Councils fail to use mandated procurement route


Councils are wasting thousands of pounds by failing to use government mandated procurement standards…

New research from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) has warned councils are wasting thousands of pounds in procurement costs by failing to meet the correct standards.

Following a freedom of information request, the ECA found 27 per cent of local authorities across England had failed to use PAS 91 standards on pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQ).

PAS 91 was launched in October 2010 as a standardised PQQ, aimed at bringing together the various question sets used between different buyers. This would make PQQs easier for the supplier to complete.

The results of the ECA survey also revealed that while a quarter of councils had failed use the government mandated template, a further 18 per cent said they did not know if they did use them. Only 31 per cent—less than a third—said they used PAS 91.

Paul Reeve, the ECA’s director of business services, said councils could be “inviting trouble” by failing to use PAS 91.

In an interview with Construction News, Reeve said: “The fact is, if you don’t use it then you’re legally non-compliant.

“If you take on a contractor with health and safety duties and you’re not prequalifying them against their capabilities then you’re just inviting trouble.”

Additionally, failing to use the standard throws up more issues relating to finance, as using different procurement standards can increase costs.

He added: “There’s a whole bunch of recalcitrant councils out there that want to do their own thing. But PAS 91 is seen in the industry as the answer to the PQQ issue.”

One of the main reasons the standards might not be adopted is because it is not as up to date as it could be. Furthermore, it does not reflect the latest Construction Design and Management regulations (CDM 2015).

Failing to use standardised procurement methods is also having a significant impact on the ability of small construction firms to gain local authority contracts. Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said it was placing additional pressure on these organisations.

“It’s no wonder that construction SMEs struggle to win public contracts, when even at the first hurdle, local authorities are failing them.

“Using standardised pre-qualification questionnaires like PAS 91 is crucial for reducing costs and ensuring that smaller companies have a level playing field in bidding for public sector contracts.

“This is why Central Government has mandated the use of this system and the Local Government Association has backed its use by local authorities.

“Without a consistent template, even the preliminary stages of a bid become resource intensive, lending an unfair advantage to the larger contractors who have the capacity to absorb paperwork.

“For smaller construction companies – 40 per cent of whom fail to win 9 out of 10 public sector contracts – it creates another unnecessary barrier to what used to be an important market for them.”

However, the government said it was looking into updating the standard. A spokesperson from the Cabinet Office said: “We’ve simplified bidding for government contracts by mandating the use of standardised wording for PQQs within government.

“We’re always looking at ways to level the playing field for suppliers, and are in the process of updating the standard to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of users.

“We continue to advocate its use and work to embed the approach within government is ongoing.”


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