Last edited 07 Sep 2022

Expression of interest for construction contracts

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An expression of interest (sometimes referred to as 'request to participate') is a submission made by a prospective tenderer in response to an advert (or contract notice) for the supply of goods or services.

Advertising to request expressions of interest is one way that a client can compile a list of potential suppliers that it may invite to tender. Other methods include recommendations, research, maintaining a pre-selected list of possible suppliers based on their track record, or asking consultants to prepare a list.

Requesting expressions of interest is a form of open tendering that allows anyone to put themselves forward. It offers the greatest competition and has the advantage of allowing new or emerging suppliers to try to secure work. However, it has been criticised for attracting expressions of interest from large numbers of suppliers, some of whom may be entirely unsuitable for the contract and as a result it can waste a time, effort and money.

An advert requesting expressions of interest might be placed online or in the print press. There are a number of specialist websites that compile details of contracts and portals that allow clients to standardise submission procedures. If the contract is for supply to a public body it may be necessary to follow OJEU procedures, and advertise in the Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union. At least, this will be the position until the UK leaves the EU.

An advert requesting expressions of interest might include:

  1. Contact details.
  2. Description of company, which may include financial information.
  3. Relevant experience and technical capacity.
  4. Staff experience and availability.
  5. References.

Use of a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) can ensure that submissions are all made in the same format and provide the same information for ease of comparison. However, this can give suppliers additional work as it means they have to re-format their documentation to suit the PQQ. Standardised PQQs, such as PAS 91 (Publicly Available Specification), can help reduce this burden and systems such as Construction Line allow tenderers to provide pre-qualification information just once that can then be presented to multiple potential clients.

The details submitted in an expression of interest can allow the client to reduce the number of companies that will actually be invited to submit tenders. On larger projects, there may be an additional pre-qualification process following submission of expressions of interest. This might involve issuing PQQs (if this has not already been done), financial checks and even pre-tender interviews.

The tender process can be a long one, and so to avoid potential delays, expressions of interest should be sought as early as it is practical to do so. For the main construction contract, this might be when planning approval is received.

OJEU procedures (for public projects) in particular can be very slow (up to 52 days). Ideally, contracts for goods or services that might arise during the course of the project and could be subject to the OJEU procurement rules should be advertised at the outset of the project or soon as possible afterwards. Failure to advertise such contracts well in advance of the goods or services actually being required could result in long delays.

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