Prospective government suppliers have new pre-qualification questionnaire to fill out

Out-Law News | 21 Jul 2014 | 5:29 pm | 2 min. read

A new 'pre-qualification questionnaire' (PQQ) will have to be completed by prospective UK government suppliers.

The Crown Commercial Service, which is part of the Cabinet Office, has published a new PQQ policy note (13-page / 721KB PDF) which central government departments will have to refer to when running most procurements. The new questionnaire does not apply to construction procurements.

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.

The new PQQ will require suppliers to disclose information about their compliance with a number of legal obligations. Contracting authorities can automatically exclude suppliers from bidding for work if their company or people in positions of control have been convicted of fraud, bribery or corruption, among other offences.

In addition, suppliers must disclose other information, including whether or not they are subject to insolvency proceedings and if they have failed to "fulfil obligations relating to the payment of taxes" in the UK or in other countries they are based. For higher value contracts worth at least £5 million, suppliers must disclose other information about their compliance with tax duties. It is at contracting authorities' discretion whether or not to exclude suppliers that have not paid tax they owe from the procurement process.

In addition, the new policy requires prospective government suppliers to submit certificates of past performance that refer to the provision of services to government departments in the last three years. Those obligations only apply if government departments are looking to enter into IT, facilities management or business processing outsourcing agreements where the value of those contracts is at least £20m.

In those procurements, the contracting authorities would be required to set "minimum standards for reliability based on past performance".

The Crown Commercial Service said it would update its policy and the PQQ to reflect how the government implement new EU public procurement rules which were finalised earlier this year.

"The use of prequalification questionnaires by public sector customers continues to attract a number of complaints based on findings under the Cabinet Office’s 'Mystery Shopper' scheme," procurement law expert Jennifer Robinson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said. "This latest policy note may be a response in part to those complaints which have raised issues such as disproportionate financial or insurance requirements."

"Complaints continue to be raised that prequalification questionnaires are too complex. By encouraging customers to follow a standard PQQ model, the goal is that the process is simpler for suppliers and minimises the amount of work suppliers have to do afresh each time to respond to a PQQ. This is also consistent with the direction of travel of the new EU Public Procurement Directive which seeks to allow suppliers to prequalify for contracts across Europe using a single European pre-qualification document," she said.