Standardising The Pre-Qualification Process
SEC Group’s Objectives
1. In standardising the pre-qualification process, SEC Group’s objectives have been three-fold:
- having one pre-qualification standard to be applied up and down the supply chain;
- having a digital hub for the storage of firms’ pre-qualification data, to remove repetitive completion of the same or similar questionnaires;
- having a standard approach to assessing firms’ technical capabilities for the purpose of pre-qualification.
A SEC Group survey carried out over 6 years ago indicated that, together, firms in SEC Group’s member associations were spending almost £50m p.a. on pre-qualification.
2. In recent years the major successes have been:
- the development of PAS 91 (the health and safety questions were originally included in the core criteria in Appendix 4 to the 2007 CDM Regulations). The Rt. Hon. Michael Fallon, the (then) Construction Minister stated: “I welcome the new PAS 91 developed in partnership with Industry and Government which will remove the burden of pre-qualification in the construction sector……”;
- the establishment of, and continual influence within, the Safety Schemes in Procurement Forum (SIPP) to promote mutual recognition between schemes providing health and safety pre-qualification services;
- the recommendation in the Government’s 2011 Construction Strategy that PAS 91 be used up and down the supply chain on central government procurement.
“PAS 91 must continue to be used exclusively for construction procurements”, Procurement Policy Note 93/14;
- the recommendation in Lord Young’s report to the Prime Minister in 2013 that the pre-qualification process be standardised across public sector procurement;
- the requirement in the statutory guidance accompanying Reg. 107 in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 that contracting authorities must use the Crown Commercial Service pre-qualification template (or, alternatively, for construction works PAS 91);
- increase in the use of PAS 91 by local authorities according to the recent SEC Group survey (noting a significant number are using instead the Crown Commercial Service template in the statutory guidance);
- the ability to refer pre-qualification complaints to the Mystery Shopper Scheme.
3. Whilst progress has been significant over the years our objectives still remain to be fulfilled. Current and future activities include:
- improving the mutual recognition arrangements in SSIP so that all SSIP schemes are entirely transparent about the extent to which they offer mutual recognition. In this regard a recent HSE letter (attached as an Annex to this paper) to Paul Reeve in his capacity as acting SSIP chairman is particularly helpful – Paul Reeve has a mandate from the SSIP membership to explore how better and more transparent DTS can be achieved;
- updating PAS 91: the PAS 91 steering group has been consulted on updating PAS 91 (the updating will include changes necessitated by CDM 2015);
- exploring the possibility of amending the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 to require the mandatory use of PAS 91;
- developing a digital hub for storing PAS 91 pre-qualification data;
- continuing to refer complaints to the Mystery Shopper Scheme;
- opening a dialogue with the Construction Category Management Steering Group within the Local Government Association with a view to persuading the Association to drive increased use of PAS 91.
“Using [PAS 91] across the whole of local government construction should enable further SME engagement”.
Page 14, National Construction Category Strategy for Local Government.
 PAS 91 is not generally applicable in the devolved regions. The Supplier Qualification Information Database (SQuID) applies in Wales. Scotland has the Scottish Pre-qualification Questionnaire (sPQQ) and the Northern Ireland public sector uses Constructionline and questionnaire templates issued by the Construction Procurement and Health Departments.
 SEC Group is a founder member.
 Some SEC Group associations have made PAS 91 “compliance” a condition of membership.
 Such use is not required along the supply chain. Where contracting authorities deviate from either questionnaire they are required to report this, with reasons, to the Crown Commercial Service.