If you are experienced in public sector tendering you will probably be familiar with the Pre-Qualifying Questionnaire (PQQ) that is often the first stage of the process. The PQQ has been around for many years as the ‘gateway’ that you have to pass through in order to be given the opportunity to complete and submit your tender.
The PQQ has recently been replaced by a new document, called the Supplier Questionnaire (SQ). Although the same as the PQQ in many respects, the SQ has a number of important changes. Changes relating to ‘services’ type contracts valued under £10 million include
• Where you are going to be sub-contracting service elements, detailed questions about your systems and experience of managing supply chains
• A question about whether you are subject to the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and if so how you comply with the Act
• Questions about your organisation’s past performance, which may now be taken into account in deciding whether to allow you to proceed
• Detailed personal questions about any Person of Significant Control over the organisation – usually only where an individual has direct influence or control over least 25% of the operation
Other provisions that only apply only to ‘works’ contracts or those valued at over £10 million and last for more than 1 year include a question about whether you will provide apprenticeships and training through your delivery of the contract and evidence of how you do this now, including your supply chain.
Strictly speaking, the SQ only relates to tenders issued through the Crown Commercial Service - for the most part procurement by and for central Government departments. Many public service buyers such as local authorities local authorities have previously produced their own version of the PQQ, often called a Provider Questionnaire, Suitability Questionnaire, General Questionnaire or similar. We are starting to see these Questionnaires reflecting the additional requirements of the new SQ in many instances. If you are unsure about how to answer any of the questions please contact us for guidance.
What has not changed is that public sector procurement practices are primarily designed to take risk out of the purchasing process. Within the context of austerity and reduced spend, this is more important than ever. In response to this the public sector is continually raising the bar on stringent pre-qualifying compliance checks.
Since passing the SQ or its local equivalent is a prerequisite for accessing the market and competing for contracts, it is vital that businesses and organisations wishing to deliver public sector contracts ensure they are positioned to evidence their credentials as a fit for purpose, robust, reliable and resilient provider. We recommend that prospective providers build a Tender Toolkit to review their current SQ status and assemble in one place, all the evidence required to pass the SQ with distinction.
This is something that TMCS are experts in and can support you with. If you want to know more about how we can help, please get in touch.