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Breaking down the ‘barriers’ to public sector tendering

Many SMME's are not convinced that public sector tendering is for them.

Public sector procurement has a stigma of being complex and a huge investment for the tenderer. With procurement processes that entail a more formal tendering approach than some private sector opportunities, I can understand why this may initially feel like a more significant commitment. However, it really isn’t as complex or investment heavy as it might first seem.

 Below are some of the more common reasons I’ve heard regarding why some SMMEs are put off public sector procurement opportunities:

At this point I have extensive experience in tendering for hundreds of millions of rands worth of opportunities, however I can understand where these concerns are originating from. I want to address each concern in order to open up the world of South African public sector procurement to you.

UNCERTAINTY AROUND HOW TO ACCESS OPPORTUNITIES

Public sector opportunities with a value greater than R50,000 for goods and services, and R2million and above for works, must be advertised for tender. It is free to register on the https://etenders.treasury.gov.za/ website. Contracts with a lower value than these thresholds are likely to be managed by the business service manager within the public sector organisation. You need to make them aware of your services to be included in their supplier lists. There are other routes into public sector opportunities beyond this however, this is a great starting point and further explanation of these routes really requires its own blog!

PUBLIC SECTOR TENDERING IS PERCEIVED AS CUMBERSOME

The tender process can be time consuming however there is a big return when you secure a long-term contract. If you were to work out the time you spend on bid activities for certain private sector clients, you might find there is not much difference. It is just that the energy spent on winning the public sector contract is condensed into a far shorter time frame.

UNFAMILIAR WITH THE FORMAL TENDERING PROCESSES

Much like anything new, it takes practice to become familiar and more efficient with the tendering process. The documents you will be issued by the public body should take you through everything you need to know. However, it is likely that you will spend a lot more time than is necessary getting to grips with the process and terminology used if you do not have an experienced member on your team. The good news is, there are options with this.

 For many who wear multiple hats in a company the time commitment is not feasible. It can make sense to bring in experienced expertise to support you targeting the public sector. Getting support with familiarizing you and your team with the tendering process the first couple of times you target public sector opportunities is worth the investment in the long run. Especially if this is considered key to your strategy or you have identified a particularly attractive opportunity coming up.

THE PERCEPTION THAT PUBLIC SECTOR ORGANISATIONS ONLY WANT TO WORK WITH BIG COMPANIES

In South Africa, public bodies are required by law to ensure their procurement practices are accessible to SMMEs. There is an active drive to encourage SMMEs to tender for public sector work. Figures quoted on the Government’s website show that the majority of contracts are awarded to SMMEs.

YOU’VE TRIED IT BEFORE, IT TOOK A LOT OF TIME AND EFFORT, YOU DIDN’T WIN AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHY

Your frustration is shared with many. Remember that this scenario will not be specific to public sector tendering. There are likely to be many times where you tried something new and didn’t get the results you wanted - did you get up and try again? Or should I say, did you get up and try again having learnt some lessons?

 Public bodies should issue everyone who tendered with detailed feedback that they can learn from. If you did not receive this then you should request it from the procurement point of contact. You can also request a call to discuss the feedback if this has not already been offered to you. This gives you an opportunity to understand the buyer more, clarify feedback and gain further detail.

Doing something with this feedback is critical and is the most efficient way to increase your bid score.

 If you are considering public sector tendering, or if you find you are tendering for private sector work and would benefit from some guidance then get in touch with us at info@anmatsimela.co.za

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