The standard selection questionnaire (SSQ), announced late last year, is coming into force to replace the old pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) with the intention of streamlining and simplifying the process of selecting suitable suppliers for the construction industry. Until now, PQQs have been used to allow public sector companies to effectively vet potential suppliers, allowing them to see a detailed history of the supplier’s previous projects and delve into broad areas such as their financial integrity, status, and reputation, as well as specific details such as insurance arrangements, commitment to the environment, and the steps taken to ensure they comply with health and safety and anti-discrimination laws. The new SSQ streamlines this process and brings the UK into line with the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) used throughout the EU, something that the UK will stick to even after Brexit.
Why the Change?
The process of supplier selection overall has not changed very much with the introduction of the SSQ. The main difference is that potential suppliers will now be able to self-report most of the requested details and will be asked to self-declare against any exclusion criteria or conflicts of interest, with the more in-depth checks and confirmations only being carried out if a company is selected as the preferred choice. The ultimate aim of these changes is to bring the process in line with that used by the rest of the EU and the UK while increasing the efficiency and reducing the costs of the process.
What about Brexit?
The advantages of using the ESPD compliant SSQs go beyond those arising from standardisation, although even outside the EU there are still numerous benefits to sharing standards; as mentioned above, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland already use SSQs making England the anomaly. Under the new system, potential suppliers will be able to save considerable time and money by self-reporting their status and not being required to submit all the supporting documentation unless they are ultimately chosen as the supplier. This means that the regulations and vetting procedure are just as detailed as before, but with a much smaller burden placed on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as this change doesn’t represent the imposition of any extra regulation from Brussels, which would be a tough sell with the UK on its way out of the EU. Brexit should not have any impact at all on this development.
What Does This Mean For The Construction Industry?
While it may take individuals a little bit of time to adjust to the new way of doing things, this change shouldn’t be at all disruptive for the industry as a whole. In fact, once the individuals involved have gotten used to the changes, costs and delays in starting new projects should drop considerably. Already, there are companies like Executive Compass offering their services to compose ESPD compliant SSQs on behalf of companies who are a little uncertain how to do this themselves.
The introduction of the SSQ is being hailed by many as a long-overdue improvement to the way suppliers are assigned to public sector projects and a welcome reduction in overheads and workloads for SMEs.