CCS procurement policy will replace ‘PQQs’ with ‘standard selection questionnaires’
New SSQ has been introduced to simplify supplier selection process and give SMEs a better chance of competing on bids
The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has issued a procurement policy note that sets out how a revised standard selection questionnaire (SSQ) will replace the current standard pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).
The note replaces previous guidance on supplier selection and PQQs in earlier procurement notes and requires public sector organisations to stop using the existing standard PQQ for the supplier selection stage of new procurements covered by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
Instead public bodies should start using the new SSQ and comply with guidance, process and the standard form in annexes such as guidance on the selection stage process, the standard selection questionnaire template, exclusion grounds and frequently asked questions.
The main change to the current process is that verification of the declarations, of both the exclusion grounds and the selection information, should only now take place with winning suppliers.
The SSQ has been developed to simplify the supplier selection process for businesses, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the public sector. In developing the SSQ CCS has taken the opportunity to also make the questionnaire compliant with the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), and amended the rules on the selection of suppliers.
Supplier selection is a key stage in public procurement where information is gathered and assessments made of prospective bidders' credentials, before considering tenders. It includes gathering information about companies' track records, financial credentials, whether they have been involved in corruption and whether they meet various selection criteria.
Although the new process of supplier selection is very similar to the old one, it also introduces some new features and a new form. According to the CCS, it “modifies and modernises a longstanding procurement practice, and should not be seen as a major shift in the fundamental approach of supplier selection.”
The SSQ asks potential suppliers to initially simply ‘self-declare’ their status against the exclusion grounds and selection questions.
Organisations will be obliged to accept self-certification from suppliers in other European states via an ESPD template, including ones in different formats, the procurement note said.
It is understood that even in the event of a UK ‘Brexit’ from the EU, most if not all of the thinking behind public procurement will remain largely unchanged.
Tim Williams, managing director of eProcurement specialist Millstream Associates said, “These new guidelines bring England and Wales into line with Scotland, which has already take action. The first two sections of the standard Selection Questionnaire align with questions asked in the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD). The ESPD is also designed to be a completely online system so this update to the SSQ is an interim step before it moves online.
“The idea behind the new questionnaire is to standardise the qualification process for all suppliers wherever they are based in Europe. Moving to self-declaration rather than having to provide 3 years accounts, insurance and QA certificates etc, will also make it easier both for suppliers and for public bodies who previously would evaluate and then store large volumes of data.”