Help for SMEs in procuring government contracts

Tuesday March 20th, 2012

By Ruth McNaught, Solicitor at Harper Macleod LLP

The UK Government has announced a series of measures intended to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to compete for government contracts. The measures include:

  • The elimination of the use of pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) for all central government procurements under the thresholds for the application of the EU public procurement rules, as implemented in the UK (the EU thresholds).
  • The standardisation of the PQQ (for above EU threshold procurements), in order to ensure cross-government adoption of a revised set of PQQ core questions which are shorter and less onerous.

Contracting authorities must also avoid the utilisation of arbitrary financial appraisals which may either rule out SMEs who are financially stable or which will not provide SMEs with the opportunity to grow their business by winning Government contracts.

Where PQQs are not used, the award decision will be solely based on a supplier’s response to the Invitation to Tender (ITT). Where the capability of an individual is essential to the delivery of the contract, the contracting authority may request CVs to assure the credibility of delivery as part of assessing quality at the award/ITT stage. However, contracting authorities should not impose arbitrary minimum requirements which may have the unintended effect of barring new businesses from bidding.

Contracting authorities may wish, but are not required, to undertake a financial check as part of the supplier evaluation process. However, they should not rule out a supplier unless there is clear evidence that the supplier’s financial position places public money or services at unacceptable risk.

Although the above requirements in relation to the use (or not) of PQQs are only mandatory for central government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental bodies, the Government has encouraged other contracting authorities to also apply these requirements.

Ruth is a solicitor at Harper Macleod LLP and can be contacted on ruth.mcnaught@harpermacleod.co.uk

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