Jason and the jargonauts

Welcome to an occasional column seeking to expose purveyors of social care gobbledygook

● If there are three words that are guaranteed to drain the blood from ordinary law-abiding citizens (not including “Please welcome Bono”, naturally) it must be “invitation to tender”.

The tendering process is clearly one designed not only to fly in the face of clarity but to slap it a few times as well. To be officially recognised as such, “tender documents” must be at least 276 pages long, weigh a minimum of 5kg and have a whiff of brimstone.

A west London borough that shall remain nameless (but it begins with “H” and ends with “ounslow”) may be facing a cash crisis (or “budgetary shortfalls”) and is looking to cut services (sorry, “streamline” them), but its so-called procurement unit (and I will return to the current growing use of the word “procurement” – a real bugbear – in a future article) is sticking to its red tape regardless.

A reader is plodding through one of the “worst experiences of tendering ever”. Seemingly, even Elvis Presley would struggle to love this tender. Baffled by the council’s questionnaire, our jargonaut asked Hounslow for clarification on a number of points. The responses are white-hot examples of a deluge of words but a drizzle of meaning:

Question: How much money is allocated in the budget for each service?

Answer: The council has not allocated the money for financial year 2008-9 for the above services currently being tendered. The council expects each tenderer to provide a competitive tender submission based on their experience and knowledge of providing these services and their own cost structure. The council will assess the tenders on a “most economically advantageous tender” (meat) basis using a balance of quality and price as specified within the tender documents. The council will decide the budget structure for 2008-2009 on several factors including, but not limited to, the pricing of the successful tenderer and available funding within the council.

Question: Some of these services will no doubt involve Tupe (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment Regulations). Our organisation is not in a position to consider Tupe and so I need to know which of the services Tupe will apply to.

Answer: All of the tenders are for existing services. Therefore Tupe might apply for each tender dependent on the wishes of the existing staff and the specifics of the Tupe legislation.

Tupe or not Tupe that is the question

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