In England and Wales, Regulation 107 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 requires purchasing authorities to have a structured approach to the selection procedure during the tendering process – in Scotland, the Single Procurement Document (SPD) format is utilised.
Introduced in 2016, the standard selection questionnaire (SQ) formally replaced the Crown Commercial Service’s standard pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) as part of measures to facilitate easier access to procurement opportunities. Based on an updated template, an SQ is comprised of three parts:
- Part 1 – Potential Supplier Information: The bidder is required to provide generic company information such as their registered address, trading status and date of registration, in addition to outlining whether they are submitting a bid on behalf of a group of economic operators.
- Part 2 – Exclusion Grounds: Prospective suppliers self-declare any exclusion grounds, such as breaches of environmental, social and labour obligations, insolvency or any grave professional misconduct. If suppliers answer ‘Yes’ to any exclusion grounds, they are required to detail their methods for ‘self-cleaning’ to demonstrate future reliability.
- Part 3 – Selection Questions: Part 3 requires more substantial responses, where bidders must provide answers to narrative-driven questions, such as contract examples and previous experience working with subcontractors.
In addition to the narrative responses which form Part 3 of the SQ, authorities are also able to include supplementary questions relevant to the goods or services of the tender.
SQ responses are ordinarily judged on a pass/fail basis and, in line with the regulations, a bidder’s score at SQ stage should not ‘carry over’ to their scoring at ITT stage. Nonetheless, it is crucial to provide comprehensive responses for any supplementary questions provided by buyers to assure them of your capacity for delivery. SQ questions will usually be allocated a lower word limit than quality responses, underlining the importance of providing clear and concise content.
Here are a few common supplementary topics which may form an additional question to an SQ.
Suppliers will often be required to provide a formal, universally recognised certification for their quality management system, with ISO 9001:2015 being the most common quality assurance standard. Should suppliers not have this in place, they may be able to provide an alternative, word-limited response.
As a minimum, this response should consist of:
- Who employees receive training from, and how training facilitates the completion of work/services to high-quality standards, inclusive of any qualifications or certifications
- Processes for detecting issues during service delivery, such as planned/unplanned audits, quality spot checks, health and safety monitoring and regular management reviews of quality
- A system for managing feedback, complaints and client satisfaction – such as conducting surveys – demonstrating how feedback informs future working processes
- A ‘lessons learnt’ approach to customer complaints, delivery issues or any positive feedback received, which ensures subsequent improvements to quality in service delivery.
Control measures should align with the ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ cycle, a standardised management technique for achieving consistent and continuous improvement across your organisation.
Equality and diversity
Authorities may request specific examples of proactively measuring and monitoring equality and diversity policies within your company to facilitate continuous improvement. To achieve this, consider including:
- Any employee networks or groups where equality, diversity and inclusion measures are discussed, proposed and subsequently implemented
- Examples of proactive recruitment policies to offer positions/promotional pathways to under-represented or minority ethnic groups
- Processes for recording, calculating and reviewing equality and diversity metrics (such as the Gender Pay Gap) for management to review
- Incorporating formal equality, diversity and inclusion objectives into your company’s long-term organisational strategy.
Including evidence of your diversity and equality measures being put into action when providing a response will add value and context to company documentation such as policies and procedures.
For tenders where suppliers will be storing and transferring personal information, authorities may include a specific question on organisational processes or policies for handling data. A strong response to this should target the following areas of information security:
- Who is responsible for establishing information security standards, arranging for relevant training for all employees and ensuring all accreditations and memberships are up to date
- Information on procedures for managing information security, such as restricting access to relevant employees, controls for safe storage of electronic and hard copy data and destruction of data when it is no longer relevant
- Measures for maintaining and improving information security standards, including any external IT specialists/consultants, lines of escalation for potential data breaches and signposting relevant information for data security/GDPR regulations
- Details on your organisation’s communication methods for industry updates will demonstrate a holistic approach to information security.
All information security measures should align with the principles of ISO 27001:2018, which provides a framework for excellence in information security business activities.
Health and safety
Lastly, authorities may also require you to elaborate on specific health & safety processes or procedures as part of a supplementary SQ response. Although the content of a supplementary question is highly dependent on the industry, the required service and the specific hazards and risks involved, topics may include the following:
- Outlining health & safety legislation which is relevant to your industry, and how it applies to day-to-day progress of works
- Procedures for identifying hazards and producing risk assessments and safe systems of work, and how these are subsequently communicated to employees
- How health & safety supervisory processes are carried out for direct employees and subcontractors, including details of arrangements with external consultants
- How asbestos is managed as an organisation, such as relevant training, qualifications, asbestos RAMS and lines of escalation when asbestos is detected.
The health and safety of employees, suppliers and service users/residents is paramount to purchasing authorities – consequently, it is vital to demonstrate compliance with health and safety legislation and industry best practice.
Our tender and bid writers are highly experienced in producing exceptional responses to supplementary questions for selection questionnaires. For more information on SQ writing, tender responses and bid management services, contact our team today at 0800 612 5563 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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