The coalition has a bright idea to save you billions of pounds on procurement. It’s a form called PAS91 and it’ll only take a couple of weeks to fill in…

Easier procurement practices will save the construction industry £250m a year.” So says the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. “Yeah, yeah,” mutters one of my truth testers. “Pull the other one,” mutters another.

Mark Prisk, the business minister, says the aim is to find “a simpler way of prequalifying for construction contracts, which will save the industry millions”. Yes, folks, your very big customer has at last admitted to being a pain in the butt. Year in, year out, you have had to answer all sorts of questions every time you bid for government contracts. “Damn pain,” says yet another truth tester.

Ah, but your government customer has streamlined the process. It has invented the PAS91. “Over the next decade the PAS91 could save the construction industry billions of pounds.” Fifty of my truth testers yawned.

Over the years some folk have developed a little game … it brings in a bob or two. Folk invited to bid for building work pay this or that government outfit to “be assessed”.

The outfit dreams up its own umpteen-page questionnaire, then charges you to read it. Meanwhile, you have spent a small fortune fathoming the best way to tell the world about your talents. PAS91 spoils the fun. It’s a standard questionnaire that you can ping to every public outfit you do business with.

The core questions ask you nicely who you are and whether you have a parent company. Then it requires the audited accounts for two years. Then it wants a statement of turnover for the present year, profit and cash flow details and a letter from your bank outlining your cash and credit positions. Don’t get uppity about those questions. Any sensible buyer of goods or services needs to know about your wherewithal. Next come the questions about insurance. Professional standing is next. What criminal convictions do your directors or your company have?

Now comes a prod and poke at ’equal opportunity and diversity policy’. Thankfully the answers need only be yes or no

And what civil actions are pending? Oh, don’t forget to mention any Environmental Agency interest in your company. Then there is an “in-depth” look at health and safety. A dozen questions ask you to provide evidence of your policy, endorsed by your managing director, and a statement of regular reviews. State your arrangements for health and safety management. Explain how you discharge your duties under the CDM regulations. Now state the training arrangements for the workforce and how everyone keeps up with health and safety legislation.


Source: Simone Lia

Now say who in the company has health and safety qualifications and what checks you do. As to accidents, provide access to your records. Now say how you ensure your subcontractors and sub-subcontractors apply health and safety measures. Demonstrate what risk assessment procedures you have in place and what’s done about them in the subcontract camp.

The next part is called supplementary modules. That means it is up to the potential buyer to decide whether to assess. Everyone will, of course, because that’s what you do to protect your backside. There’s a section that cross-examines you about the capability of your CDM co-ordinators and designers. Evidence is wanted as to how, if you are a designer, you implement CDM regulations. And if you are a CDM co-ordinator, provide evidence of how you “encourage co-operation, co-ordination and communication between designers and anyone else”. By the way, real examples are required not generic documents. Now give the qualifications of the co-ordinator and evidence of knowledge of the design and construction process.

Now comes a prod and poke at “equal opportunity and diversity policy”. Thankfully the answers need only be yes or no. So, when asked if you treat people fairly or have been found guilty of discrimination, you can easily answer. Mind you, evidence of action is wanted if you have previously boobed.

Environment management is next. Then, quality management. And if all of that is not enough, you will be asked “project specific questions”.

And this saves millions, nay billions of pounds? Oh, one other tiny item: the copyright of the questionnaire is held by British Standards Institution. Pay them £49 and PAS91 is all yours.

Tony Bingham is a barrister and arbitrator at 3 Paper Buildings Temple