PQQ replaced with SQ (Selection Questionnaire) with immediate effect

Sharpe Pritchard

On 26 September the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) issued a new procurement policy note that requires contracting authorities to stop using the CCS standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) and instead to use the new Selection Questionnaire (SQ). Luckily the SQ is very similar to the PQQ, and the CCS says that this “should not be seen as a major shift in the fundamental approach of supplier selection”. Nonetheless, the CCS states that contracting authorities must stop using the PQQ and start using the SQ with immediate effect for all new procurements covered by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. Any procurements that are already in motion may continue to use the PQQ and do not need to be changed.

The reason for the change is to comply with the requirements around the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), which is a standardised document across the whole of Europe. Tenderers may submit either the SQ or the ESPD for any procurement with an initial supplier selection phase (such as in the restricted procedure or the competitive dialogue procedure) and contracting authorities must accept and treat these equally.

The SQ contains three parts which will be familiar to anyone working in public procurement, namely:

  • Part 1 – basic information about the supplier, such as the contact details, trade memberships, details of parent companies, consortium bidding, etc;
  • Part 2 – supplier self-declaration regarding whether or not any of the mandatory or discretionary exclusion grounds apply; and
  • Part 3 – supplier self-declaration regarding whether or not the company meets the selection criteria in respect of their financial standing and technical capacity, and any additional project specific questions.

The following key rules still apply:

  • You must not add to or change the questions in Part 1 or Part 2. The questions in Part 1 and Part 2 must be asked in all procurements above the relevant financial threshold (including open procedure procurements).
  • A formal statement that the relevant grounds for exclusion do not apply must be completed by each organisation that the lead tenderer will rely on to meet the selection criteria.
  • Deviations are permissible for the questions in Part 3 but these must be reported to the CCS.
  • The questions included in Part 3 should be adopted across all relevant procurement procedures over the threshold. You do not have to use all the questions – only those relevant and proportionate to the contract. It is also possible to add questions specific to the project on a case by case basis.
  • You must not include a pre-qualification stage in any procurement below the EU thresholds for supplies and/or services.
  • You should normally allow potential suppliers to self-declare that they meet the relevant criteria in the supplier selection stage. Only the winning supplier (and any organisations relied upon to meet the winning supplier’s selection criteria) should submit evidence.
  • You may evaluate the past performance of a tenderer.

What has changed

The following items appeared in the PQQ but have been removed from the SQ:

  • Tenderers are still asked to provide three previous contract examples that evidence their experience and technical ability, but they no longer need to provide a brief description of 500 words or less for each of these.
  • The optional additional PQQ module on environmental management has been taken out. This asked if the tenderer had been convicted of breaching “environmental legislation” (a very wide term). The new SQ has its own environmental question forming one of the grounds for discretionary exclusion, but it is narrower – it asks if the tenderer has breached any of four specific conventions on environmental protection: the Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer, the Basel Convention, the Stockholm POPS Convention, or the PIC Convention. Note however that a contracting authority could nonetheless choose to include the old PQQ module on environmental management as a project specific question in the SQ if it was relevant and proportionate to the procurement in question.
  • The optional additional PQQ module on health and safety has been trimmed. Tenderers are no longer asked to self-certify that their organisation has a health and safety policy that complies with current legislative requirements. Again, the contracting authority could reinstate this as a project specific question if it was relevant and proportionate.

The following items are new – they appear in the SQ but were not previously included in the PQQ:

  • Tenderers must now provide details of People with Significant Control (PSC). This is a relatively new requirement for companies in general (not just companies that participate in public procurement) and there is guidance provided by the CCS to assist here.
  • Tenderers must self-certify that they have not been convicted anywhere in the world of child labour or other forms of trafficking in human beings.
  • Where a tenderer intends to sub-contract a proportion of the contract it must demonstrate how it has previously maintained healthy supply chains with its sub-contractors. This can include details of the supply chain management tracking systems and details of how prompt payment has been achieved.
  • If a tenderer is a relevant commercial organisation as defined by the Modern Slavery Act 2015 then it must self-certify that it meets the annual reporting requirements.
  • There are three new optional additional questions that should be asked if relevant to the procurement. These are around skills and apprentices, procuring steel, and suppliers’ past performance.

The latter should only be included by central government contracting authorities.

Ultimately this is not very different from what practitioners will already be familiar with but the shift must be made right now. If you would like further advice or assistance in transitioning your upcoming procurements to the new SQ please do call Sharpe Pritchard on 020 7405 4600.

This article is for general awareness only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this page was first published.