Politics of Procurement

Is scrapping PQQ’s really a good idea?

The Cabinet Office under Francis Maude, has announced that it intends to eliminate PQQs (Pre-Qualification Questionnaires) for all central government procurements under £100,000.

While I hate filling these things in and find that they are frequently lazily or incompetently written and just as often poorly evaluated, they do fulfil a useful purpose. That is, they avoid the need for suppliers who stand little chance of winning the contract, to complete the full tender document, as well as the need for the buyer to evaluate the full tender from a multitude of suppliers.

I fear that the main result from scrapping the PQQ is that we (the suppliers) end up having to spend many days or weeks completing a full tender, instead of a day or so completing a PQQ, which will then be even more incompetently evaluated by the buyer, as they have a much greater volume to assess.

Surely what is required is a reform of the PQQ process and training to ensure that procurement staff understand what they are doing, rather than engaging in a box ticking exercise? We seem to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

3 replies »

  1. Personally I would rather spend time on a real tender than a PQQ anytime. I am self-employed and find that while I often succeed at direct tenders but seldom where a PQQ is involved. PQQs are sometimes evaluated purely by ticking boxes and not by someone who understands the contract. Tenders are generally read by the person who is managing the contract, not by underlings.

    Recently I submitted a PQQ for a government agency, spending several days fine-tuning it, and was unsuccessful. When I responded by suggesting the exercise had been a 40 page waste of time, I got a written response which ended by agreeing that I had wasted not only my own time, but theirs too. I have never had this sort of response to a direct tender, even when unsuccessful. I will never tender for any similar work from this agency again, which is a shame.

    Please ban these things which make life for small businesses even harder than it is already and maybe consider raising the threshold to £200,000!

    • I share your frustration at having to complete very long and complicated PQQ’s in which I am then unsuccessful, but I think there are two issues here.

      The first is that a PQQ should not be long and complex. It’s purpose is to evaluate whether you have sufficient capability and/or capacity to undertake the contract and it doesn’t need to be 40 pages long in order to do that. So I agree absolutely that many PQQ’s are poorly designed and badly evaluated.

      The second issue though is that there is always a qualification stage. The trouble with an Open procedure (direct tender) is that not only do you have to provide the information that you would have provided in a PQQ, but in addition you have to produce a full proposal for the tender. It depends on the size and type of contract, but the sort of tenders I respond to take around 6 weeks, or more, or detailed full-time work. I would stop tendering for public contracts overnight if I had to gamble 6 weeks of work, when i might get knocked out before they have even considered my proposal, because my turnover isn’t high enough, or they don’t consider that I have enough relevant experience, or my staff don’t have a key qualification, etc.

      I agree that PQQ’s are far too frequently badly used, but in anything other than a simple contract the alternative is much, much worse.

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