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Public Sector tenders...only a fool gets involved!

21 January 2008

When tendering for contracts in the public sector, you are usually asked to complete a questionnaire about your business practices before you are even allowed to submit a tender proper. This is the Pre Qualification Questionnaire. if they like your answers, you then might get an invitation to actually submit a tender.

I am all for equal opportunities, racial equality, green policies and health & safety at work. But things are getting out of hand.
Let's have a look at a PQQ I am currently working on for a SMALL job for a local council.

The PQQ (remember, not a tender at all, you are not able to show your company's product or work here, merely showing that you abide by government policies) is about 15 pages long.

It contains questions such as:

- Names of all directors
- Any outstanding or past litigation claims against the company
- Organisational chart and CVs of all personnel
- Balance sheet (for past 3 years)
- Profit/loss accounts and cost of sales (for past 3 years)
- Full notes on accounts
- Directors' reports (for past 3 years)
- Auditor's reports (for past 3 years)
- Copies of all insurance certificates
- Name & job title of Health & Safety officer
- Health & Safety Policy (the entire policy, not just the policy statement!)
- Have there been any accidents in the past 5 years, if so describe them and include copies of accident reports
- Examples of risk assessments you have done for your company

Lost the will to live yet? Well, there's more.

- Include your Equality Policy (the entire policy, not just a statement)
- How do you make people aware of your equality policy? (Provide proof of this with things such as recruitment advertisements etc)
- Send examples of the instructions, documents, recruitment advertisements or other literature that prove you implement the equality policy
- Provide details of make up of your workforce, specifying number of men, women, ethnic minorities & disabled employees and specify their grade or position within the company
- Do you have targets regarding the make up of the workforce? If not, why not, if yes, please include evidence.

Let's move on swiftly as there is plenty more to come

- Provide evidence of your environmental policy
- Do you have an environmental policy?
- Do you have an official EMS, if so please provide details and enclose certificates
- Who is responsible for your environmental performance?
- Outline the major environmental impacts of your company and what steps you take to improve performance
- Include your Quality manual
- Include your customer care code

for the record: that is just a selection of the question.

Note how at NO POINT are you asked anything about your ability to deliver the product you want to tender for.
After having completed this form, you are to post it off and then some public servant will go through the dozens of entries and pick the company that ticks all the boxes. Only then will they get an invitation to tender which will be a repeat of the PQQ and a small brief on their requirements.

Now, if we are talking construction work or some other, manufacturing-based project, then I could understand the need for all this. But no. This PQQ goes out to EVERYONE who wants to tender for their business, even if you are looking to supply their toilet paper.

I would like to provide graphic design services with a small company. And to be even allowed to get a look at the actual tender, I need to have a member of staff spending almost a full week's work on completing the PQQ. We have a company handbook that is full of common sense stuff like: recycle as much as possible, we are an equal opportunities employer and discrimination on whatever ground is not tolerated, please help keep the place safe, do not play with matches and the fire exits are here, here and here. More than enough for peopel to realise they should use common sense and we care for them.

What am I supposed to do? A risk assessment on how to flush the toilets? I mean, the only thing we do here in the office is sit at our desks and use Macs to design stuff. How does that need an environmental policy? Or risk assessments?

But no. That is not exact enough. Not enough targets to measure, not enough time wasted on writing long documents nobody ever reads. All they will check is: has this company been stupid enough to write all these policies and copy them a million times to include in this tender? If yes, then we will give the suckers the chance tto send in a tender. And then we will still choose the cheapest of them all.

So it doesn't matter if you are a brilliant company with no detailed environmental policy. If you do not tick all the boxes of policies and documents, you can forget it.

These things are designed to put small businesses off even bothering to try for the business. It is a fucking travesty. Small businesses do not have the time or staff to spend days on completing these ridiculous PQQs. And nobody cares either. The public sector bodies ask the questions because the law says they have to.

They won't READ your policies. They will merely check you have included them o that they have covered their own ass when it comes to meeting their own targets.


Kristel said...

And the big question here is: Did you tick all the boxes Marieke? Like your boss asked you to?
I so understand you!

Dutchcloggie said...

My boss actually agrees with me and appreciates the work I put in to it. But having done it once, it is a lot easier for the next time around as I now have all the information collected already.

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