Frustration with tender red tape

I seem to have spent much of the past month wrestling with foreign languages, staring at the net and anxiously watching the clock.

Luke Blair
Luke Blair

No, I haven't been watching Euro 2008. I have been trying to fill in public sector tenders online. And it is a close call as to which is more tedious.

The infuriating business of ticking boxes, de-jargonising obtuse language and trying to make sense of legal nonsense has been driving me mad.

Indeed, we have recently been picked up by one set of lawyers for failing to amend a standard terms and conditions contract, to indicate that we had no amendments to make.

It reminds me of the online survey I received that started: 'Please fill in our survey on making better use of your time. It will only take ten minutes.'

It also reminds me of all those questions we now have to answer from banks or financial advisers to prove we are not Colombian drug dealers.

If anyone can show me evidence that, from the millions and millions of questions asked and forms filled in, one drug dealer has actually been caught, then I will happily carry on telling everyone that no, I really am not a massive importer of cocaine.

In the same way, can anyone demonstrate why signing a form of tender in exactly the prescribed way, in triplicate black ink, and delivering it in an unmarked brown envelope, has resulted in a better PR service to a public sector client?

I suspect not. Alternatively, if such rules and red tape are actually improving services somewhere, why not tell people about it? Perhaps there is a publication called Tenders Monthly that does just that. I will subscribe immediately.

One might expect tenders to read like a badly translated Romanian Euro 2008 guide, but why should they be so badly put together in the comms industry?

Is it not our job to produce simple, unambiguous materials, no matter which audience we are trying to address? Even during a procurement process?

Answers to me in black ink only, please. Plus a legal disclaimer signed in triplicate.

Luke Blair is a director at London Communications Agency

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