On 9 March, Procurement Policy Note 03/23 was published which includes a new Standard Selection Questionnaire (“SQ”) that contracting authorities should use (from 1 April 2023 at the latest) and more statutory guidance on the selection stage. If contracting authorities want to, they can implement the new SQ sooner than 1 April.

In this insight we have set out some of the main changes that procurement professionals and bidders should be aware of. A lot of the changes are confirming our interpretation of the previous statutory guidance:

  • There is a new Common Assessment Standard (“CAS”) selection questionnaire for works contracts (including mixed contracts that include supplies and services).

    For works contracts, contracting authorities should use CAS or PAS91 in place of the standard SQ.
  • Easier to read guidance on bidders relying on the capacity of others has also been released. For example, bidders can rely on another member of their corporate group or a sub-contractor/consortium member for the financial standing test or previous experience.

    Additionally, there has been confirmation that those being relied on would also need to complete Parts 1 and 2 of the SQ.
  • There appears to be some flexibility in relation to asking for previous contract examples. The SQ itself still asks for three examples, but the guidance sets out the number requested should be relevant and proportionate.

    The examples still have to be within the last three years (supplies and services) or five years (works), but the guidance states contracting authorities can accept older if necessary for adequate competition.
  • There is clarity that contracting authorities can make changes to the questions to fit with the style of their e-procurement platforms and these won’t be “reportable deviations”.

Changes in the SQ itself:

  • The layout now includes a list of questions marked either mandatory or optional. This should be helpful when using these on e-procurement platforms.
  • There is more detail in the past experience question where a bidder is relying on the experience of others.

    The supply chain question has now been added to the past experience question. Contracting authorities may still want to separate these out if they need to, in order to fit with their e-procurement platform.
  • There are some new, optional questions in relation to GDPR and Health and Safety as well as new questions for Central Government authorities (although any contracting authority could adopt them) in relation to modern slavery, carbon reduction and past performance.

It’s worth flagging that Part 3 of the guidance of the SQ (on qualitative selection) and the use of CAS does not apply to commissioners (NHS England or Integrated Care Boards) when commissioning services under the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No.2) Regulations 2013.

How can Capsticks help?

Capsticks’ procurement team can help contracting authorities and bidders navigate the changes and what it means for their procurement processes or bids. Capsticks act for a number of public sector clients and bidders to the public sector. With extensive knowledge of procurement law, our specialist team are always on hand to review and advise on any aspects of the procurement process.

If you have any queries around what is discussed in this insight, and the impact on your organisation, please speak to Katrina Day or Mary Mundy to find out more about how Capsticks can help.

More information about procurement at Capsticks is available here.