Frequently Asked Questions

Please find below some frequently asked questions which are designed to help you understand how to make best use of our framework agreements:

Q1. What is a framework agreement?

It is an agreement 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.

Q2. What element of choice is available when using the framework agreements?

A framework will typically have a range of suppliers who are able to service either one or more of the available lots.

Q3. Am I eligible to use the frameworks?

Although our frameworks were originally intended for use by Fire and Rescue Services, the OJEU notices placed stated that they would be available for use by a much wider array of public bodies including (but not limited to) MoD, NHS bodies, Local Authorities, Police Authorities, Educational Establishments, Utilities and Registered Charities.

The public bodies that are able to access the frameworks will be listed in the OJEU notice and the framework documents, so please check you are eligible to use the framework prior to placing an order. If you are uncertain of your eligibility, please contact us on 0845 3307765 or email enquiries@fireandrescue.co.uk.

Q4. What are the benefits of using a framework?

As well as offering the benefits that these frameworks were originally set up for, such as value for money and easier, less time consuming legislatively compliant procurement, The Consortium Fire and Rescue offers the invaluable service of advising and aiding purchasing bodies throughout the procurement process to fulfil your requirement.

Our frameworks ensure that you remain fully compliant whilst saving substantial resource with regards to the administrative work involved around implementing a full tendering process. We work closely with both suppliers and procurement officers to ensure that our frameworks offer purchasing bodies a solution to their procurement needs whilst ensuring that they have access to market leading technology.

Q5. How do I use the framework?

The Members area of the The Consortium Fire and Rescue website contains the necessary forms and guidance on how to use the frameworks. Users of frameworks are referred to as purchasing bodies that can award 'call-off' contracts against the framework; the process of 'calling-off' may include undertaking a mini competition. The Consortium Fire and Rescue will provide advice and support to any purchasing body wishing to use a framework including at all stages of a mini competition.

Q6. What is the benefit of The Consortium helping us with our mini competition?

With over 40 years of procurement experience, The Consortium can assist you with your mini-competition to ensure you are fully compliant throughout the process.

We like to have an active involvement with our customers and by using The Consortium to aid you with your mini competition you can save invaluable time and resource whilst ensuring that your procurement requirements are met in the most efficient way, all at no additional cost to the customer.

Whether you simply require some advice or guidance for your mini competition or would like The Consortium to run your mini competition completely on your behalf, we are more than happy to be involved in any respect so please feel free to contact us if you would like more information on how we can assist you.

Q7. When would I do a 'call-off' against the framework without a mini competition?

Unless you have a straightforward requirement, The Consortium Fire and Rescue recommends that you always carry out a mini competition because it is the best way to minimise any allegations of unfairness, lack of transparency or discrimination that could lead to the risk of a legal challenge. However, it is not necessary to do a mini competition when:

  • Buying spares or accessories for an existing set/range of equipment
  • There is only one supplier that can meet the user requirement
  • The requirement is small e.g. one-off replacement of existing kit

When using the framework without a mini competition goods can be called off using the terms agreed when the framework itself was first established.

Q8. When would I do a 'call-off' against the framework with a mini competition?

As set out above a mini competition should be undertaken to minimise any allegations of unfairness, lack of transparency or discrimination that could lead to the risk of a legal challenge. Furthermore a mini competition will address the need for an individual FRA (Fire and Rescue Authority???) to meet its standing orders and financial governance arrangements. In addition a mini competition can be used:

  • To ensure best value for money is achieved on major purchases in terms of volume and/or cost
  • When purchasing for an entire FRA or Region and more than one supplier can meet the user requirement
  • If the framework is not precise enough for you to identify the best value supplier

Q9. What documentation is required to invite suppliers to participate in the mini competition and where will I find it?

A template(s) is available for completion by the purchasing body it can be found in the Members area of the The Consortium Fire and Rescue website. The complexity of the purchasing bodies' requirements will determine whether the content of the template is straight forward or complicated.

Q10. Can I use a different template?

It is advisable to use the The Consortium Fire and Rescue template which is consistent with the EU procurement regulations. Any deviation may fall outside what is permissible and legal.

Q11. Do I need to set up separate terms and conditions?

No - The Consortium Fire and Rescue has set out all the terms and conditions in the Framework procurement process.

Q12. Is it necessary to conduct trials as part of a mini competition?

Some of the frameworks have had product trials undertaken as part of the evaluation process. For other frameworks, it has been assumed that purchasing bodies will be trialling the equipment prior to placing an order to ensure it meets their individual requirements.

By following this process it allows us to include the most up-to-date products on the framework, without having to undertake lengthy trials, which most likely will be repeated at mini-competition stage.

If you are unsure as to whether product trials have been completed, please contact us for further information.

Q13. Can I ask the suppliers to provide samples of equipment for viewing and evaluation?

You can ask suppliers to provide a sample set of equipment to view and evaluate e.g. to test compatibility with other equipment.

Q14. What information should the suppliers be asked to provide during the mini competition?

Suppliers should only be asked to provide information relevant to the user requirement and delivery information as requested in the invitation to participate in the mini competition. It should be noted that there is no scope, at this stage, to select a supplier, based on technical ability, financial standing etc. These issues were addressed before the framework itself had been awarded and it is not appropriate or necessary to repeat this. The Consortium Fire and Rescue can provide more information on what has already been evaluated if it is required.

Q15. Does the mandatory 10 day standstill (Alcatel) rule apply to a mini competition?

No, although we do recommend implementing a voluntary standstill period at mini-competition stage.

Q16. Who do I need to notify of the outcome of the mini competition?

The suppliers should be notified and de-briefed on their own bid. The Consortium Fire and Rescue strongly recommends that suppliers are debriefed on the outcomes of mini competitions so they understand the reasons as to why they may or may not have been successful. The debrief should help them to identify where they need to improve in any future bids. In addition to suppliers you should notify The Consortium Fire and Rescue (before and after a mini competition) so that we are aware of the overall position regarding use of the framework.

Q17. When can the order be placed?

As soon as the call off contract (either with or without a mini competition) is signed by both the contracting authority and supplier. All purchase orders should quote our framework reference number. If you do not quote the framework number on the order then you will not be protected by the terms and conditions of the framework, and the purchase may be viewed as non-compliant.

Q18. What guarantee will there be that the purchase price will not rise significantly and how will best value be met?

This depends on the framework but generally prices are fixed for an initial period followed by an annual price review in which prices can go down as well as up. The ease of procurement using the mini competition and the competitive prices within the framework, mean users will save time and money in the procurement process and gain from the economies of scale.

Q19. 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. New products may be subject to trials at the suppliers' expense. The outcome of the trials will be used to determine if the product is added to the framework.

Q20. 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 process.

Help

For help in relation to using frameworks and mini competitions or any further information, please contact enquiries@fireandrescue.co.uk.