The saga of the UK government and large language services contracts will soon be adding a new chapter. Come March 11, 2016, the UK will implement an estimated £40 million ($56 million) new language services Framework Agreement. The tender documentation runs at an impressive 280 pages and will probably see a few bid managers put in a night shift or two. The schedule is tight. Interested vendors only have up until February 1, 2016 to submit tenders and up to January 20, 2016 to send clarification questions. The tender is run by the Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO), a buying organization jointly owned by six member authorities:
- Leicestershire County Council
- Lincolnshire County Council
- Cambridgeshire County Council
- Norfolk County Council
- Warwickshire County Council
- Peterborough City Council
Potential to Go Nationwide
The ESPO provides procurement services and support for public sector clients from across the UK. They run this RFP together with the Yorkshire Purchasing Organization (YPO), a similar non-profit purchasing consortium.
The new Framework Agreement pre-vets at least six to ten vendors of interpretation, translation, and transcription services for each categorized service lot and sub-lot. The Framework Agreement aims to make it easier and more accessible for the public sector to procure language services from pre-approved vendors.
The Framework Agreement will take effect initially for the ESPO member authorities listed above. However, the eventual aim is to apply it across a number of very large national authorities including the UK’s huge National Health Service. The expansion may include:
- Local Authority Councils
- Educational Establishments, including Academies
- Police, Fire & Rescue and Coastguard Emergency Services
- National Health Service (NHS) and Health & Social Care for Northern Ireland (HSC) Bodies, including Ambulance Services;
- Central Government Departments and their Agencies
- Registered Charities
- Registered Social Landlords
Contract Value Between £20 to £60 Million over Two Years
ESPO pegs the value of the framework at £10 to £30 million annually. The wide range is likely due to the ESPO’s inability to force authorities to work with vetted vendors. It can only provide a strong recommendation. In addition, the selected vendors will be expected to do their own business development and marketing to win business from the authorities covered by the framework. The contract term is for a maximum of four years. It starts on March 11, 2016 and will initially last two years up to March 18, 2018. After that, the contract with the selected vendors may be extended by two years.
Being selected does not guarantee business, though. Clients using the Framework can conduct further competition of pre-approved vendors. The ESPO expects, however, that further vetting processes would be reduced and bidding processes should be easier because the vendors are pre-approved.
Both the ESPO and YPO will actively promote the use of the Framework. In a nice twist to public sector financing, ESPO and YPO’s work is funded by the vendors themselves through a quarterly rebate of 1% applied to the total value of any tender acquired through the Framework.
The Framework Agreement’s lots are composed of the following:
- Lot 1 – Face to Face Interpretation Services (Verbal)
- Lot 2 – Face to Face Interpretation Services (Non-Verbal)
- Lot 3 – Telephone Interpretation Services
- Lot 4 – Video Interpretation Services (Verbal)
- Lot 5 – Video Interpretation Services (Non-Verbal)
- Lot 6 –Translation, Transcription and Additional Services
- Lot 7 – Managed Services for all Interpretation, Translation and Transcription Services
Lots 1 and 2 are further divided into sub-lots based on geographical region. Interested vendors are not required to be able to provide all the above services in all required locations. They can bid for the lots where their service applies.
The RFP provided a procurement timeline for interested vendors:
|Stage / Activity||Indicative Date|
|Contract notice in OJEU placed||12/22/2015|
|Invitation to Tender document issued||12/24/2015|
|Closing date for clarification questions||1/20/2016|
|Closing date for submission of tenders||2/1/2016|
|Evaluation of tenders||2/19/2016|
|Contract start date||3/11/2016|
Price is 40% of the Battle
In the RFP’s award criteria, price will account for 40% of the total score and non-pricing factors will account for 60%. Non-pricing metrics evaluated by ESPO and YPO include the full menu of RFP goodness:
- Compliance with contract regulations
- Financial stability
- Equality and diversity
- Health and safety
- Environmental management
- Business continuity
- Core specifications
- Terms and conditions
For pricing, the score will depend on the pricing of services for specific lots and sub-lots and calculated by the formula: Lowest Rate / Tenderers Rate x Price Score. Pricing will also be affected by so called “rare languages.” The Framework Agreement will apply to the following languages, among which are designated “rare:”
|* Rare languages, along with Gurmukhi, which is not listed.|
The designation of “rare” language will also depend on the client, lot, or sub-lot. The non-price score will be assessed through answers provided to prepared method statements based on a scoring scale of 0 to 4.