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Public Contract Tendering an Exercise in Brinksmanship

In a case which illustrated the level of brinksmanship often involved in competing for public contracts, a company which lost out by a hair’s breadth on a local authority property repair and maintenance contract worth millions of pounds has failed to convince the High Court that the tendering process was fatally flawed.

The company had provided services to the council under a previous contract and was bitterly disappointed when a rival emerged the winner. Although the company had quoted the lowest price, it had narrowly failed to match its competitor’s ‘quality score’ and, overall, came second by a fraction of one point.

It launched proceedings against the council, claiming numerous breaches of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006. However, in dismissing the claim, the Court found that the tendering criteria were clear, precise and unequivocal.

Previous tensions in the company’s contractual relationship with the council had not been illegitimately taken into account. The quality element of the tender had also been appropriately scored and the Court could identify no ‘manifest error’ in the council’s handling of the tendering exercise.