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Universal PQQ mooted to reduce bid burden

The coalition’s new business czar wants architectural practices to only have to pre-qualify for public work once, regardless of how many local authorities they work for

David Young (pictured), the government’s small business advisor and the successor to former enterprise adviser Alan Sugar, has said he would like to introduce a single, standardised Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) across all departments.

Speaking earlier this week, he said: ‘At the moment, if a small business wants to sell to a local authority, they have to pre-qualify for that local authority.

‘I’d like to find a way for you to pre-qualify once and then you could sell to every local authority.’

The Tory peer, a former trade minister under Margaret Thatcher, is currently reviewing the process of bidding for government contracts.

Responding to the news, Robert Evans of Matlock-based Evans Vettori said: ‘On the face of it this sounds like an excellent idea. For a small practice there is a huge amount of work involved in completing a competitive PQQ including all the ‘evidence’ required. My only reservation is that it puts even more emphasis on scoring points in the single PQQ – those who make it through the pre-qualification can breathe a sigh of relief while those who don’t could be excluded nationally for years.’

Ian Saunders of Birmingham’s D5 Architects added: ‘We often find [public clients] ask the same question in a different way, so we have to format each PQQ individually. However, if everyone qualifies across the board for all public works, how do client bodies shortlist for tender?’

Meanwhile Pedro Gil of Studio Gil Architects said: ‘We would welcome the move to a simpler system of pre-qualification, as it could be very effective in ensuring that the local authority has the opportunity to create the best range of options possible when receiving bids. 

‘The time and work involved in completing separate pre-qualification applications for individual authorities could be much better spent on areas of consultation with local communities and the design and thought process for the scheme. The UK economy as a whole would greatly benefit from regaining these lost man hours.’

However the RIBA was sceptical about the proposals. Ewan Willars, the institute’s head of policy on PQQ, said:’One central pre-qualification process should offer efficiencies and accessibility to smaller firms, but designing and successfully implementing it will be a complex task.

‘We have seen a similar proposal repeatedly fail to make the grade; Constructionline, recommended by the Latham Review of 1994, has not reached its ambition to be the single national database of pre-qualified local and national construction suppliers. The OGC Common Minimum Standards and The Local Government Task Force recommend using Constructionline as part of the pre-qualification and tendering process, however the pre-qualification criteria doesn’t meet every clients needs and consequently is not widely used.

He added:’We believe that developing a common and agreed standard to back up the proposal, for example through the Publicly Available Specifications from the BSI, may provide the hook that is required. 

‘We look forward to seeing further detail on the pre-qualification process and documentation before commenting further.’

Readers' comments (2)

  • What about PAS 91 - is that not supposed to serve the same purpose?

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  • John Kellett

    Why not have an even simpler system, RIBA Chartered Practice status? From my experience over the years any chartered architect is capable of designing any public building, it's one of the many things we are trained and qualified to do. Many local authorities appoint a variety of under-qualified consultants to design buildings etc. I've known estate agents and contractors to be appointed as urban designers and conservation consultants, without any visible qualifications whatsoever!

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