New Procurement Policy Note on the Use of Pre-Qualification Questionnaires

Vincent King, Weightmans, Leicester

The Crown Commercial Service has issued a replacement Procurement Policy Note (PPN) on the use of pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) along with revised PQQ core questions which should be adopted from the date of the PPN (3 July 2014). Where a PQQ has already been issued before this date, there is no need to reissue it in the revised format.

The update reflects policy changes, “for example in the areas of tax compliance and supplier past performance”, and replaces PPN 01/12 and its associated questionnaire.

The policy note applies to all central government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies in goods and services procurements where a PQQ is deemed appropriate. For local authorities (and other contracting authorities) compliance is not mandatory but is recommended, as with all PPNs.

New EU Procurement Directives

A suite of measures to encourage the participation of SMEs in procurements form a key part of the new EU procurement directives, which will be introduced into law via new Public Contracts Regulations. These include the introduction of a new European Single Procurement Document, which is a self-declaration from tenderers confirming that grounds for exclusion do not apply and that relevant selection criterion are fulfilled; and welcome clarification on the required annual turnover relative to the anticipated contract value. On the latter point, it has been confirmed that the minimum yearly turnover that economic operators are required to have should not exceed two times the estimated contract value save where there are special risks involved.

The note adds that upon transposition of the new EU procurement directives, a new approach to asking questions relating to suppliers’ suitability is planned. “This is intended to implement Lord Young’s reforms to open up public sector procurement and remove barriers for SMEs” and a new PQQ will be needed to reflect the measures referred to above.

Background

On 11 February 2011, the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Cabinet Office announced a series of measures to make it easier for SMEs to compete for government contracts, including:

a. The elimination of the use of PQQs for all Central Government procurements under the EU threshold;

b. The standardisation of the PQQ, with the objective of ensuring cross-Government adoption of a shortened/less onerous PQQ template.

PPN 01/12, which was published on 10 February 2012, incorporated a revised set of standard PQQ core questions. It also provided clarity on:

a. When the use of the PQQ is not permitted; and

b. The use of performance bonds in framework agreements.

According to the Cabinet Office report Making Government business more accessible to SMEs: two years on, published on 8 August 2013, evidence suggests that the 2011/12 abolition of the use of PQQs for contracts of goods and services under the OJEU threshold for goods and services has been a significant step in speeding up central government procurement processes and levelling the playing field for SMEs.

Since the publication of the revised standard PQQ core questions as part of PPN 01/12, a number of related policies have come into force. This PPN addresses those changes by incorporating them into a new set of standard PQQ core questions which are given in the Annex.

The policy note and annex (containing the PQQ core questions) can be viewed/accessed using the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/329737/Procurement_policy_note_0814_use_of_pre-qualification_questionnaires.pdf