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Last edited 27 Feb 2019
Common mistakes in construction tenders
A tender is a submission made by a prospective supplier in response to an invitation to tender. It makes an offer for the supply of goods or services. Tender documents are prepared to seek tenders (offers).
Ideally, tender documents should be broken down into a series of packages, each with its own design drawings and specifications suitable to be issued by the main contractor to potential sub-contractors. It is important, when this is done, to ensure that the interfaces between packages are properly identified and clearly allocated to one package or another. Having too many packages increases the number of interfaces and so the potential problems.
 Inaccurate costings
Typically a tender pricing document will be provided to be completed by tenderers. This makes it easier for those reviewing the tender bids to compare the various submissions. If this is incorrect, the final prices, and the rest of the estimate, may be discarded.
Adequate time must be taken to fully review the plans and specifications to be able to provide accurate measurements. Care should be taken to ensure that measurements draw from the most appropriate tender documents, and that the notes are carefully consulted (for example, some plans may provide instructions as to whether or not to scale the drawings or use separate dimensions included in the specifications).
It is also important to obtain accurate and competitive prices from subcontractors to include in the bid price. This means that the scope of work/services being requested from subcontractors must be clearly defined in order to avoid unnecessary or inaccurate costs being incorporated within the tender bid.
 Incorrect formatting
Tenderers can be penalised or disqualified if they do not conform with the specified formatting. Different types of tender may require specific documents to be submitted. They may also require multiple copies to be submitted or different formats (e.g. a version of the bid without pricing information; or an Excel-format document to be submitted for a part of one package), so that different members of the procurement team can review the bid. Therefore, it is important to be meticulous in checking that the tender meets the required formatting and number/type of copies.
 Missing information
Tenderers can also be penalised or disqualified if there is required information that is missing, i.e. a question is left unanswered. Sometimes the bidder may be allowed to provide the information that is missing, although this cannot be guaranteed. Another common mistake is forgetting to sign all the necessary documents in the tender, or using the wrong company name.
 Misunderstanding the specifications and client’s requirements
The tender submission needs to demonstrate that the bidder understands the requirements and needs of the client and has considered them carefully in the development of their design. Therefore, submissions that are generic rather than bespoke are unlikely to be successful.
Since every construction site is different, failing to visit it prior to submitting a tender can mean that the bidder does not have as comprehensive an understanding of the requirements of the project, the needs of the client, and the likely conditions that will need to be considered within the bid. This can also be a problem if the bid is successful and issues become apparent once work begins.
When completing a bid, it is important that the tenderer ensures they have access to the plant and equipment that will be necessary to complete the works. If the resources are owned by the tenderer this will involve checking that they will be available at the time and for the duration required, and that they are all in good working condition and unlikely to require time and cost-intensive maintenance.
If they are not owned, they will need to be capable of being hired or purchased from an external source, and these costs must be carefully considered.
A tender bid that contains spelling and grammatical mistakes, while not necessarily disqualifying the tenderer, may present the client with an unprofessional impression. To avoid this, documents should be carefully checked and proof-read to correct any errors before sending to the client.
 Understanding obligations
It is vital that tenderers fully understand the obligations they will be expected to sign up to if they are successful.
 Late submission
Failing to submit a tender by the stated deadline is likely to result in the bid being disqualified. Careful planning and time management should be employed by the tenderer to avoid having to rush to complete the bid on time as this may result in more errors being made.
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