The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) forcibly retired the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) back in September 2016, replacing it with the Selection Questionnaire (SQ). Six months down the line, and following the recent triggering of Article 50, it’s worth taking stock of this switch – has much really changed? And what does the future of public procurement look like as the UK starts the process of exiting the European Union?
What is it?
The SQ was introduced by the CCS to ensure a simpler and more consistent approach to procurement across the whole public sector, and to make it easier for Small & Medium Sized Enterprises (SME's) to compete with the bigger hitters by aligning the questions with the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), which EU member states must comply with. The CCS stressed that the change did not mark a significant shift in procurement practice, rather it was a way to encourage better, more streamlined engagement with the supplier community.
The SQ contains three parts that will be familiar to most in the bidding world:
Part 1 – basic supplier information
Part 2 – supplier self-declaration around application of mandatory or discretionary exclusion grounds
Part 3 – supplier self-declaration regarding financial standing and technical capacity selection criteria, plus project-specific questions asked by the contracting body
In truth, the SQ isn’t much different to the PQQ and the changes made actually make a lot of sense. I’ve explained the main ones below.
What's the difference?
Demonstrating your experience is a little bit easier now
You still need to provide three contract examples to show your experience and capability, but now you don’t have to write a 500-word description of each. That doesn’t mean though that you can get away with naming anyone – the contracting authority will definitely validate your submission should your win, and has the right to validate it at any time in the process.
If your turnover is over £36m, you’ll now need to demonstrate your compliance with the Modern Slavery Act.
Skills development and apprenticeship initiatives
You need to really focus on how you develop skills and provide apprentice opportunities now, because £10 million plus contracts run Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies may require you to run apprenticeships as part of your contract delivery.
Suppliers bidding for relevant contracts valued at over £10m are required to answer questions on how they source their steel in the hope of eliminating barriers UK steel suppliers face in public sector procurement.
Performance on previous contracts
Suppliers in the world of ICT, facilities management and business process outsourcing need to keep an up-to-date list of their own supply chain for each £20 million plus contract to demonstrate their previous performance on contracts, which can include providing certificates confirming current /past clients’ satisfaction.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STAND OUT
So given these changes, and given the Supplier Questionnaire is a terrifyingly dry document, is there anything that you can do to stand out from the crowd at this stage of procurement?
We think so. Whilst the changes aren’t massive, they give you a good opportunity to embed best practice into your bidding from the very start of the process.
REVIEW YOUR SKILLS AND APPRENTICESHIPS COMMITMENTS
Do you know what your organisation’s commitments to developing skills and providing apprenticeships actually are? Are they honestly any good? And how are you going to make sure you deliver on what you say as you move through the procurement process and into contract delivery?
REVIEW YOUR BIDDING PROCESS
Do you have the right team, skills and experience in place to actually win you the massive public sector contracts that are out there, or do you need some additional help?
KEEP UP TO DATE
The competitive bidding landscape in the UK public sector is vast and complex, and the Brexit process has the potential to complicate matters further. Make sure understand what’s going on and when by connecting with experts. You can start by reading our 'How to Win Government Contracts in the UK 2018' 44 page ebook today.