Key facts

Public sector procurement is defined as the purchase of goods or services from a third party that is delivered under the terms of a contract or service level agreement (SLA).

To be legally binding all the conditions necessary to form a contract must be met.

The process of bidding for, and negotiating, such a contract is known as tendering.

The third party can be from the public, private or voluntary sector. However, the majority of third sector organisations tend to deliver contracts for the public sector, for example a local authority or health trust.

Procurement is also concerned with the processes and systems for managing the acquisition of goods and services from start to finish.

There is no standard approach to public sector procurement.

A typical procurement process can be downloaded here.

The public procurement market offers a number of opportunities for third sector organisations. Services delivered under contract might include:

  • Community transport schemes (taking pensioners to hospital appointments)
  • Care for the elderly (respite or day care)
  • Health treatment or therapies (sometimes alternative healing such as acupuncture)
  • Meals on wheels (providing and delivering meals to the house-bound)
  • Recycling schemes

The public sector represents a massive opportunity for third sector organisations. The kind of goods and services required cover a huge range. Your aim should be to know your market and position your organisation so that you can take advantage of these opportunities, carefully targeting those which you have a good chance of winning.

In how do I apply, we outline some of the issues you need to consider when tendering for contracts including the tender process, maximising contracting opportunities, preparing a tender and some top tips for increasing your chances of success.