The difference between Selection Questionnaires & Pre-Qualification and the procurement sector can often be a confusing place to navigate, with processes varying from tender to tender. Terminology is ‘thrown’ around, and suppliers are just expected to know what it all means. Below we go into detail about pre-qualification questionnaires and supplier questionnaires to help explain what they are and how they differ.
Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) and Selection Questionnaires (SQs) are most commonly used in public sector procurement, but they can also be used within the private sector to check suppliers suitability. When a project goes out for tender, hundreds of suppliers are likely to apply for the job, but many do not possess the necessary experience or skills to carry out the project, so the pre-qualification stage is essential to evaluate potential suppliers and filter out unqualified applicants. Regardless of the type of questionnaire, this will include basic information about your company and if applicable, parent companies and subcontractors you would be planning to use. If you pass the pre-qualification/selection stage you will then be ‘Invited to Tender’ (ITT).
SQs were introduced by the CCS (Crown Commercial Service) in 2016 as a replacement for the original PQQ.
There are only a few minor differences between the updated SQ and PQQs, namely the exclusion grounds in the SQ correlate to those in the latest Public Contract Regulations 2015 and in the European Single Procurement (ESPD). The updated SQ also includes questions relating to the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
The SQ covers the same areas as the PQQ, however where the PQQ would require suppliers to provide evidence (certificates) for aspects such as insurance and finances, the SQ requires suppliers to self-certify that they can meet the requirements. They will then be requested to supply proof later down the bidding process either at ITT stage or in lieu of contract award should it be required.
It is common to find a small number of quality questions at the end of the questionnaire, these are not extensive but do depend on the individual contracting authority and the size of the tender. For example, large tenders with multiple lots may have more quality questions in the SQ before the ITT stage.
PQQs are an old form of the questionnaire, this was updated in 2016 to create the SQ to accommodate the requirements of European Single Procurement Document (ESPD).
The objective of the SQ was to replace the old PQQ, however plenty of buyers are still using the old PQQ, so we feel it is worth understanding the requirements.
PQQs cover the following:
- Status: full details of your organisation (registration number, VAT number, Sub-contractors and supply agreements). This is where your structure and competency are explored.
- Finances: you will be required to provide evidence of your cash flow usually a copy of your accounts will suffice. You will also need to provide evidence of your insurance certificates.
- Quality: you will need to demonstrate you have adequate quality management systems in place such as ISO9001.
- Environmental Policy: with reducing impact on the environment becoming more and more important, many tenderers are looking to work with suppliers that are able to share this responsibility. Having an environmental management system such as ISO14001 will strengthen your response.
- Social Responsibility: you will need to demonstrate you have a comprehensive social policy in place, including your corporate social responsibility (CSR).
- Health and Safety: you will be required to provide evidence of your health and safety policy, any industry specific certification or accreditation.
- Case studies and testimonials: you will need to provide 3 previous contract examples which must be within the last 3 years, sometimes they will state they have to be within the last 5 years. We would suggest you assume in the last 3 years if they do not state this.
It is important to note that despite the slight differences, PQQs and SQs tend to be used interchangeably within tendering so it is vital to read through all instructions before beginning to respond to the questionnaire to ensure you do not miss anything.