SEC Group survey finds increasing adoption of standardised procurement

Almost a third of English councils are now using standardised pre-qualification on construction jobs, new research has found.

A recent survey of almost 200 English councils, conducted by the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group, found 27% of local authorities are now using PAS 91 - a standardised pre-qualification questionnaire - exclusively.

Moreover, over 36% are using the standard questionnaire published by the Crown Commercial Service.

Industry bodies such as SEC Group have long lobbied for simpler, standardised procurement on public sector jobs, to cut red tape, reduce barriers to entry, and save cost.

SEC Group is urging the government to make use of PAS 91 a regulatory requirement under public contracts law.

SEC Group chief executive Professor Rudi Klein said: “I take heart from the fact that more and more councils are now using standard pre-qualification questionnaires.

“I hope this trend continues because, across the UK, firms are wasting over £1bn a year on needlessly filling in questionnaires and duplicating this exercise many times over.”

However, the survey also found there was no standard approach to assessing firms’ technical capabilities. Only 6% of authorities valued trade association membership while 18% relied on references. Meanwhile, 20% of councils relied on information about previous experience and 19% simply relied on the responses to their questionnaires.

Only 11% of councils insisted that tier one contractors use standard questionnaires down the supply chain.

Almost 40% of councils require tier one contractors to use standard sub-contracts.

Take-up of project bank accounts - where payments are ring-fenced in one pot and paid simultaneously to the supply chain - by councils remains slow but their use is increasing, with fourteen councils are considering using them.