Putting together a PQQ for the public sector can be a little daunting so following on from the last article I would like to look at the elements that make up the public sector PQQ, why the public sector place value on these elements and what can be done by SME to meet the needs of a public sector questionnaire and win more projects.
There are four main elements to the public sector PQQ.
1. The introduction will contain the preliminary information, guidance for completing the PQQ, its weightings and a description of the PQQ process. It will lay out any particular instructions i.e. method of submission, font size and it will also describe the evaluation process in detail. There may be additional documents to support the PQQ. Often a Memorandum of Information (MOI) will be used to provide much more detail. This is provided by the public sector in an attempt to allow the bidder an opportunity to appraise the contract for suitability and to make a decision as to whether or not to bid.
2. The preliminary questions of any public sector procurement PQQ will focus on organisational details and financial viability. You will be asked to complete sections on your company structure, insurances, financial history and past financial and operational performance. This section is really just about basic eligibility criteria. It pertains to risk, they are assessing whether your trading history and current financial account demonstrate the likelihood of you continuing to trade and deliver the project. The public sector body is also appraising what percentage of your business will be reliant on the public sector contract if you are successfully awarded. The public sector will not award a contract to an organisation if it subsequently means that the organisation is then reliant on the public sector (or more accurately that particular public sector department) for its survival. As a very loose rule of thumb a supplier should have no more than 20-30% of their turnover from any one public sector department. However, this is only an estimate and each public sector contract should be taken on its own merit.
3. Public sector PQQ vary enormously in terms of the type of contract to which they can be applied. Everything from a dental practice to window cleaning can be routed via the PQQ if the contract value is sufficiently high. This means that the range of questions in this section will vary, but there are some commonalities such as organisational structure, health and safety, environmental, training etc. The level of detail does vary but most public sector PQQ are happy to ask if you have the correct policies in place without seeing them. Be aware though that at some point you will be required to provide them to whichever public sector department to which you are submitting. Some of these policies, such as sustainability and business continuity cannot be conjured up in a day so make sure you leave plenty of time to have them in place. By requesting all the policies the public sector is evaluating your governance and process, again it’s all about risk.
4. The final element of public sector PQQ can also vary but the key elements will be things like past experience in delivering this type of project, references, sub contractor management etc. You will also be expected to sign and return a declaration. This declaration is where the public sector is asking you to confirm that the details you have supplied are accurate. There are usually other items such as meeting the basic criteria etc. This is further demonstration of public sector governance and due process. Remember that if any major changes to your organisation occur after submission of the PQQ you should inform whichever public sector procurement body you are dealing with and let them know.
Overall, public sector procurement and PQQ do work well. They provide assurance to the public sector and provide information to the bidder. A level playing field, in terms of application, is assured and the whole process is transparent and objective. The success of public sector PQQ is such that most large private sector organisational procurement now follows the same or very similar route. Remember, the PQQ is not about price. It is about capability and suitability, unless specifically requested companies should not include any reference to prices in public sector PQQ.