With Crown Commercial Service releasing a new Procurement Policy Note surrounding a new standard set of selection criteria questions,
many will wonder what this actually means for the tendering process.

The new form replaces the ‘Standard PQQ’ released by CCS in 2015 which provided some order and lessened the burden of economic operators normally required to complete a revolving plethora of pre-qualification questions (some of which were actually not selection criteria at all).

So what’s with the new SQ? Well, one of the benefits is to facilitate easier access to suppliers from the EU, and to align with the European Single Procurement Document.
The ESPD (detailed in regulation 59 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015) is a service provided by the EU which allows self certification of a number of selection questions. Buyers can use it to create a file in xml. format, by choosing from a standard list of questions, which they then release with the tender documents, of which suppliers then ‘slot’ the file back into the ESPD service on their end, and complete those questions. The supplier then returns this file with their tender submission and the buyer can then use the very same service to review and score the completed ‘file’ it received from each supplier. It probably sounds more confusing than it is.

One of the features of ESPD is that suppliers need never answer those questions again as long as their situation doesn’t change. They can even use the service to ‘merge’ two of their completed files (where some of the questions may be different), this would reduce the burden even further to answer questions over and over again. They can even use the service to answer every single possible question on the ESPD, and guidance dictates that buyers must accept this file in lieu of them completing any selection questionnaire provided with the tender documents.

Here’s where things get a little strange. The Standard Selection Questionnaire just issued by the Crown Commercial Service comprises of three parts, supplier information, mandatory and discretionary rejection and technical and professional ability. For parts 1 and 2, suppliers can use the ESPD instead of answering these, but part 3 must still be answered. It would be enough to questions altogether using the ESPD, since the benefit of the service is negated by the requirement to complete part of the SQ regardless of still answering similar questions on the ESPD. Adding further to this is that parts 1 and 2 of the SQ can already be completed within a few short minutes, since they mostly contain yes and no questions with simple answers.

It seems that CCS have made a policy decision to replace the non-mandatory supplier selection questions from the ESPD with the ones in the new SQ. One wonders if this has anything to do with the future of UK procurement in light of the decision for Britain to leave the European Union, there will need to be a period of compliance with EU Procurement Directives whilst deals are hammered out anyway.
It may make commercial sense for e-tendering system providers to integrate the functionality of ESPD, but as no-one seems to be talking about whether the UK will be mandated to use this in a few years it seems risky to go to the considerable expense of developing such a feature, especially since we’re likely to see many revisions over the coming months.

As for the new Standard Selection Questionnaire from CCS, functionality already exists inside many leading e-tendering solutions to create bespoke questionnaires, why not create one based upon the SQ right now and do away with sending the form out as a word document?
Arron and the rest of our Procurement Services team are always happy to help with any procurement-related queries you may have as part of our Consultancy services. The team are available at procurementservices@in-tend.co.uk or by calling 0114 407 0056

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