MAT vs MEAT
Contracting authorities must use the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT) approach when choosing who to award public contracts to under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (the PCR). The Procurement Bill (the Bill) replaces the concept of MEAT with that of the most advantageous tender (MAT). So what’s the difference between MEAT and MAT, and what impact might this have on contracting authorities?
What is MEAT?
Regulation 67(2) of the PCR 2015 provides that the most economically advantageous tender must be identified on the basis of the price (or cost) using a cost-effectiveness approach and may include the best price/quality ratio which must be assessed on the basis of criteria linked to the subject matter of the contract.
The MEAT approach requires the contracting authority to decide the relative weighting it should attribute to quality and price. The quality and price scores are converted in accordance with the pre-set weightings to create a combined score that should identify the successful bidder.
Where a contracting authority has a very restricted budget it may give more weight to price. In contrast, an authority may give more weight to quality where this cannot be sacrificed, such as when procuring consultancy services. It should, therefore, be noted that MEAT does not necessarily mean the cheapest tender but there will always be some consideration given to the price.
What is MAT?
Section 19(1) of the Bill provides that a contracting authority may award a public contract to the supplier that submits the most advantageous tender in a competitive tendering procedure.
Most advantageous means the tender that the contracting authority considers satisfies the contracting authority’s requirements, and best satisfies the award criteria. As under the PCR 2015, the contracting authority is required to indicate the relative importance of criterion by weighting each as representative a percentage of total importance.
Is there any difference between MEAT and MAT?
Review of the Bill shows that, as under the PCR 2015, Contracting Authorities will still be required to use a weighting system to identify the successful bidder where there are multiple criterion. However, unlike the PCR 2015, the Bill does not refer to price in the context of the award criteria. This suggests that contracting authorities may use non-financial criteria when identifying the successful bidder and ignore price.
This change is arguably significant because ignoring price was not possible under the PCR 2015. Admittedly, the PCR 2015 allows contracting authorities to give qualitative and other criteria more weight but ultimately those criteria form part of the price/quality ratio. In contrast, most advantageous need not have anything to do with price should a contracting authority think it appropriate.
In conclusion, MAT is different from MEAT in that it will give contracting authorities the ability to ignore price when identifying the successful bidder. This was not possible under the PCR 2015 which allows contracting authorities to place more emphasis on qualitative and other criteria aside from price but not exclude it altogether. Contracting authorities may welcome this change but it may be that their ability to ignore price will, in reality, depend on the budget available. Further developments on the Bill can be found in our dedicated procurement reform information hub.