Understanding the changes to public procurement: PPN 8/16

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Jenny Neville from procurement consultancy, Pennington Choices, explains the changes to public procurement as detailed in the Procurement Policy Note 8/16 Standard Selection Questionnaire.

The standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ)

The standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ) replaced the standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) (for goods and services) on the 9th September 2016.  Public sector organisations should therefore stop using the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire for the supplier selection stage of new procurements covered by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

The SQ, developed by the Crown Commercial Service, is designed to simplify the supplier selection process for businesses, in particular smaller firms, across the public sector. The SQ is also now compliant with the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD).

The standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ) is structured in 3 separate parts:

  • Part 1 of the SQ covers the basic information, such as contact details, trade memberships, details of parent companies, group bidding etc.
  • Part 2 covers a self-declaration regarding whether or not any of the exclusion grounds apply
  • Part 3 covers a self-declaration regarding whether or not the organisation meets the selection criteria in respect of financial standing and technical capacity. Part 3 is used for above threshold procurements and can also include project specific questions relating to the potential supplier’s technical and professional ability.

What has changed from the old PQQ?

The SQ asks suppliers to initially just self-declare their status against the exclusion grounds and selection questions. As it is intended that evidence will only be sought from the successful supplier, this reduces the administrative burden on unsuccessful suppliers and the procuring organisation.

The SQ incorporates the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and asks suppliers to confirm whether they are subject to the reporting requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and, if appropriate, whether they have complied with them. In addition, offences under the Act are now listed as mandatory exclusion grounds.

Skills and apprenticeships are also included in the new SQ. For contracts valued at £10 million or more and lasting 12 months or longer, the SQ asks suppliers to confirm how they will support apprenticeships and training throughout the contract term. However this new question is aimed “primarily” at central government organisations and isn’t mandatory for other procuring public sector organisations. Albeit, other contracting authorities are “encouraged to consider” skills and apprenticeships were relevant.

Supply chain management has also been incorporated into the new SQ and bidders are required to demonstrate how they maintain healthy supply chains, including providing evidence of their supplier performance management and how they ensure suppliers are paid promptly.

Central government organisations can ask further questions about a supplier’s past performance for specific central government contracts valued at over £20m. Procurement Policy note 04/15 provides further information for the contracting authorities.

What remains the same from the old PQQ?

As with the previous PQQ, the financial information that can be requested from suppliers is limited. A supplier can still be asked to self-certify that they meet minimum financial requirements and/or a minimum financial threshold, which is understood to mean financial ratios and any minimum turnover. There is a suggestion, albeit it is not clear, that credit checks can also be used to assess a supplier’s financial performance, however it should not be used to form financial judgments alone.

Project-specific questions that relate to the supplier’s technical and professional ability can still be asked. As with the old PQQ, project specific questions need to be relevant and proportionate to the contract and correlate to the “list of possible topics covering technical and professional ability”, which relates to Regulation 58(15)-(18) PCR 2015 (covering skills, efficiency, experience and reliability) and Regulation 60(9) PCR 2015 (setting out the “means of proof” by reference to previous contracts, resources, people and procedures).

What about Works contracts?

PAS91, published by the British Standards Institute, should be used for all works contracts and contracts for “goods and services needed in relation to the works”, which can be assumed to include professional consultants’ appointments. A new edition of PAS91 is expected for publication soon.

Where can I get further information and help?

The Procurement Policy Note 8/16 Standard Selection Questionnaire can be downloaded here. The Policy note includes guidance and frequently asked questions.

Pennington Choices is a specialist procurement consultancy and acts as procurement adviser for a number of Registered Providers. We manage procurement on behalf of Registered Providers or provide advice, guidance and support to internal procurement teams.  For further information about our procurement consultancy please email Jenny Neville.

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