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Good specifications create a level playing field

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Overspecifying and underspecifying pose a danger to the buying organisation.

Overspecifying is defining a requirement more than the expected outcome and can be likened to inclination of superior quality without regard to what is expected of being achieved.

Underspecifying is the total opposite, failing to appropriately define a requirement.

This could be inadequate specifications for a good or service. The effects of both extremes are the same to an organisation; they unnecessarily increase costs.

Specification is the most important section of an invitation to tender document for both, the buying organisation and prospective suppliers.

There are mainly two types of specifications in public tendering, qualification specification and technical specification.

As the name implies, qualification specifications are drawn to classify the type of a supplier a buying organisation intends to engage.

Technical specifications then describe the characteristics of the item that needs to be purchased.

The way round qualification specification is the use of an approved suppliers’ list, a list of suppliers who will have been vetted well before identifying the need to buy.

Technical specifications are also in two forms there are functional specifications which set out the functions that the goods and or service are expected to fulfil, including the performance to be achieved.

Technical specifications stipulate the technical characteristics of the goods or service, usually designated in accordance with accepted national or international standards.

As a general rule, specifications should include expected performance or output, but should not necessarily define how this should be achieved.

Many buying organisations have labour in defining a specific car from a family of cars in an effort to satisfy personal needs.

Many struggle to exclude vehicle models such as Mazda that are regarded as inferior.

A blend of objective functional and technical specifications can be drawn to eliminate such models without mentioning brand names.

The following is a list of items that might be necessary to include in a specification when inviting tenders:

The scope or function of the service required includes issues such as output required.

The quality expected that includes maintenance requirements where appropriate.

The quantity including the specific unit of measure application taking into account that there are products with more than one unit of measure, eg steel bars can be in weight or length.

Any standard required to be achieved, or applied.

Time scales that include desired start and end date when time is of essence, or a schedule of delivery.

Quality monitoring mechanism that includes inspection requirements during production up to the time of delivery.

Insurance, guarantees and warrantees including back-up service requirements including minimum response time and training requirements.

Details of measurement of works.

Where international organisations are involved or the product required is too technical, it is prudent to request for resource specialism — that include qualifications of technical staff, quality assurance and environmental awareness mechanism such as ISO9000 and 14000. This might also includes compatibility with existing equipment.

Clarity in specifications is required to ensure prospective suppliers understand the terminology stated.

They must be complete to ensure goods or services supplied operate as expected.

A specification must be measurable, the details of the measured output must be available as well as the person responsible for the measurement.

It is important to note that buying organisations are not allowed to alter specifications after inviting quotations.

The requirement is that the invitation is cancelled in its entirety and a fresh invitation with additional requirements is floated to ensure a fair playing field.

Specifications must be drawn up with competition in mind.

•Nyasha Chizu is a fellow of CIPS and CIPS Zimbabwe branch chairman writing in his personal capacity. Email: chizunyasha@yahoo.com

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