Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

Managing the procurement process for outsourced work

If you decide to outsource work, you should commence the procurement process as soon as possible.

Your local authority will have adopted standing orders or regulations relating to procurement and contracts. You should take advice from relevant staff at your local authority on the procedures to be followed and legal requirements for procuring supplies and services. This includes consideration of any equipment that you may need to procure for the training and processes you undertake in-house such as:

You will also need to have regard to the requirements of the Fees and Charges Order. 

You should document all stages of the procurement process. The risks of outsourcing should be clearly acknowledged in your documentation, with contingency arrangements identified and built into the process.

Good public procurement practice recommends obtaining at least three written quotations from prospective suppliers. Some local authorities may have a standing list of approved contractors who have already been through a tendering process. It may be more effective and economical to use such existing contractors and systems.

A detailed specification of requirements is essential for effective procurement, and should be developed for all outsourced work. Suppliers should be able to provide robust information on how they are going to deliver the work as required by the specification. As a minimum, the specification must:

  • include a detailed description of what you want them to deliver and when
  • provide clear instructions as to the necessary statutory requirements and obligations in relation to the particular work or services to be undertaken, such as directions as to printing and any content and layout requirements statutory deadlines
  • contain relevant information about any data that will be provided, including processes for sending and receipt, and secure management of data
  • be provided to all those invited to tender for the work, and the successful contractor must be able to meet all of the requirements of the specification
  • make it clear that the successful contractor should be producing work or delivering services according to the specification and that no changes should be made during fulfilment of the contract without prior authorisation

You should take steps to ensure that your selected contractor understands the requirements and has the experience and suitability to undertake the work being outsourced. The final price in the suppliers’ proposals should not be the only consideration in choosing a contractor. Each bid should be carefully considered to assess exactly what it offers.  

The focus should be on value for money, with the final decision being a judgement based on the contractor’s commitment to demonstrate: 

  • the best combination of the cost of the goods or service 
  • the ability to meet your requirements as laid out in the specification
  • the capability to complete the work on time and to a high standard
  • the provision of sufficient guarantees that the requirements of the data protection legislation will be met
  • that the appropriate checks will be made relating to the suppliers’ statements as to security, health and safety, and the secure handling of data

Contractors may sub-contract work out and you should give prior written consent before sub-contractors are to be used. You should ensure that any sub-contractors are aware of the specific requirements as detailed in the specification and seek assurances that the sub-contractor will be capable of delivering the work.

Once you have made your final decision, you should take up any formal references of the chosen applicant. You should also notify unsuccessful applicants and be prepared to debrief them should they request it.

You should have a formal, written contract in place with every contractor to which you have outsourced a function or task. It is essential that statutory requirements and their implications are fully explained wherever contractors are used, and that these requirements are explicitly stated in the contract for any work. 

Last updated: 19 December 2023