Friday, 4 February 2011

Progress on PQQs

The coalition government is changing a great many things at the moment, and that means that some initiatives are getting very little attention. One that may have passed you by relates to my old favourite topic of PQQ forms.
The government has mandated all central government departments to use a standard PQQ form, and only attach additional questions if absolutely necessary. Of course this is pretty much what OGC guidance on good practice has suggested for years, but it is good to see it being mandated rather than just suggested.
It may seem insignificant, but the time and effort to fill in PQQs can be a significant blocker for smes and micros in applying for business in the public sector. Even filling in forms requiring the same information but in a different order can discourage businesses from applying. You might say that if that puts them off then they are not the sort of company we want supplying the public sector. I would rather think of it as encouraging completion, and not needlessly discouraging it for no good reason.
A standard PQQ form makes it easy to bid to be considered – and that can only lead to more competition in tendering. Remember all we are doing is establishing whether firms should be invited to put in a formal tender submission. If additional information is really required to establish that, then there is no reason not to ask it – but after the standard portion of the PQQ. It will save each bidder only a few minutes, and each buyer only a few minutes, but the cumulative effect will be much greater.
There are of course much bigger issues in public sector procurement, but this one is so easy to fix it should be mandated across other authorities too. At the moment we are waiting to see whether this will be picked up outside of central government.

In Scotland they have already taken up this issue and are undertaking a consultation on establishing a standard PQQ which will be held on a central database so that it only has to be completed once. Details are here. This is a real step forward, and I look forward to it being implemented. Hopefully it will be taken up by other UK governments.

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