In March 2023, the Government released a Procurement Policy Note (PPN 03/23) which updated the Selection Questionnaire (SQ) and accompanying statutory guidance. This new PPN replaces PPN 08/16.
But what changes has this notice brought to SQs, and how much of it affect you, as a bidder?
A Summary of the Changes PPN 03/23 Brings
In response to feedback received on PPN 08/16, PPN 03/23 brings the following changes:
- Clarity on changes contracting authorities can make to the wording of questions.
- Clarity on what is meant by “relying on another organisation” to meet the selection criteria.
- Clarity for contracting authorities on seeking information from groups of suppliers.
- Amendments to financial questions and checks.
- Introduction of health and safety questions.
- Introduction of supply chain questions.
- Introduction of additional requirements for modern slavery and clarity on handling responses to questions on the Modern Slavery Act.
- Introduction of questions relating to carbon emissions.
- Introduction of updated payment questions.
Along with these changes, to help support the move to e-procurement platforms, the format of the SQ template has also been revised.
Standard Selection Questionnaires
If you didn’t already know, Standard Selection Questionnaires (SQs) are structured into 3 parts. These are:
Part 1 – Covers basic information about the potential supplier such as their contact details, professional body memberships, details of parent companies, etc…
Part 2 – Covers self-declarations of whether (or not) any of the exclusion grounds apply to the potential contractor.
Part 3 – Asks for evidence and self-declarations of economic and financial standing and for self-declarations relating to technical and professional ability.
Most of the additional questions/question changes are within Part 3 of the SQ.
PPN 03/23 – Guidance Updates (For Contracting Authorities)
Where this may not be 100% applicable to you, as a bidder, it’s always an idea to keep up to date with any guidance changes as it can help you when answering the SQ – it also helps you to spot good procurement practices vs bad procurement practices which can aid you in making a bid/no bid decision!
Potential suppliers must be told how they can access the SQ, and how to submit their responses, within the procurement documents.
The questions can be rephrased to fit in with the style and format of the e-procurement system being used, but they must still ask for the same information that is listed in the standard selection questions.
As a minimum, the following is required:
- Information concerning the procurement procedure and the contracting authority or contracting entity allows the procedure to be unequivocally identified.
- Part 1 and 2 questions have to be asked, and declarations received, for all types of procurement procedures, including the open procedure.
- If any of the exclusion grounds apply (other than in respect of non-payment of taxes), an explanation from the potential supplier on how the measures they have taken demonstrate their reliability is requested. These measures can include paying compensation, actively collaborating with investigating authorities, and taking measures to prevent further occurrences (This is called ‘Self-Cleaning).
- Completed part 3 of the SQ, declarations and evidence of meeting the economic and financial standing selection criteria and declarations in relation to the technical and professional ability selection criteria.
- Responses to the questions in part 1 and part 2 of the SQ are required of all organisations which form part of the potential supplier’s bidding group/consortium, as well as any subcontractors that the potential supplier relies on to meet the selection criteria.
As a bidder, you are not required to produce supporting documentary evidence or certificates until it is specifically requested by the contracting authority. This evidence must be requested from the successful bidder before awarding the contract, as part of the contracting authority’s due diligence process. If the successful supplier is unable to provide the evidence, they should not be awarded the contract.
This does not mean that you cannot be asked for this information sooner. In fact, you can be asked for this information if it is needed to ensure proper conduct of the procedure. Below are 3 points where this is likely to be appropriate:
- For economic and financial standing where a full assessment can only be undertaken where evidence is provided
- In the competitive dialogue procedure and competitive procedure with negotiation. The burden of taking a potential supplier through dialogue/negotiation only to reject them at the final stage (once evidence is provided) may be disproportionate.
- In the open procedure, where timescales are necessarily short and it’s appropriate to review evidence concerning exclusion and selection in parallel with tender evaluation.
The additional questions/question changes are all within Part 3 of the SQ, specifically under the ‘Technical and Professional Ability’ section, apart from the financial questions which are under the ‘Economic and Financial Standing’ section.
Below is a summary of these questions and what they include:
- Data Protection – Confirming you have in place resources to ensure compliance with GDPR.
- Health & Safety – Max of 500 words describing arrangements you have in place to manage health and safety effectively and control risks relevant to the requirements.
- Payment in Contracts over £5m p.a. – To be completed only if there is a supply chain and also for Central Government Contracts only, these questions ask about prompt payment terms and will also ask you for a percentage of payments and invoices paid in specific categories.
- Carbon Reduction in Contracts over £5m p.a. – Again, only to be completed for Central Government Contracts, this question asks for your most recent Carbon Reduction Plan.
- Modern Slavery Questions – If you are a relevant commercial organisation, you are asked to provide a copy of your latest Modern Slavery Statement (if it’s not available online). If all the information they require is not within your statement, you are required to explain why and include assurances that it will be included before the contract award.
- Financial Questions – This has been updated to add 1 more question, this question gives you the option to provide your accounts electronically by providing the web address, issuing authority, and precise reference of the documents – if this isn’t available online, you will still have to submit a copy of your detailed accounts for the last 2 years.
How Do The PPN 03/23 Changes Affect You
You may find that these changes to both questions and guidance don’t really have much of an effect on you, especially if you already have the additional information readily available to add in!
If you don’t, these changes could cause you a little bit of extra work in finding the information – most of these questions have a pass/fail requirement which means you need to answer the questions (most are yes/no), and potentially have to provide any supporting evidence should you be awarded the contract.
For clarity – if you answer yes, you will pass. If you answer no, and can’t give a suitable/acceptable reason why, you will fail and you could possibly be excluded from the procurement process.
These changes don’t have to be used until the 1st of June 2023 at the latest, but you’ll find that some contracting authorities are already using the new format!
If you’d like to read through the official notice, you can do that here.
Keeping Up to Date with Bid for Success
Do you have an upcoming bid that you need assistance with? Contact us today! Email us at email@example.com or contact us. If you’d like to stay up to date with Bid for Success, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram!Back to Blog