Frequently asked questions
Please find below some useful guidance and frequently asked questions to help you understand some of the processes and procedures when using LUPC’s contracts and framework agreements.
LUPC staff are very happy to talk you through the use of framework agreements, and the various ways to call off from them. As this process varies from agreement to agreement, we recommend you read the agreement Buyer's Guide, available on GeM, or speak to the relevant LUPC Contract Manager - call 020 7863 1690 to be put through.
Q. What is a framework agreement?
It is an agreement or other arrangement between one or more contracting authorities and one or more economic operators which establishes the terms (in particular the terms as to price and, where appropriate, quantity) under which the economic operator (supplier) will enter into one or more contracts with a contracting authority in the period during which the framework agreement applies. Such agreements set out the terms and conditions for subsequent call-offs but place no obligations, in themselves, on the procurers to buy anything. With this approach, contracts are formed under the Regulations only when goods, works and services are called off under the agreement.
Q. What element of choice is there in framework agreements?
A framework will generally have one, three or more suppliers.
Q. How do I use the framework?
The Members area of the LUPC website contains the necessary forms and guidance on how to use the frameworks. Users of frameworks are referred to as purchasing bodies who can award 'call-off' contracts against the framework. The 'call-off' may involve carrying out a mini-competition. LUPC will provide advice and support to any purchasing body wishing to use a framework including at all stages of a mini-competition.
Q When do I need to undertake a mini-competition?
When accessing a multiple supplier framework agreement, institutions have the option of undertaking a further or mini-competition if not calling-off directly from the agreement. The attached guidance is to explain and simplify the process. ENPC Guidance Documentation
Q. Can upgraded and new products be added to the framework?
Yes - the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 do allow the upgrading of products on a framework agreement provided these are within the scope and specification of the original tender competition.
Q. Are there any advantages of the framework in terms of environmental/equality issues?
All suppliers are vetted and have to provide environmental and equality statements and policies during the tender.
Q: Are we permitted to vary the original weightings under mini-competitions?
Government guidelines have been published providing additional clarification on this matter.
Taken from Section 4.1
“Contracting authorities have some flexibility with regard to the award of call-off contracts within the following guidelines:
- for multi-supplier frameworks where a call-off is required following a mini-competition, it may be permissible to vary the weightings of the award criteria provided that the intention to do this was publicised in advance and ranges are given for each criterion, to ensure transparency and avoid the unequal treatment of any suppliers; and
- criteria used for mini-competitions may differ from the award criteria used to set up the framework if they are related to (i.e. derive from) the original award criteria.”
Depending on the nature of the agreement, an increasing number of frameworks open to LUPC members include specific instructions stating the method and degree to which participating institutions are permitted to vary the weightings of the original award criteria.
Q: Can we appoint more than one supplier?
The Directives state that creating ‘frameworks within frameworks' by selecting 2 or 3 approved suppliers either with or without some form of due process and then simply re-opening competition for each requirement should be avoided. You may, however, sub-divide your requirements at the time of competition and appoint a ‘specialist’ following the previously described guidelines. In IT for example, an institution could request separate bids within their specification for low-spec lab PCs, high-spec workstation-class machines, low-energy footprint PCs and ‘all-in-one’ solutions.
Equally and provided they are separately specified up front, an institution may create a single mini-competition using date-based requirements that leads to for example, one supplier winning business for an early summer roll-out but then another for a separately specified autumn-time delivery.
Q: The cost for us to change is likely to be quite a significant sum of money. Can we factor this into our decision when either calling-off or running a mini-competition?
Our understanding is that you are able to take reasonable account of the cost of change into your decision process. The institution would have to be quantifiably certain that the figure arrived at can be fully justified and have the calculations ready at the start of the process should it ever come into question. The most prudent line would be to include the figure within the mini-competition document to seek avoidance of a challenge around the introduction of additional evaluation criteria at a later stage and this influencing the final decision. Doing so may inevitably reduce the appetite of bidders to win the business and the incumbent may feel they don't have to sharpen their pricing model quite so tightly to retain the business. It would therefore be advisable to weigh up the pros and cons of its inclusion very carefully before commencement.