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French procurement : how to prepare a bid for a French public tender

Having selected an AAPC which seems suitable (see my guide to French tenders), you will be able to access the detailed application requirements and in particular, the DCE (Dossier de Consultation des Entreprises). At this point, it is a good idea to inform the deciding authority of your intention to bid as they may come up with some helpful information and answer any questions you may have. Take note of the bidding deadline and make sure you allow plenty of time for translation (as a guideline, a translator should be able to translate around 2,000 words per day). Late applications cannot legally be considered.

Unless you can speak and write business French, I strongly recommend that you consider hiring a French translator to help you out with your French tender bid: they can assist with understanding the French documents and the client’s requirements and, naturally, with translating your bid.

This guide includes information on the following topics:

For help with understanding the French procurement system, please go to my article on French Tender Guide.

The Dossier de Consultation des Entreprises, or DCE (tender documents)

The DCE contains essential contractual and technical details on the project, and it may also request a site visit or explain the awarding criteria. Think of it as the detailed brief which will allow you to prepare your bid. It will generally contain the following documents:

  • Le cahier des clauses administratives particulières (CCAP) : the administrative and contractual brief, which details contractual details such as timescales, consequences of late delivery or insurance requirements

  • La décomposition du prix global et forfaitaire (DPGF) - the global and lump-sum payment breakdown. Think of it as the available budget. Your job is to offer the best value within that budget.

  • Le cahier des clauses techniques particulières (CCTP) - the technical brief, which details all requirements of the project

  • L'acte d’engagement: this is the legally binding document which will need to be signed by the applicant, and then by the awarding authority. Since 2016, e-signatures are deemed acceptable in most cases.

  • La règle de consultation: a legal requirement of any tender process, it defines the conditions of the contract such as purpose, deadlines or awarding criteria.

Preparing your french procurement technical bid (mémoire technique)

The technical aspect of a bid is worth 60 % of the awarded points, so it's worth spending time personalising and writing it properly. As a rule of thumbs, the following steps are a good way to make sure you tick all the boxes :

1. Prepare a timeline:

Make sure you allocate enough time to each task, including the translation.

2. Read and understand the Cahier des Clauses Techniques Particulieres

If your French is anything but fluent, this is likely to be your first real challenge. Now is a good time to look for a French translator and ask them to translate it for you. If time and/or budget are tight, you could still just about get away with an automated translation here, but be sure to question anything which doesn't sound quite right in the badly translated text.

3. Start preparing your offer relating to each requirement

Always go the extra mile: if you are asked to specify what human resources you would allocate to a building project, provide their names, qualifications, expertise and CVS. If you're asked what your experience is in one particular area, provide examples of similar projects you have successfully completed.

4. Collate all required documents

As in any tender process, every claim or offer must be justified in order to satisfy the public money watch dogs.

Here are some of the documents you may be asked to provide, along with a certified French translation if they are in English;:

  • Application letter, as per the recommended format (DC1 form)

  • Professional references and technical capacity document, as per the recommended format (D2 form)

  • Sub-contractors declaration, if you use freelancers or sub-contracting companies (D4 form)

  • 3 years of accounts, and a summary of all figures applicable to the relevant services/products

  • List of the main contracts, orders or projects carried out by your business over the last 3 years, including the amount, the date and the name of the client, and including proof of delivery to the final client

  • CVs and qualifications of the company directors/managers/sub-contractors in charge of the relevant supply of services/products

Also know that you will probably be asked to provide other documents if you win the bid, such as:

  • Proof that your business is complying with its tax and social contributions, in particular with regards to PAYE employees

  • Proof of Company Registration, professional membership or Trade Index registration as required, or proof that an application is underway

  • Official quote/offer on headed paper

  • Employees/subcontractors proof of ID

  • Proof that all required insurance policies are in place

5. Finalise the memoire technique

This is one the main document which will be reviewed by the awarding authority, so it's worth spending the time and effort on writing it properly. Ensuring the English copy is clean, well punctuated and makes sense will also speed up the translation process as your translator won't have to constantly ask you to clarify badly phrased points or spelling and punctuation errors. Get it proof-read in English.

6. Get the memoire technique translated

Don't even think that Google Translate will be good enough for this - now is the time to pay a qualified and experience human to make sure your final document in French will be of the highest possible quality. Read my guide on how to find a good language provider to make sure you ask the right questions.

7. Review the checklist

This is another area where your translator might be able to help. If possible, ask them to spend a day in your office or a few hours on the phone or via a video-conference, reading through all the French documents and double checking with your team that all requirements have been fulfilled. This is why, ideally, you'll have chosen a translator with some experience of tender bids.

8. Send your bid

Hurrah, you can relax for a little while. Depending on the outcome, the next step will either be to review the feedback and to learn for the next attempt, or to follow the procedure for winning candidates.

Good luck!

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