Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from thebigword


Following thebigword’s appearance before the HOC Justice Committee on Tuesday 7 February 2012, thebigword has been asked to submit supplementary evidence on the experience of tendering for the MoJ’s Interpreting Contract. This document provides the responses to the questions raised by the Justice Committee Inquiry Manager.

Question 1: How has the MoJ handled its outsourcing competitions? From your experience, what can they learn from other organisations?

Competitive Dialogue Bidding Process Management

The competitive dialogue bidding process was adopted in order that the MoJ could fine-tune its own requirements and meet the needs of its end users by developing innovative and highly cost-effective approaches.

Changes to the requirement and process led to a number of concerns/difficulties in working within this tender process:

Clarity on requirement may necessarily flex during a competitive dialogue process. However, usually this is iterative rather than major, giving continuity to the bid. In this bid the purpose and qualification criteria for each of the nine stages was not fully defined at the outset, resulting in less clarity and transparency than in other tenders. This gave the impression that comparisons made between bidders were unnecessarily subjective.

The PQQ was issued, withdrawn and reissued during this process. The decision making criteria and scoring matrix for each stage were not clear from the outset, particularly in terms of the balance between quality and cost. Therefore it is likely that this lack of transparency resulted in assumptions being made which were not supportive of the MoJ’s aims.

thebigword had no sight of a scoring matrix in place on issue of the OJEU notice and therefore no transparency on requirement, purpose and output.

A visit to the Courts and Probation services to see interpreters in action to enable information gathering and to inform solutions took place half way through the tendering process when some companies had already been rejected.

Particularly on larger tenders, timescales between evaluation stages are clear from the outset; however, timescales between the evaluation stages here were extremely tight, in some cases allowing as little as three to four days to prepare a submission. Site visits by the Authority are common and can be an informative part of this process for the Authority but in this case there was no evidence of any site visits being undertaken by MoJ or any checks being made on the robustness of the bidders’ finances.

thebigword was not aware that the final round would comprise just one bidder and this led to additional work fine-tuning the innovation within the bid which was no longer part of the process.

It is usual for comprehensive feedback against the qualification criteria to be available and shared with bidders. In this case post-bid feedback was less transparent and comprehensive than other Authorities’ and did not include a breakdown as to how the 80% “qualification” level had been comprised or criteria to review bidders at any of the nine stages.

What can be learned from other organisations?

Rigorous examination of the bidders’ financial position: This is particularly important for a contract of this value, £200 million.

Contingency Planning and Secondary Suppliers: A secondary supplier is common in order to cover any failures in the primary service and could be seen as an essential element for a non-discretionary legal service such as that provided by the MoJ.

Evaluation Criteria: A focus on quality as well as value for money, and a clear indication of the importance placed on each, enables bidders to propose a service that will effectively meet both criteria.

Process Clarity: Clarity and transparency about the stages of the process and what is required from the bidders at each stage enables innovative solutions to be proposed and presents a clear route towards achieving the contract aims.

VSO’s, SMEs and thrid Sector: A contractual requirement to comply with an Sustainable Procurement Strategy could lead to more contractual focus on working with the voluntary sector, SMEs and the third sector.

Timescales: Adequate time devoted to the different stages within the process would ensure that the Authority has absolute clarity on the impacts of the final tenders.

Feedback: Effective feedback to failed bidders enables the Authority to ratify its decision process and scoring systems and enables bidders to improve future tenders.

Question 2: What achievements from other public sector delivery contracts can your company bring to the Justice system?

Sustainable Procurement

thebigword’s extensive experience of partnering with local suppliers, including SMEs and the voluntary and third sector ensures that contract requirements can be fulfilled at local level.

For the MoJ, this would put money back into the local economy, create sustainable procurement within the location, and meet the tenets of the Localism Bill. For the service user, this would provide interpreters who understand legal terminology, are familiar with regional accents and the local history and geography.

Cost and Quality

thebigword is a world leader in technology to support language services, specifically the development of Telephone Interpreting, used by the DWP among others. Also in booking technology which enables interpreters to be block booked and not booked back-to-back by different departments, thus reducing costs. This already operates effectively within other Government framework agreements

Question 3: Do you envisage competition driving improved standards as is intended by the MoJ?

Competition will only drive improve standards if the tendering process is revisited with this as the aim. Specifically in terms of the scoring balance between quality and cost, and the ability to include innovative solutions such as the transfer of some work to Telephone Interpreting, which has proved highly successful across a number of Government agencies.

Question 4: Having been unsuccessful in a competition what further opportunities are there to work in partnership with the MoJ, or a successful prime provider?

The secondary provider contingency planning could work extremely well with the MoJ in this instance. thebigword remains committed and immediately available to support the MoJ working as a secondary provider, partnering with like-minded businesses.

In addition thebigword holds three Government-approved frameworks through which our services can be accesses: face to face interpreting (RM738/1), telephone interpreting (CAG/912/0181) and translation services (11/GEN/25).

Question 5: Why do you think you were unsuccessful in your respective applications?

Answered at the committee.

Question 6: Do you think the processes by which you competed for contracts were fair and transparent?

Please see response to Question 1 above.

Question 7: How should the MoJ balance the use of local and voluntary organisations with a requirement to provide value for money?

Innovation has always been a cornerstone of thebigword’s approach and in this tender, thebigword presented some highly innovative and groundbreaking ideas within the competitive dialogue process.

Specifically, these focussed on thebigword’s proposal to partner with 52 language services providers including SMEs, voluntary and third sector organisations to provide service at local level.

For the MoJ, This would put money back into the local economy, create sustainable procurement within the location, and meet the tenets of the Localism Bill. For the service user, this would provide interpreters who understand legal terminology, are familiar with regional accents and the local history and geography.

the partnering option was proposed by thebigword in order to ensure that the contract requirements were fulfilled at local level and thebigword still believe this is both a commercial and sustainable solution for the MoJ to balance the use of local organisations and VSOs.

Question 8: Is it feasible and desirable from your perspective for smaller firms to act as subcontractor to larger organisations?

Please see response to Question 7 above.

Question 9: What contractual commitments should the MoJ put in place to encourage contractors to work in partnership with smaller firms?

Please see response to Question 1 section 2 and Question 7 above.


thebigword hopes this further information proves useful for the HOC Justice Committee and remains committed and available to support this committee and the MoJ in any way.

September 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013