Bidding for a DFID contract

The Department for International Development (DFID) now spends 14% of its total budget (£1.4 billion) through commercial contracts, all of which are open tenders and which any organisation can apply for, including NGOs and local organisations. 

The formal route for DFID to inform suppliers about new opportunities is through the DFID supplier portal. You will need to create a profile for your organisation, and then you can register interest and bid for procurements. DFID has recently started publishing a Calendar of Supplier Engagement Events [PDF] and promoting procurements using the DFID procurement twitter account. We also list contracting opportunities on our funding opportunities page.

Most DFID contracts require working in consortia with other organisations in a lead supplier and a subcontractor arrangement.  

Bidding for a DFID contract is different to writing a proposal for a traditional grant, and so we have provided some basic information on the key stages when bidding for a DFID contract.  If you’re interested in finding out more on DFID contracts, Bond runs training courses on how to bid for, and then manage DFID contracts. More information can be found here.

The procurement process

DFID will usually hold an Early Market Engagement (EME) to inform potential suppliers about the opportunity and give them the opportunity to ask questions. They often hold “joint” EMEs in both the UK (London, occasionally East Kilbride) and the DFID office in country. You must register in order to attend an EME. The EME can sometimes be held very early on in the process, to solicit feedback from potential suppliers. Sometimes they can be held just before the opportunity is released. They can be held either before or after the business case has been signed off.  

There are usually 3 stages in the procurement process: 

  • Prior Information Notice (PIN) - This is where DFID officially makes the market aware of the procurement and it is given a contract reference number. Suppliers can now register their interest in the procurement, and will start receiving alerts through the online DFID portal. DFID will publish documents such as the Terms of Reference (ToR) and business case as and when they are signed off. The EME normally takes place around this point in the procurement process. 
  • Standard Selection Questionnaire (SSQ) - This is usually a mix of compliance and technical questions. There is increasing scrutiny from DFID on the compliance section of the SSQ, and it is here that you, and the rest of the consortium, will sign up to the DFID supplier Code of Conduct and present your organisations' policies and financial standing. The technical requirements can vary but it usually requires 2-3 pieces of track record from the consortium and responses to three technical questions. This is all based on past experience, as for most DFID contracts you do not need to present the project concept at this stage.
  • Invitation to Tender (ITT) - Only those successful at SSQ stage will be invited to submit a full technical and commercial proposal. The technical proposal is the main body of the proposal, and taking into account DFID’s requirements in the ToR, where you will need to present your approach/concept to DFID. DFID is not as prescriptive as some other donors and does not have a set template for the technical proposal, but you are asked to be structured; Part A – Technical Executive Summary, Part B - General and Technical and Part C – Commercial. The Commercial Proposal is where you present your commercial approach to managing the programme and include the completed financial proformas.

DFID ways of working

DFID introduced framework agreements to improve and simplify the way projects are tendered and delivered. Framework agreements are multi-year contracts under which a number of consortia become preferred suppliers of technical assistance services for a specific area of expertise. More information on the existing DFID framework agreements can be found here.  

As a result of the Supplier Review, DFID has recently updated their Standard Terms and Conditions [PDF] and published a Code of Conduct [PDF] for suppliers. These came into effect as of 1 September 2017, and all new procurements going forward will need to comply with these requirements at the SSQ stage and will need to sign up to them when signing a contract with DFID. 

DFID has recently published a Supplier Partner Handbook [PDF] and a Supply Partner Compliance Guidance [PDF] which are designed to support supply partners through the new Code of Conduct. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) [PDF] document which sets out common queries and responses.