Tender preparation and assessment times need to be adequate; they should be programmed into a realistic timetable which gives sufficient time for the engineer and the contractor to carry out their duties. A contractor faced with a set of contract documents has to absorb much information, get many quotations, and consider all options. For a small job even 4 weeks’ tendering time may fall short of his needs; for major projects up to 3 months’ tendering time may be needed to ensure that tenderers have time to consider all their strategies and put their best price forward.
Not less than two sets of documents should be sent to each of the contractors on a selected list and, if a substantial amount of specialist input is specified, further
copies of the parts of the documents covering these specialist requirements ought to be supplied for the contractor to send to his specialist suppliers. Electronic supply of documents and drawings may help tenderers particularly if time is short or if suppliers are to be sought from around the world. Employers sometimes consider tenderers should pay for all sets of documents they receive; this may be prudent when open-tendering is adopted in order to prevent frivolous enquiries, the payment being returned to contractors who submit proper tenders. For selected tenderers, payment should be unnecessary except when a tenderer makes an unreasonable demand for extra copies. In whatever manner tender documents are sent to contractors, details of their despatch should be logged, and each tenderer should acknowledge receipt. All drawings and specifications should eventually be returned to the employer.
During the tendering period it may be necessary to issue amendments to tender documents. These may stem from errors and inconsistencies coming to light, queries raised by tenderers and changed requirements by the employer.
Each amendment should be numbered, and a copy sent to every tenderer, with a request for him to acknowledge its receipt. If any query is raised by a tenderer (even by telephone) and the answer given to him provides him with additional or clarified information, this information must be confirmed in writing and the same information must be sent to all other tenderers; but the identity of the tenderer raising the query should not be disclosed.
Too many amendments should be avoided since they can cause disruption to tenderers and may lead to requests for extension of the tendering time. Minor errors found in the specification or drawings should not be circulated; they should be noted for correction at a later stage. If the employer requires some important change, careful consideration must be given as to whether tenderers should be advised of it, or whether the change should be held back to be dealt with when making the award of tender, or by issuing a variation order after the award of contract. Amendments should not be issued late in the tendering period. Requests received from contractors for extension of the tendering time can be avoided by giving adequate prior notice to selected contractors as to when tender documents will be issued, and giving sufficient tendering time.
No extension of tendering time should be allowed if any tender has already been received, even though it remains unopened.
Sometimes pre-tender meetings are held which all tenderers are invited to attend; they are usually addressed by the employer who wishes to clarify some special aspect of the proposed project or give information concerning some important query raised by a tenderer. Preferably such meetings should be avoided because they can provide opportunities which undermine the independent nature of competitive bids. However, visits to inspect sites will need to be paid by tenderers. If such site visits are made in the company of the employer’s engineer or one of his assistants, the engineer must be careful to provide only factual answers to queries raised. Should this provide a visiting tenderer with additional information this will need to be sent out to all tenderers.
It is better if the tenderer visiting is accompanied, if need be, by a guide who is not directly connected with the contract, any queries being noted and dealt with formally after the visit.