A surprisingly high proportion of the standstill letters we see do not comply fully with the requirements of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 (as amended). In this post - using a highly unscientific sampling method to generate the list(!) - we flag the top five reasons why.

  1. Mistake 1: wrong standstill expiry date. The standstill letter should set out when the standstill period ends. Many letters fail to do this at all, but of those that do, quite a few give the wrong date. Try this test: You send all the letters electronically on 14th August 2013 - is the last day of standstill (a) 24 August, (b) 25 August, (c) 26 August, or (d) 27 August? The answer is below, but while you ponder that, let's move on to...
  2. Mistake 2: not setting out the award criteria. Yes, we know you put the criteria in the ITT, but the Regulations require you to list them again. And do check the criteria you list accurately match the criteria given earlier in the procurement process...
  3. Mistake 3: not naming all the winning bidders. The Regulations require contracting authorities to give the full names of each winner. This is particularly an issue for frameworks, where all those appointed to the framework should be named in the award letter.
  4. Mistake 4: only giving overall scores. In most cases, contracting authorities should provide a score breakdown to allow bidders to understand where they have not done so well. Care does need to be taken not to inadvertently disclose confidential information in a standstill letter - do check that the scores and criteria do not allow the recipient to "reverse engineer" the evaluation and discover confidential pricing detail.
  5. Mistake 5: not providing bespoke reasons. Unsuccessful bidders should be told the reasons for the decision including the characteristics and relative advantages of the winning bidder. The use of "relative" means that this requires a comparison exercise between the winning and unsuccessful bids - it is not sufficient simply to state: "the winning bid scored well on xx". Contracting authorities should also explain why the unsuccessful bidder did not score so well eg "the winning bidder provided a more detailed explanation of their business continuity strategy and offered examples which were not provided in your bid".

That's enough mistakes for now! So, back to our quiz question.

The answer is (d). Remember, the standstill period is not always 10 days - the last day of standstill must be a working day - not a weekend or bank holiday. And don't forget that if you don't send the standstill letter electronically or by fax, the length of the standstill period increases by up to a further 5 days. If in doubt, try our handy standstill calculator.