I have been hesitant about writing this post, probably because I feel unqualified but also because it will be controversial. Yet, I feel compelled to say something simply because this is my work. It is that part of my work that makes me feel inadequate. Why? Because hard working people are being disqualified by a procurement system even before they start out on this process. It is because of this I feel the need to at least have an opinion on this issue.
Firstly, let me say that I firmly believe we need a process in place for vetting consultants, contractors and suppliers. If you were to buy a new house and needed access you would of course be given a set of keys. The Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) happens to be the ‘set of keys’ to get on to that all important Approved Suppliers List, Framework Agreement or Tender List.
I am sure that the PQQ route gives the client peace of mind when selecting the right contractor and or consultant to carry out their business for them; after all they want to experience best value for their money! I think Constructionline provides the template to do just this by giving all parties on both sides of the fence a fair opportunity.
Constructionline – The commonsense solution for both sides of the tender
As a supplier, you’ll know that jumping through the same vetting hoops every time you tender is not a brilliant use of time and resources. And for buyers, sifting through pre-qualification data and keeping it up to date adds up to a similarly wasteful job. Constructionline helps both sides of the deal bypass these problems, saving everyone time, money and hassle in the process.
Constructionline is run by the services company Capita and although it grew out of the old DETR which was free to join, a fee is now charged. It was set up to check the financial and technical status of contractors and consultants. With some modifications it could be used on a much broader basis. Again, this I will leave with those who have the qualifications to make the judgement but the industry is spending far too many man hours filling out these endless forms with no return except for the large national companies. (Enough said about this for now!)
Procurement has Changed!
I understand that some will say that one size does not fit all and I would agree. However, we do need to challenge the current procurement process for the sake of small business!
We are, it seems being driven more and more by Procurement Specialists and Financial people. This is self evident with the proliferation of Procurement portals and accreditations. I speak with organizations every day and find it hard to understand that a local authority struggling to meet budgets uses both Constructionline and Exor to vet contractors and consultants. So, if a small Builder or an architectural practice for instance wants to work for this authority they must find £100s a year to stay on their list. Often, without any tender enquiries. You might forgive me here but that is a scandal!
Real life Examples
Again, let me say that if I wanted to invest money in to a building project I would want to take up references from the design team and contractor. And, I would want to see some of their current work. This real life example is what I am talking about. A school has £80K to extend a science laboratory. They instruct the architect to advertise a project using a PQQ and over 80 contractors apply. How many man hours will be taken up sifting through these returns? And, this is only the first stage of the procurement process before selecting 8 contractors to tender. There has to be a better way!
Over a month ago an advert was placed in the SE Business Portal for a scheme and contractors were asked to complete a PQQ for a £170K job. Some time later I spoke to the Estates Manager to get some feedback on our submission, which is a key task of my marketing. He came across as being slightly frustrated that after being told by Procurement to advertise the project and issue PQQ’s to interested contractors he was deluged with a huge response. My feeling is that there must be a better way of procuring the services of a contractor for a £170K job. Once the PQQs have been vetted then the second stage of inviting contractors to tender will take place. Guess what? This authority is now thinking of taking the framework route! Am I the only person who thinks this is a frightening scenario and one which causes small businesses to throw in the towel?
I spoke with an officer at a well known university who was overseeing hundreds of submissions for a project. I asked him for some feedback and although we had completed an excellent submission and scored well we were unsuccessful. Fair enough! However, I then pushed forward a little and asked him if this institution had already appointed the consultant ‘of their choice!’ prior to this required PQQ process. His reply, “Yes!” So, their standing orders requires that they go out to tender through a 2 stage process but they have already made up their minds who they will appoint. It is no wonder people are cynical about this process. Personally, I think it is unjust!
His further comments were very enlightening. He said that when he had acted in a private capacity as a consultant for an organization he submitted many of these PQQs. He did not win one of them! In fact on one occasion he was told that he had been the only person to submit the correct return but still did not win. You can understand my concerns about this procurement vehicle!
Am I dreaming?
Well, I have said enough but would like to hear from you about your own experiences regarding these PQQs. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous speech said, “I have a Dream” Well, although the stakes are far lower, my main concern is for business people who give of their best when filling out these PQQs – with NO return.
Let me dream a little…..
I dream of a day when we have a standard PQQ with additional extra questions where necessary for more complex projects.
I dream of a day when construction professionals will once again take the lead in procuring projects.
I dream of a day when we use common sense when it comes to procuring the services of both contractors and consultants. We must have a common sense approach although it was Voltaire who said, “Common sense is not so common!” We have arrived at this place in my view.
Maybe I am just a dreamer but I want to ask others who are more capable and qualified than I am to speak up because this issue seems to affect real people in business! Thank you.