An award letter is the decision notice sent out to all successful supplier(s) once the evaluation decision has been made. The despatch of a valid award letter, together with letters to unsuccessful suppliers, represents the start of the important standstill stage in the procurement process. As such, it is one which it is important to get right in order to manage the legal risk of a challenge and to avoid unnecessary delay to the award of the contract.
There are the following general points to bear in mind when drafting an award letter/decision notice to be sent to the successful bidder(s):
- Make sure that the letter does not imply that the contracting authority accepts the offer made by the supplier, as any such acceptance is likely to be binding, and this is not appropriate until the standstill period has expired
- Make sure the notice does not amount to a representation by the contracting authority that it will definitely proceed to accept the supplier’s offer provided that there is no legal challenge during the standstill period
- Given that the contracting authority is likely to be entering into contractual relations with the successful bidder, the aim is to draft the award notice in a positive way that gives encouragement and comfort to the successful bidder, while at the same time ensuring that the contracting authority does not commit itself to any binding legal obligations at this stage
The law in this area has been changed by the Public Contracts (Amendment) Regulations 2009, and there is as yet little guidance available on the detailed requirements relating to award letters issued under the new Regulations. At the time of writing, for example, it is not entirely clear how much detail needs to be included on the characteristics and relative advantages of the winning bid.
Two forms of template award letter are provided below. The first is for use only in procurements commenced before 20 December 2009. The second can be used in any procurement. A procurement process will have "commenced" for these purposes if, before 20 December 2009:
- A contract notice has been sent to the Official Journal in order to invite offers or requests to be selected to tender for or to negotiate in respect of the proposed contract or framework agreement
- The contracting authority has had published any form of advertisement seeking offers or expressions of interest in the proposed contract or framework agreement, or
- The contracting authority has contacted any supplier in order to (i) seek expressions of interest or offers in respect of the proposed contract or framework agreement; or (ii) respond to an unsolicited expression of interest or offer received from that supplier in relation to the proposed contract or framework agreement
Note that these documents are templates and will require tailoring to add the relevant detail. In particular, note that where there is more than one successful supplier (such as a framework agreement with multiple suppliers) the award letter must contain the relevant information for each successful supplier.
The award letters and letters to unsuccessful bidders should all be despatched at the same time.
Award letter for procurements commenced before 20 December 2009
This should be sent to all successful suppliers.
> Download the award letter pre 20/12/09 (Microsoft Word document)
Award letter for procurements commenced on or after 20 December 2009
This should be sent to all successful suppliers. This second form of letter can also be used for procurements commenced before 20 December 2009.
> Download the award letter post 20/12/09 (Microsoft Word document)