On 26 September 2016, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) released the new Selection Questionnaire which is, with immediate effect, replacing the Standard PQQ which was itself only released in February 2015.
So why the change? What exactly has changed? And, most importantly what does this mean for suppliers to the public sector?
Why the change?
The form has been changed to align closer with the text and structure of the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD). The usage of the ESPD has been mandated across Europe and will be rolled out fully across the UK in the near future. The ESPD has been created to make tendering easier for smaller businesses, a key driver of the amendments to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, and means that suppliers can submit their ESPD during the selection stage rather than full tender documents.
So, why do we need the new Selection Questionnaire then? Simply put, the system in place in England is not yet able to roll out a uniform ESPD platform. So, for now the buying authorities can accept the ESPD, the Selection Questionnaire or use a procurement portal such as Millstream’s mytenders
What exactly has changed?
The new form has been split into three sections.
- Section one covers basic company information and cannot be amended in any way.
- Section two covers exclusions both mandatory and discretionary and also cannot be amended in any way.
- Section three covers the selection questions and buying authorities can opt to amend the questions here, although this has to be formally reported to the Crown Commercial Service Mystery Shopper service with supporting rationale to justify the change. They can also delete questions in full and add in project specific questions here.
The main questions that have been removed from Standard PQQ iteration are:
- Specific mentions to tax fraud and tax avoidance,
- Previous section 7.4 where project specific questions could be asked; and
- Sections 7C, D&E which asked specifically about Equality, Environmental Management and Health and Safety.
The new questions in the Selection Questionnaire iteration are:
Supply Chain Management: Specifically your ability to manage performance across the supply chain (previously would fall under quality assurance) and your payment terms in your supply chain. The questions are looking for you to adhere to or be a signatory to the UK Prompt Payment Code, – that you pay your suppliers within 30 days of a valid invoice being received.
Modern Slavery Act compliance: This is only relevant to companies with a turnover greater than £36m and is an assurance measure that relates to sustainable development and ethical supply chain management.
Skills development and apprenticeship initiatives: This could potentially cause some alarm bells for suppliers as many would have concerns regarding the time and resources required to effectively run an apprenticeship. At the moment, this only applies to contracts run by Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies. Contracts with a value of over £10m and lasting for 12 months or longer may require suppliers to run apprenticeships as part of their contract delivery. It is suggested that sub-central authorities also follow this guidance and given many local authorities have targets regarding skills attainment and apprenticeships, this is likely to happen.
Steel sourcing: This is only relevant to works contracts. It is an initiative to address any barriers UK suppliers of steel face when competing for public sector contracts. Again the guidance is only currently to be used by Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies issuing tenders valued at over £10m. The full details of this initiative can be found here.
Performance on previous contracts: Again a new topic from the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and is only applicable to Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies. It applies to contracts worth over £20m that are from the information and communication technology, facilities management or business processing outsourcing sectors. This will produce an administrative burden on suppliers as they need to ensure they keep an up-to -date list of their own supply chain and maintain a record of their certificates of performance which will now be issued from the buying authorities listed above for any current suppliers.
What does this mean for suppliers?
In the main it means that the form is arguably even more streamlined than the 2015 Standard PQQ as the only space for a narrative answer from all suppliers is the section relating to supply chain management. Most established public sector suppliers will already have a robust quality assurance system in place and can easily become a signatory of the UK Prompt Payment Code providing they have five referees who can verify their payment terms are 30 days.
The other points above may cause some initial panic among suppliers but on further inspection unless you are a very large company and/or tendering into Central Government you are unlikely to be affected. If you do fall into any of the categories that will be impacted by the new questions here are some tips:
Modern Slavery Act compliance: Make sure you read and understand the legislation! If you do not meet the required standards or cannot verify the practices of certain elements of your supply chain then make amendments asap.
Skills development and apprenticeship initiatives: Seek out formal advice from your buying authorities regarding their planned inclusion of apprenticeships in their tendering exercises. Visit the gov.uk website which has information on how to run an apprenticeship and provides access grants and funding.
Steel sourcing: Play an active role in pre-engagement with your potential or current buying authorities – they are now obliged to speak to you and give you early notification of potential opportunities.
Performance on previous contracts: Start collating lists of your suppliers and collecting certificates from your current customers where possible. These will not be needed until later on in the bidding process but it always pays to have your supporting evidence ready and checked/updated on a regular basis.
So another step forward for procurement and the end of the widespread use of PQQs in the public sector – a very timely demise which will not be mourned by many I imagine!
I am sure that on first inspection there were many raised eyebrows and quizzical expressions when seasoned suppliers took a look at the new questions (and a touch of panic) but the additional questions all seem fair and proportionate. The only impact will be for larger scale procurements which are less likely to create a burden on smaller suppliers and the CCS has produced extensive Procurement Policy Notes regarding each topic. Personally, I feel it is really refreshing to have such direct and open communication especially given the amount of change currently happening in the industry and welcome this streamlining of the procurement process, including its next iteration with the role out of the ESPD.
Tenders Direct Training and Consultancy are here to help so please comment if you have any questions on the topics raised in this blog post.