Over the past couple of months, the UK government has enforced changes to the public procurement process in order to facilitate better participation of smaller businesses (SMEs) and voluntary or charitable organisations (VCOs). Since March 2015 the Public Sector Directive 2015 of the Cabinet Office has banned the use of prequalification questionnaires (PQQ) for some procurements and standard supplier questionnaires. The UK is in the course of slowly modifying its procurement process and making it more effective with the introduction of 100 per cent electronic procurement by 2018.
The 2015 regulation was driven by the recommendations in Lord Young’s 2013 report to the government titled “Growing Your Business”. Some of the more significant changes that have come into force in the past two months are as follows:
- Full tender documents should be made available to suppliers from the date of OJEU advertisement (suppliers not expected to contact contracting authority)
- The new Accelerated Open procedure for OJEU tenders has been introduced
- Use of a PQQs for low value
contracts is strictly prohibited
- Contracting Authorities are now only allowed to ask for suppliers to have a turn-over that is twice the value of the contract.
- Companies with individuals who have been found guilty of Terrorism or Serious Crime offences will be excluded.
- Poor performance on a previous contract (including damages paid) can lead to exclusion for up to 5 years.
- Buyers are advised to break procurements into smaller lots Changes to Prequalification Questionnaire (PQQs)
Usage of PQQs is strictly prohibited in low value contracts, or in other words those contracts where the value is below the EU threshold for goods and services. The current EU threshold is GBP111,676 for central government procurement and GBP172,514 for projects outside the central government. The exception to this rule is any OJEU procurement where PQQ procedures are permitted under the EU rules.
Where PQQs are banned, the Public Contracts Regulation simply states, “contracting authorities may ask ‘suitability assessment questions’ relating to a potential supplier provided that the questions are relevant to the subject matter of the procurement and proportionate.” The UK is making these changes with the aim of launching a simpler process for assessing supplier credentials. It is thought that the UK will implement the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) in most circumstances. According to a comment from the Tender Board website, “The ESPD covers most of the ‘standard’ PQQ questions (Company Info, Accounts, Technical Ability etc.) and it is intended that suppliers will be able to re-use the same form where possible to further cut the administrative burden of bidding.”
Practical Law has compiled the following guide to PQQs and standard supplier questionnaires.
Contracts up to GBP10,000 (or GBP25,000 if sub-central authority).
No restrictions on use of PQQ (though PQQs are unlikely to be necessary or proportionate).
Contracts valued between GBP10,000 (or GBP25,000 for sub-central authorities) and GBP111,676 (or GBP172,514 for subcentral authorities).
Use of PQQ prohibited by regulation 111(1). Contracting authorities may only ask candidates suitability assessment questions that are relevant to the subject matter of the procurement and proportionate. Contracting authorities must have regard to any guidance issued by the Cabinet Office.
Contracts above the threshold of GBP111, 676 for goods and services (or GBP172,514 for sub-central authorities), or GBP4,322,012 for works.
Contracting authorities must adhere to the guidance issued by the Cabinet Office on qualitative selection. Contracting authorities should adopt the standard PQQ and, from 1 September 2015, must report any deviations from the standard wording to the Crown Commercial Service.
Contracts above the threshold of GBP111,676 (or GBP172,514 for sub-central authorities) but:
- For Schedule 3 services, below the threshold of GBP625,050.
- For works contracts, below the threshold of GBP4,322,012.
Contracting authorities may use PQQs. However, as the procurement falls largely outside the regulations, the authority would not be obliged to adhere to the guidance issued under regulation 107 but could do so if it wished.
Contracts for Schedule 3 services contracts at or above the threshold of GBP625,050.
Contracting authorities must adhere to guidance issued under regulation 107. Contracting authorities should adopt the standard PQQ and, from 1 September 2015, must report any deviations from the standard wording to the Crown Commercial Service.
The Public Contracts Regulation 2015 is available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/102/contents/made
(Source: MPI – Hawk Information)