The PAS 91 standard pre-qualification form is failing to make headway in the public sector as clients are either unaware of it or decide it’s too difficult to adopt, according to research undertaken by the National Federation of Builders.
The NFB interviewed procurement officers in 8 local authorities as part of the research for a report released this week, Procurement at a Crossroads.
None of the local authorities had adopted PAS 91, and only three were aware of its existence, said Paul Bogle, policy manager at the NFB.
However, this was an improvement on interviews held two years ago, when none out of 12 local authorities had heard of the form.
“Local authorities are trying to manage costs, but if they are operating complex frameworks, often with various [public sector] clients, their attitude is ‘it’s difficult enough without putting PAS 91 on top of it’,” said Bogle.
The NFB report found that 40% of contractors surveyed spent at least one month a year filling out PQQs – up from 22% in the same survey in 2010.
In 2010, 4% spent more than £30,000 a year just on pre-qualification, but this had increased to 12% in 2012.
Respondents also reported spending on thousands on membership of one of the 15 H&S pre-qualifications schemes covered by the Safety Scheme in Procurement initiative – only to find that clients asked for accreditations outside of SSIP.
But the NFB was also encouraged by other findings of its report. The percentage of respondents reporting a lack of awareness of tendering opportunities was 21% in 2012, compared to 42% in 2010, suggesting that Meet the Buyer events and the government’s Contracts Finder website were having a positive impact.
The SME sector has traditionally argued that it is unfairly disadvantaged by frameworks as a procurement vehicle, but Bogle said the NFB wanted to move on from this “black and white” argument.
“As a trade federation, we need to help SMEs make themselves more attractive to employers, and think creatively. For instance, working in consortia allows you to inflate your turnover figure, and pool your previous experience to answer PQQ questions.”
The NFB uses the EU definition of an SME contractor, which is a company with turnover up to €50m a year, or up to 250 employees.