easier for smaller businesses to gain access to these contracts. Getting past the initial barriers of unfamiliarity could be key to securing fantastic new opportunities for your business.

We have put together these nine tips to help you submit OJEU bids.

1. Choose the Right Bid

OJEU contracts are large and competitive. You will not win them by playing a numbers game. Select only the bids that you are among the top contenders in all of Europe to win. It is important to keep track of all opportunities and evaluate them as they come in, to ensure you select the ones that are the ‘best fit’ for you. You can find all OJEU contract notices on Tenders Electronic Daily (TED). Following Brexit, an OJEU alternative is in place to replace the EU portal, with a new UK e-notification service. The UK site, Contracts Finder, publishes contracts from around £10,000 upwards in value, and many of these are compliant with the OJEU tender process.

2. Commit to the Process

OJEU procurement requires skills, knowledge and processes that you need to master in order to secure the work. Research suggests that 20% of submissions fail on compliance issues. Make sure you invest in the learning and set-up required to do this effectively.

In particular, you need to:

  • know what documentation, certifications and accreditations you need to show
  • ensure that all your policies and procedures are fully compliant
  • know how to understand the selection and award criteria
  • learn key rules and put together a compliance matrix

3. Become Familiar with the EU’s Typical Evaluation Themes

Within OJEU procurement, your submission is scored against a range of common topics. Depending on the industry, these topics typically include areas such as environment, health and safety, equality, inclusion and diversity, technical credentials, etc. Develop a library of model answers for these so you can deliver the highest quality bids as quickly as possible.

4. Study the Evaluation Criteria

All OJEU opportunities include an extensive specification and evaluation criteria. This means there is clear guidance on the grounds and methodology that will be used to evaluate your submission. Review these carefully and score potential answers for each question against the criteria given. With OJEU opportunities the weighting of marks is often 60% towards quality and 40% towards price, meaning that it is critical to score as highly as possible against the quality evaluation criteria.

5. Write in EU Style

The EU uses two main style guides:

Every proposal is a written statement that represents your company. So if you want to make the best impression with your words in front of EU readers, familiarize yourself with these styles and select one to use with your submissions.

Familiarity with EU styles will go a long way towards making your proposal accessible to your reader. Remember that the lessons from the style guides go far beyond choice of words and cover topics like local geography. Your bid will be assessed by readers from many countries. If you don’t know the difference between Holland and the Netherlands, now would be a good time to find out!

6. Use Sensitive Language

You should do this anyway. But it’s especially important in OJEU bids. Don’t use gendered terms like “chairman” or outdated language such as “wheelchair-bound”.

Evidence your belief in diversity and make your responses more credible by ensuring that you write in language that is as inclusive, conscious and unbiased as possible.

7. Eliminate Typos and Terminology Errors

At best, mistakes can make you look sloppy and raise questions about your commitment to quality and attention to detail. At worst, one unfortunate mistake can cost you the contract. Lots of mistakes and inconsistencies can easily slip into a submission, especially when multiple contributors are involved. Common errors include numbers written as a mix of words and digits, undefined acronyms, inconsistent terminology, spellings that are wrong for context, and inconsistent punctuation. Don’t let small mistakes undermine an otherwise winning proposal.

8. Master Your TLAs

Three letter acronyms (TLAs) are everywhere in EU documents. So you need to get to know all the various acronyms used for your industry and for OJEU procurement. However, it’s important that when you prepare your proposal you don’t assume your reader has that knowledge. Remember that not everyone reading your submission will be familiar with these terms, so produce a full list of definitions and define every acronym the first time you use it.

For further information, please see our FAQ below.

Ready, Set, Bid!

OJEU procurement processes and jargon can be daunting. Even people who have been working within the system for a long time can find it a challenge. Getting to grip with the rules and terminology involves effort. However, the rules are in place to ensure a level playing field, which means that once you have mastered them, you have a fair chance of success. There is no shortcut to achieve this mastery, but there are steps you can take to make it easier.

In addition to training, research, and building up a library of model responses, you can use PerfectIt to give you an advantage. PerfectIt has the EU English Language Style built in and it can check across your whole document for inconsistencies. You can use it to check for sensitive language, definition of acronyms, preferred spellings and terminology, numbering and punctuation conventions and US versus UK spellings. PerfectIt cuts the time on more than half of the challenges above, giving you the confidence to focus on the more strategic and procedural aspects of bidding on OJEU contracts. Proofread your next bid document for free with our free 14-day trial.

OJEU FAQ

What is the OJEU?

The Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) is the online journal or web portal that publishes all public sector contract opportunities over a certain threshold. The journal consists of three sections – the L, C and S Series. The S Series is a Supplement to the Official Journal that contains all the public procurement notices and awards that are valued above a threshold level from across the EU. This is the one that you will most need to be aware of.

What is its purpose?

The OJEU process and threshold are there to enforce EU regulations in providing transparency and fairness within procurement of goods and services.

What are the current thresholds?

As of 1st January 2020, these are the approximate thresholds (excluding VAT) over which it is compulsory for all contracts to be published in the OJEU:

 

Supply, Service and Design Contracts

Works Contracts

Social and Other Specific Services

Central Government

£124,000

£4,734,000

£664,000

Other Contracting Authorities

£189,000

£4,734,000

£664,000

Small Lots

£71,000

£885,000

N/A

*Source: Thornton & Lowe, October 2020.

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