The main challenge is time
Firstly, there is a time limit by which you have to procure services (as well as works and supplies). This time limit is called the D+3 rule. You have to finalise the service contract procedure (e.g. sign the service contract with the contractor) within 3 years from the date of signature of the Financing Agreement between the European Commission and the competent authority in your country (usually the Ministry of Finance or similar).
Secondly, investing enough time in preparing a good quality tender dossier is crucial to reduce the number of clarifications to be given to tenderers. Facilitate the evaluation of offers and avoid major problems during the next phases, particularly in the implementation of the project activities (including the risk of addenda).
Minimum requirements and maximum scores
In a service tender dossier, the most important documents are:
the Terms of Reference (ToR): within this document, the most important section is probably section 6 “Requirements”. This section includes the requirements for the experts’ profiles and the description of the incidental expenditure. If these parts are not formulated prudently you may lose time later, when evaluating the received offers and during the project implementation.
- The experts’ profiles must be drafted in such a way that selected experts will be able to perform satisfactorily the requested activities. However, the criteria should be as broad as possible, in order to avoid discriminating certain categories of experts and reducing the competition. Bear in mind that these requirements are minimum requirements, not the description of the “ideal expert”.
- The provision for incidental expenditure should be calculated carefully, and while the amount should be kept at a minimum, it should allow the contractor to cover the necessary ancillary costs related to the project implementation. Additionally, consider that the provision for incidental expenditure is merely a maximum overall amount for all eligible incidental costs and that it must not be broken down in the tender dossier (nor in the ToR nor in the budget template).
- The evaluation grid which will set up the scoring criteria to be used during the evaluation phase. Decide carefully the relative maximum score for each set of requirements for each key expert, as these scores have a major impact on the overall technical score of the tenders.
- The Instructions to Tenderers which, as good practice, should be compiled just before the finalisation of the tender dossier, in order to avoid inconsistencies with the ToR of the service contract and the overall project/programme planned timeline.
More on EU Aid service contracts
Learn more on financial and contractual procedures applicable to procurement of services in EU funded projects, and how to minimise risks and problems in your role as contracting authority during our three-day intensive training course in Brussels. Our in-house trainer Roberto Trevini Bellini, who has hands-on experience of EU service contracts acquisition and management, delivers the course.