New public procurement rules bans use of PQQs for small value contracts

Out-Law News | 20 Feb 2015 | 1:05 pm | 1 min. read

Public bodies can put "relevant" and "proportionate" questions to businesses looking to win low value goods or service contracts at an early stage of procurement without breaching new public procurement rules set to come into force later this month, the UK government has said.

In a new policy note for public bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Crown Commercial Service confirmed that the use of 'pre-qualification questionnaires' (PQQs) at the pre-qualification stage in "below-threshold procurements" would not be permitted under the new Public Contracts Regulations.

However, it said some questioning of prospective suppliers at the pre-qualification stage would be legitimate in some cases.

"A contracting authority may not include a pre-qualification stage in any procurement where the value of the procurement is below the EU threshold for goods and services, currently £111,676 in central government and £172,514 outside central government," the policy note said. "In practical terms, this means that PQQs used as part of a pre-qualification stage are not permitted."

"However contracting authorities may ask questions relating to a potential supplier provided that the questions are relevant to the subject matter of the procurement and proportionate," it said.

The Crown Commercial Service said that although the ban on PQQs being used in below-threshold procurements does not apply to "procurements where the estimated value net of VAT is less than £10,000 (central contracting authorities), or £25,000 (for sub central contracting authorities and NHS Trusts)", it said the use of a PQQ in those circumstances "is unlikely to be necessary or proportionate".

PQQs are documents that prospective suppliers are often required to fill out as part of the process of bidding for contracts. Details supplied in PQQs help bodies looking to award a contract to assess which businesses to invite to formally bid for those contracts.