Interested in bidding for a public sector or local authority contract? Then you’ll need to get to grips with Pre Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs). These lengthy documents need to be filled in so the awarding body can quickly see who is fit to do the job.
For an introductory guide, with tips on how to fill in a PQQ in the best way possible, read on!
Introduction to Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs)
A Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, normally abbreviated to ‘PQQ’, is a questionnaire that suppliers or contractors must fill out when bidding for work, applying for an approved supplier list or when applying for an accreditation scheme. They are very common in the public sector, but also sometimes used for private sector tenders too.
In the public sector, PQQs are useful tools to identify the most suitable supplier to invite to tender for contracts. When applications sometimes go into the hundreds, a standardised PQQ makes shortlisting potential suppliers far easier.
Typically, PQQs are scored according to the answers given. They cover company information, financial situation, expertise, experience and appropriate policies. There may be further bidding, but otherwise the supplier with the best total score will likely win the contract.
What is asked in a PQQ?
Although defined as a questionnaire, a PQQ should be considered more than simply a box-ticking exercise. The PQQ is effectively your marketing tool, allowing you to demonstrate that your organisation is the best choice. Therefore, it is important to meet all criteria and ideally, go beyond the minimum asked.
In general, a PQQ will ask about your organisation’s:
- Quality considerations
- Environmental considerations
- Equal Opportunities considerations
- Health and Safety considerations
- Ability to deliver
The full details of your organisation are normally required here, from the basics to detailed information on the directors. If you plan to use sub-contractors in the delivery of the contract, details are also required. You must also outline how your organisation is suited and capable to deliver, ideally giving an example of how you have already carried out similar work.
Unsurprisingly, you have to prove you are in financially good shape. The PQQ will likely require you to give information on your last two years accounts, turnover and your current cash flow position. A banker’s reference will also be requested, and is worth having.
You will also be required to have the necessary insurance in place, which will include Employer’s Liability Insurance and Public Liability Insurance at a minimum. If you have any additional insurance, or have particularly good cover, this is worth mentioning. Note that you will have to show the actual certificates!
The awarding authority has to be sure that contractors chosen have stringent quality measures in place to ensure the project is delivered to specification within the required budget and timescale. To provide assurance, organisations must demonstrate their ability to maintain a high level of quality. As a minimum, an organisation will need a Quality Assurance Policy, with many tenders requiring a more stringent Quality Management System (QMS) in place. This can be done by achieving ISO 9001 certification, which is an externally verified QMS.
As providers of ISO 9001, we have many clients who have said that they would not have won public sector contracts without it. Being internationally recognised and accepted, stipulating certification for tenders is commonplace.
“It has opened up markets and we have been able win tenders, without the ISO’s we are not even eligible to submit a tender.”
– Anthony Hardy, Fine Turf
The Government has to set the best example when it comes to being green. With their sustainable development agenda now in place, contractors are now being pushed to demonstrate their environmental credentials. How much this is factored into the actual decision making depends on the particular contract and the industry involved. Generally, an Environmental Policy is a minimum. If you wish to stand out, implement an Environmental Management System such as ISO 14001.
Its important to be aware of certain legal obligations that local and central government have in regards to equal opportunities. To cover all bases, it’s best to have an Equal Opportunities Policy in place, stating how you give consideration to equal opportunity at work. As well as the moral incentive, local authorities have a duty to promote equality by giving consideration in contracts.
Health and Safety
Health and Safety is the final jigsaw piece in terms of required policies. As with the others, you will be required to provide a copy of your Health and Safety policy which, for organisations with more than five employees, is required by law. Even if you have less than five, ensure you have one in place to avoid being marked down.
For those who wish to go further, especially if their work is higher risk, they can consider implementing the OHSAS 18001 standard in order to stand out from the crowd. Despite not being an ISO standard, it is designed to be compatible with both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, so can be straight-forward to implement.
Ability to Deliver
The PQQ will ask you how your organisation is best suited for the contract, ideally by citing examples of similar work you have already carried out. References are of course expected if you do provide examples.
Digging deeper, the PQQ may ask for in-depth information about your company in order to be confident that you have sufficient technical experience. You may need to send CVs of your management team or of those employees directly involved in the particular contract. You may need to prove how you assure competence (e.g. through training or testing).
Ensuring your organisations stands out
If there are any industry associations or guarantee schemes, then for similar reasons, it is it worth becoming a member of those too. But also, don’t forget the basics. Ensure every question in the PQQ is answered. Like a CV, consider the font style and headings to give a professional look, but don’t disrupt the standardised layout.
“We needed this certification in order to maintain an important customer. Also, it has given us a good image within the industry.”
– Colin Usher, John McCall Architects
If you’re new to tendering, get the contact number for the Contract Officer. Normally, they are happy to provide guidance on what they are looking for.
What happens after the PQQ is submitted?
After the closing date, the awarding authority will evaluate the submitted PQQs. This can be quite an intensive process, with specialist evaluators often used.
There should be a date given for the deadline of all PQQs being reviewed. This isn’t always set in stone, depending on the amount of applications, so it is best to contact the Contract Officer if you haven’t had a response beyond the deadline.
Once reviewed, Invitations To Tender (ITT) are then sent. This will consist of the contract specification, terms and other related documents to be completed. If the PQQ is for an Approved Suppliers List, the PQQs are scored and the highest scoring organisations are then awarded places on the List. This isn’t a guarantee of work, but it will provide an opportunity to bid for it amongst a far smaller pool of competition.
If you find you have not been successful, you can write to the Contract Officer to gain feedback, which can be invaluable for the future. Generally, feedback involves the need to develop your policies and procedures further.