In my previous article, I dwelled on solutions to limit the risk of litigation during a tender process. However, limiting suppliers through selection criteria is only likely to go so far, and incompetent suppliers could still qualify for the tender. There are, however, other relatively straightforward steps which governments can take to ensure only competent suppliers are selected through the tender process:
- Qualification criteria
- Turnover: setting a sufficiently high minimum turnover (directly related to visa outsourcing) requirement to ensure that companies which do not have the capability to set up a network of Visa Application Centres, are not able to bid.
- Experience: ensure that all bidders have relevant and sufficient experience. For example, some Schengen client governments demand that bidders have operated three or four Schengen visa contracts for at least three years. This seems like a sensible approach and again ensures only suitable companies can apply. Independent corroboration would be required – such as written confirmation from current client governments of each of the bidders.
- Technical evaluation: this can often be the most difficult part of the tender process. It seems sensible for client governments to clearly set out the areas where they wish companies to explain their experience, technical offering, and clearly allocated marks for each section. The sections might cover:
- Number of existing visa application centres (VACs) – independent corroboration required to confirm bidders’ claims
- Size of VACs offered, number of counters, VAC look and feel
- VAC working processes to be used – efficiency and data protection, opening hours and days of operation
- Financial evaluation: this is a key evaluation criterion to ensure that the bidder selected provides a high-quality service at a reasonable price, and to ensure no company looks to manipulate the tender process by bidding at an unsustainably low level. To avoid this, the following measures can be considered:
- Minimum Price Level: by setting out a minimum price you can ensure value for money and exclude unrealistic bids. For a typical contract this could be in the region of EUR20.
- Weightage: proposed fees should be accorded a relatively low weightage in the overall scoring evaluation. Many governments now are considering a weightage of 10% or even lower to ensure the right value/quality ratio is achieved.
Ideally, a combination of a minimum price threshold and a low-price weightage should be included.
It is very important that client governments properly assess the statements of service providers to ensure for example that their turnover levels, service record and VAC network are indeed as they claim in their proposals. Companies can often exaggerate the number of contracts they hold with client governments and the number of centres they operate from. And turnover figures can often relate to wider business interests of the company, rather than be directly related to their visa service operations.