What is a Request for Tender?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Sometimes referred to simply as an RFT, a request for tender is a document that serves as an invitation for suppliers and various types of vendors to provide goods and services to the issuer of the document. For the most part, this type of invitation is utilized by government entities ranging from the local to the national level. A RFT provides a similar function to the request for proposal or RFP in the private sector.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a request for tender is that the invitation is not issued to a select group of potential suppliers. This is different from a request for proposal, where the document may be either somewhat broad or highly detailed, and is only directed to vendors that the company feels can meet its needs. Governments instead focus on providing very specific information about the types of goods they want, and invite a wide range of potential vendors to supply. Any business or individual that meets the criteria established within the text of the document is free to apply and possibly be granted the status of an authorized supplier.


In some countries, responding to a request for tender requires that the potential vendor submit what is known as a request for information, or RFI. This document essentially provides background on the potential vendor, including details on the number of years in business, information regarding the financial stability of the business, and any other factors that may be relevant to qualifying as an authorized supplier for the government. A copy of the document may be submitted along with the submission of the RFT, or the vendor may be required to affirm that an RFI was previously submitted, referencing the date and government entity that received the request for information.

There is no standard template for preparing a request for tender. The final document will reflect current regulations and standards that the government is required to observe. This means that the final draft is likely to be highly detailed, and provide any potential suppliers with adequate information to determine if they should or should not respond to the request. Requirements of this type prevent vendors who do not meet government standards from spending time crafting a response that is highly likely to be considered, while also minimizing the number of responses that must be reviewed by the entity that issued the original request for tender.


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Post 6

Speaking of military aircraft and the bidding process to buy them, I once read that the contract for the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy transport is a million pages long. A million pages. What could you possibly say in a contract that takes a million pages?

Also, how would anyone know what is in the contract? It is ridiculous to expect anyone to read through thousands of pages every time they need to know something about a contract. I would bet there were entire law firms that made a fortune writing that contract back in the day. I'm in the wrong business, apparently.

Post 5

@SweetPeas - I don't know if something as big as an airplane would go through the RFT process, but there is definitely a bidding process, and it's anything but simple.

Buying a fleet of aircraft is, of course, going to be more complicated than buying toilet paper or light bulbs. That just makes sense. But the whole thing can turn into a comedy of errors. Using your plane example, we can look at the current war over the Air Force's selection of a new tanker aircraft for in-flight refueling.

There are only two competitors, Boeing and Airbus. Airbus is a foreign company, but plans to build a U.S. plant to assemble the planes if they win. So far

, the process has been going on for years, with the contract having been awarded once to Airbus, but then being taken away for a murky set of reasons that seem to involve elected officials in Washington state and other areas where Boeing is big.

As of now, they contract is still up for grabs between the two companies, and huge amounts of money have been spent on legal fees and "lobbying". Meanwhile, the Air Force still needs new tankers and is currently operating a refueling fleet that is older than many of the pilots.

Post 4

@Bertie68 - I agree with you that it is a good idea to streamline the process by being specific about what they want. Still, I'd bet that the process for determining the requirements and then putting it out for bids can sometimes be ridiculous. The government seems to be good at ridiculous no matter who's running things at the time.

This is how we end up with the famous $500 toilet seat and $1000 hammer. When you're dealing with a large bureaucracy it can be easy for the paperwork monster to get out of hand and take over the process.

Despite all of that, you have to have a way to define what you need, and done right, I'm sure that the RFP format is a valuable tool. I just hope someone's job is to make sure that they do it right.

Post 3

I imagine that when the government needs to put out a request for tender of something like aerospace products (planes), there are certain companies like Boeing, that have gotten government contracts for years, might easily win the request for tender instead of other newer or smaller aerospace companies.

I don't know if the government has to go through the process each time or what. Does anyone know how this works?

Post 2

A request for tender is a well organized and efficient way for the government to hire companies for supplies and services for a government project.

Since the government is known for being slow, wasting money and wasting time, it's a good idea that they ask that only those companies that meet the qualifications of the request can apply.

This way they can get the best tender proposal as they can without going through a ton of applications.

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