Tendering: Open, Restricted and Negotiated approaches

22/03/2024 0 By indiafreenotes

Tendering is a formal procurement process used by organizations to invite bids for large projects or procurement of goods and services. This competitive bidding process is designed to foster transparency and fairness, ensuring that the selection of vendors or contractors is based on merit and value for money. During tendering, the organization issuing the tender (the buyer) outlines the specifications of the product or service needed, along with any criteria for selection, in a document known as a ‘tender request’ or ‘invitation to tender’. Interested suppliers or contractors (the bidders) then prepare and submit their proposals, or ‘Tenders’, in accordance with the tender document’s instructions. These submissions typically include pricing, timelines, and detailed plans on how the requirements will be met. After the closing date, the buyer evaluates all received tenders against the defined criteria and selects the most suitable bid. Tendering is commonly used in public sector procurement and large private sector projects to ensure accountability and obtain the best possible outcome.

Tendering Characteristics:

  • Competitive Process:

Tendering is inherently competitive, aiming to attract multiple bids to ensure value for money and innovation.

  • Formal Procedure:

It follows a formal, standardized procedure to ensure fairness, transparency, and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

  • Specification of Requirements:

Detailed specifications or requirements are provided to ensure that all bidders have a clear understanding of what is expected.

  • Public or Limited Invitation:

Tenders can be open to all suppliers (open tendering) or limited to pre-selected suppliers (restricted tendering).

  • Evaluation Criteria:

Clear criteria for evaluating bids are established and communicated upfront, often including cost, quality, capability, and delivery time.

  • Binding Offers:

Bids are legally binding offers, with bidders committed to fulfilling the contract terms if selected.

  • Confidentiality:

The tendering process maintains the confidentiality of bids to ensure a fair evaluation process.

  • Transparency:

Despite confidentiality, the process is designed to be transparent, with rules and criteria clearly communicated to all participants.

  • Deadline Driven:

The process operates within strict deadlines for submission, evaluation, and awarding of the tender.

  • Awarding Criteria:

The contract is typically awarded to the bidder who best meets the evaluation criteria, which may not always be the lowest price.

  • Legal and Regulatory Compliance:

The process must comply with national or international procurement laws and regulations.

  • Appeal Mechanisms:

Provides mechanisms for unsuccessful bidders to appeal or request feedback, enhancing transparency and fairness.

Tendering Cons:

  • Time-Consuming Process:

Tendering can be a lengthy process, from preparing the tender documents to evaluating bids and finally awarding the contract. This extended timeline might not be suitable for projects requiring immediate action or rapid procurement.

  • High Costs for Bidders:

The process of preparing bids is often expensive and resource-intensive, particularly for smaller businesses. These costs can deter high-quality suppliers who might not have the resources to participate in multiple or complex tenders.

  • Complexity and Bureaucracy:

Tendering procedures can be complex, involving strict compliance with regulatory requirements and extensive documentation. This bureaucracy can be a barrier for some suppliers and may lead to errors or misunderstandings.

  • Potential for Limited Innovation:

Given that tendering often emphasizes cost and compliance with specific requirements, it may limit the potential for innovative solutions. Suppliers might prioritize meeting the tender’s criteria over proposing creative or more effective alternatives.

  • Risk of Lowest Bid Quality Compromise:

There’s a risk that the contract may be awarded to the lowest bidder who may not necessarily provide the best value or quality. This “race to the bottom” can result in subpar outcomes for the project.

  • Lack of Flexibility:

Once a tender is issued, making changes to the scope or requirements can be difficult without restarting the tendering process. This lack of flexibility can be problematic for projects where needs evolve over time.

  • Restricted Supplier Engagement:

In restricted and negotiated tendering, only pre-selected suppliers are invited to bid, which might exclude potentially more suitable suppliers. This limited engagement can prevent the client from exploring all available options and innovations in the market.

Open Tendering approaches:

Open tendering is a procurement method where an invitation to tender is publicly advertised, allowing any qualified supplier to submit a bid. This approach is designed to foster fair competition, transparency, and equal opportunity for all vendors, regardless of their size or market standing. Open tendering is widely used in public sector procurement and large-scale private sector projects, where accountability and the need to achieve value for money are paramount.

Key Approaches to Open Tendering:

  1. Public Advertisements:

Tenders are advertised through public channels such as official government websites, trade journals, newspapers, and online tender portals. This ensures that the tender opportunity reaches a wide audience.

  1. Standardized Bidding Documents:

To maintain fairness, standardized documents are provided to all interested bidders, detailing the scope of work, submission requirements, evaluation criteria, and contractual terms.

  1. Unrestricted Access:

Any company that meets the basic prequalification criteria is allowed to submit a bid. This ensures that the process is open to as many suppliers as possible, enhancing competition.

  1. Transparent Evaluation Process:

Bids are evaluated based on predefined criteria, such as price, technical capability, and experience. The process is transparent to ensure that the selection is fair and solely based on merit.

  1. Feedback for Non-selected Bidders:

Providing feedback to bidders who were not selected can be part of open tendering, contributing to a transparent process and helping suppliers improve future bids.

Restricted Tendering approaches:

Restricted tendering is a procurement method that limits the request for bids to a select group of suppliers. Unlike open tendering, where any interested supplier can submit a bid, restricted tendering involves pre-selecting suppliers based on certain criteria before inviting them to tender. This approach is often used when the nature of the goods or services requires specific skills, experience, or when the procurement entity wants to limit the tender process to suppliers it deems capable of delivering the required quality and value. Here are key approaches to restricted tendering:

  1. Prequalification of Suppliers

Before the tendering process begins, potential suppliers are asked to demonstrate their qualifications, experience, financial stability, and capability to deliver the required goods or services. This prequalification process helps in identifying suppliers that are capable of fulfilling the contract requirements.

  1. Invitation to Selected Suppliers

Only suppliers that pass the prequalification stage are invited to submit bids. The invitation is not made public but is sent directly to the selected suppliers. This ensures that only those who have already been vetted for their capabilities and reliability are considered.

  1. Limited Competition

By restricting the number of bidders, the tendering entity can focus on a smaller pool of potentially more suitable suppliers, making the evaluation process more manageable and efficient. It also allows for more detailed comparison among the bids received.

  1. Confidentiality and Control

Restricted tendering can offer greater control over the procurement process and help maintain confidentiality, especially in industries where confidentiality and intellectual property concerns are paramount.

  1. Negotiations

In some cases, restricted tendering allows for negotiations with one or more suppliers after the initial bids are submitted but before the final contract is awarded. This can help to fine-tune the terms, conditions, and prices to better meet the needs of both parties.

  1. Faster Procurement Cycle

With fewer bids to evaluate and a clearer understanding of each bidder’s capabilities, the procurement cycle can be shorter compared to open tendering. This can be crucial when time is a significant factor.


Restricted tendering provides a balance between the need for competitive bidding and the efficiency of dealing with a pre-qualified pool of suppliers. However, it may raise questions about transparency and fairness, as potential suppliers not known to the procuring entity may be inadvertently excluded. Thus, ensuring a fair and transparent prequalification process is essential for the integrity of restricted tendering approaches.

Negotiated Tendering approaches:

Negotiated Tendering is a procurement method where the client invites selected suppliers to submit their bids and then negotiates terms, prices, or specifications with one or more of these suppliers before awarding the contract. This approach is often used when there are specific requirements, complex projects, or when the client has a preference for working with certain suppliers based on their expertise, reliability, and past performance. Negotiated tendering can be more flexible than open or restricted tendering methods, allowing for adjustments and optimizations that can benefit both the client and the supplier. Here are some key approaches within negotiated tendering:

  1. Single-Stage Negotiation

The client invites bids from a selected list of suppliers and enters into negotiations with one or more based on the initial proposals. Negotiations cover aspects such as price, delivery schedules, and specific terms and conditions, aiming to reach the best value agreement.

  1. Two-Stage Negotiation

In the first stage, suppliers submit their proposals focusing on technical solutions, without a price. The client reviews these for feasibility and compliance with the project requirements. In the second stage, pricing is discussed with technically acceptable suppliers, allowing for a detailed negotiation on cost based on a clear understanding of the technical proposals.

  1. Competitive Negotiation

Multiple suppliers are invited to submit proposals, and preliminary negotiations are held with several to explore their offers’ strengths and weaknesses. The field may then be narrowed to the most promising suppliers for further, more detailed negotiations.

  1. Framework Agreements with Mini-Competitions

Under a framework agreement, selected suppliers agree on terms and conditions for future contracts over a period. When a specific need arises, a mini-competition is held among those suppliers to fill the particular order, often followed by negotiations to finalize the contract details.

  1. Sequential Negotiations

The client negotiates with the preferred supplier to try and agree on a contract. If unsuccessful, negotiations then move to the next preferred supplier, and so on. This approach is used when a client has a clear preference ranking of suppliers but is willing to negotiate to achieve the best outcome.

  1. Partnering and Alliancing

This involves negotiations to establish a long-term partnership or alliance with a supplier for multiple projects or contracts. The focus is on creating a mutually beneficial relationship, sharing risks and rewards, and fostering continuous improvement and innovation.

Key differences between Open, Restricted and Negotiated approaches

Basis of Comparison Open Tendering Restricted Tendering Negotiated Tendering
Accessibility Public Limited to pre-selected By invitation only
Competitiveness High Moderate Low
Number of Bids Potentially very high Limited Very limited
Cost of Bidding Lower for each bidder Higher due to pre-qualification Higher due to negotiation processes
Transparency Very high Moderate to high Lower
Selection Criteria Predominantly price Price and capability Best-fit based on discussions
Procurement Speed Slower due to volume Faster than open Can be quicker due to direct negotiations
Supplier Relationships Impersonal More personal than open Highly personal
Flexibility Low Moderate High
Risk Management Standard risk mitigation Better risk control Tailored risk management
Innovation Potential Limited by tender specs Moderate High, through collaboration
Market Exposure Broad market exposure Reduced market exposure Minimal market exposure