5th February Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

You know the saying, waste not, want not? Well following the results of a freedom of information request, it couldn’t be more fitting.

New research has shown that councils are wasting thousands of pounds by failing to use government mandated procurement standards.

The prequalification questions are there to ensure projects can be completed, so that suppliers have everything at hand and want for nothing.

The Publicly Available Specification (PAS) provides a set of questions to be asked by buyers of potential suppliers to enable prequalification for construction projects.

New research from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) found that 27 per cent of local authorities across the country failed to use the PAS 91 standards.

PAS 91 was launched in October 2010, aiming to bring together the various question sets used between buyers – making it easier for the supplier to complete.

Using the prequalification questions makes sure the right resources are available, wasting this opportunity could result in wanting tools/supplies that aren’t actually available to you.

Councils should take the results from the research as a huge warning that they are potentially wasting thousands of pounds in procurement costs by failing to meet these standards.

The results of the survey also revealed that 18 per cent of councils admitted to not knowing if they even used the government mandated template.

Failing to use these standardised procurement methods causes finance related issues, as using other procurement standards can increase costs.

It can also have a significant impact on small construction firms and their ability to gain local authority contracts.

It’s crucial the smaller firms have as good of a chance as any when bidding for public sector contracts and using PAS 91 can help achieve this. By not using these types of standardised procurement tools, it makes it harder to apply, which favours the bigger firms who have the time, money and resources to do the extensive paperwork required.

Less than one third, (31 per cent) of local authorities said they used PAS 91 and it’s a shame to see that the figure is so low. For some time now we’ve been asking the government for a lot of things whether it be new homes or increases in apprenticeships, and when they finally give us something to help the industry nobody takes advantage of it.

Now, I know it’s been 6 years since the launch, and PAS 91 is now a little out-dated. I’m sure an update would be considered if it’s likely to increase the number of local authorities using it, so let the government know; after all shy bairns get nowt!