FAQs: Smart Solutions

Smart Solutions FAQs

How do I access Smart Solutions agreements? 
Smart Solutions agreements can be found here. Find out more about accessing the agreements and the process to procurement with our agreement support.
Why are they called agreements rather than contracts?  
Generally, a contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties committing them to exchanging goods or services in return for payment. 

Our agreements do not normally include a legally binding commitment on the customer to receive the goods or services and make payment. Only when a customer places an order under the terms of the agreement does it become a contract. 
Why use Smart Solutions agreements? 
Agreements are an effective way to buy goods and services, whether on a periodic or regular basis. They can considerably reduce the amount of time it takes to run a procurement exercise, while also ensuring that you stay compliant with relevant legislations. 

Our agreements are accessed by many organisations so we can aggregate requirements to achieve economies of scale, saving time and money while providing valuable access to procurement expertise, free templates, and useful guides to support you as much as you need. 
How do I use a Smart Solutions agreement to make a purchase?  
Firstly, ESPO (as a contracting authority) establish the terms of the agreement that underpin the conditions going forward. We then award suitable suppliers a position on the agreement if they are fit for purpose and agree to the procedures proposed. You can then browse our website to find the agreement suitable for you, access it for free (after completing an Access Agreement form), choose a supplier and procure goods and services through them.  
What are the procurement routes for Smart Solutions agreements?  
Through our agreements, you can access the suppliers in two ways - by call-off or by further competition. Some agreements provide both options, whereas others are exclusive to one.

A call-off may also be referred to as a direct award and is often the quickest way to procure products/services via an agreement. This method is available on agreements where goods or services can be easily defined and priced, which means you can place an order directly with the supplier that best meets your needs.

Further competition  
These agreements provide goods or services that may vary from one customer to another, making it difficult to pre-define requirements and pricing. This route allows customers to outline specific requirements and run a further competition to evaluate suppliers against certain criteria and identify the best solution. 

How long can I call off a contract for?  
The length of call-offs under agreements are not specifically limited, however it should be appropriate to the purchases in question and should reflect value for money considerations.  

This means that it is possible for call-off contracts to outlive the over-arching agreement, although you should consider how long the agreement has been running when deciding on the duration of the contract you are about to enter.  

Examples of contracts that may be allowed for more than four years:

  • A banking contract where a public body may face costs associated to change-over and significant time would be needed for implementation, disruption of service etc.
  • A Refuse Collection Vehicle (RCV) would typically recover costs over years, in this case a public body would justify the length of a seven-year call-off on the grounds of the time taken for the contractor to pay back the original capital cost of the vehicle.

It is very important that you record evidence for a contract of more than four years and the corporate governance approvals around the decision, should another supplier in the market challenge your decision. 
How long does it take to run a further competition?  
There are no set time periods that you need to comply with, but you should allow suppliers a reasonable amount of time to prepare and submit their bids. You might extend the time further if requirements are more complex, further clarification is needed, or suppliers are experiencing a particularly busy period. 

You should allow time before invitations to tender are issued to discuss requirements with suppliers, as well as time after award for implementation. 
Can I use my current supplier through a Smart Solutions agreement when using further competition?  
When running a further competition, only suppliers awarded within the specific Lot(s) can be invited to submit a tender. It is worth checking whether your current supplier is listed before you start the process, as they can’t be added or awarded work via the agreement if not. 
Do I have to use the Smart Solutions agreement’s terms and conditions? 
When we establish or renew agreements, the terms and conditions are checked to make sure they are fit for purpose. To use an agreement, you will need to use the Smart Solutions’ call-off terms.

If you are considering an addition or amendment to these call-off terms you are responsible for these changes, so we recommend seeking advice from your legal advisors before you do this. 
Do I have to invite all suppliers to a further competition? 
You must invite all suppliers awarded within the specific Lot(s) to ensure that all relevant suppliers are given an equal opportunity to submit a tender.   
Can suppliers change their pricing?  
Suppliers can submit price variations, when and how often varies between frameworks. It will also be dependent on what you have included within you call off agreement.   
How much time should I give suppliers to submit their tenders?  
You should allow suppliers a reasonable amount of time to prepare and submit their bids. On average we suggest 30 days, however this may be longer where requirements are more complex, further clarification might be needed, or during particularly busy periods for suppliers. You should also allow some time before Invitations to Tender are issued to discuss requirements with suppliers, as well as time after award for implementation.  
Can I access previous versions of User Guides?  
Our User Guides usually have several versions, and we always make the most recent available on our website. However, if you need a copy of a previous version, please get in touch using the listed contact on the relevant agreement page.