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A way of easing PQQ bureaucracy

Smaller firms should sign up for service where public sector clients can see them

Improving your tendering for public sector contracts is more critical than ever as private sector demand slows. But the subject of pre-qualification is rarely met with enthusiasm – especially among SMEs which often lack the resources to manage the process.

But with conditions in the industry changing at an alarming rate, ensuring that companies selected to tender are fit for the job has become an even greater challenge for those with responsibility for procurement.

Insolvencies are increasing at their fastest rate in decades, construction processes are changing rapidly, environmental performance is growing in significance – all of these factors are putting increasing emphasis on effective risk management in the tendering process.

A firm’s technical competence, health and safety compliance, environmental commitment and – critically - financial stability, show a buyer that it is capable of delivering their product on time, to budget, to standard, with minimum fault and maximum safe working hours.

Equally, thanks to the efforts of the OGC and the Local Government Association, there is increasing focus on efficient procurement.

Unsurprising, then, that use of some pre-qualification registers is increasing dramatically.

Constructionline – which is owned by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform – saw the number of organisations adopting the scheme as their preferred register increase by 25 per cent last year.

This is all the more significant for SMEs seeking to increase their work with the public sector, as privately funded projects continue to slow.

To put this into context, figures released by the Office of National Statistics in January show that in the 12 months to November 2008, public non-housing orders – which includes schools, hospitals and prisons - rose by 31 per cent year on year.

Private commercial and private industrial orders fell by 22 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.

Getting real-time PQQ data where a growing number of public sector budget holders can see it should be top of the agenda for every SME.

Barry Ashley is a manager at Constructionline