What is PAS 91?
PAS 91 stands for Publicly Available Specification for prequalification questionnaires in construction-related procurement. It was commissioned by the Government and developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BSI). Following its launch in October 2010, it was seen as a positive step towards addressing the issue that many businesses face when completing Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQ’s). It has undergone two revisions, one in 2013 and more recently in December 2017.
What are the aims of PAS 91?
PAS 91 provides a standard set of questions that can be asked by construction clients, buyers of potential contractors and suppliers as part of the pre-qualification process for construction projects.
The document aims to reduce the time and cost associated with completing PQQ’s, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses.
It does this by helping to streamline the tendering process for suppliers by:
• reducing the need for completing multiple prequalification processes;
• reducing the time taken to interpret and answer questions so better responses can be given;
• increasing the confidence that the form is completed correctly;
• allowing more time so more bids can be tendered;
• increasing the likelihood that the prequalification process is participated in;
• freeing up resources that could be used in a potentially more profitable activity;
• allowing SME’s to compete for business with large organisations without the resource/cost burden of the procurement process.
When bidding for a construction project, at any one time, there may be multiple suppliers throughout the supply chain. They all want to show that their skills, knowledge and experience would deem them suitable to deliver the project. The presence of different types of questionnaires, written in many different formats, can lead to unnecessary time, money and effort being spent by the buyer when trying to read, compare and evaluate the contents.
The use of PAS 91 may benefit buyers and their agents by:
• reducing the time spent creating pre-qualification questionnaires;
• improving the quality of the responses received;
• increasing more competition due to the likelihood of more suppliers bidding;
• increasing the number of buyers following good practice (although there are no official means of getting certified, buyers can demonstrate that they follow minimum government standards for construction procurement).
The universal use of PAS 91 could also help to raise the overall standard of communication, understanding and supplier capability across the construction sector.
What is the structure of PAS 91?
There are three parts to PAS 91. One section is made up of mandatory questions that must be asked by the buyer that cover commercial aspects of the company. They include information such as company structure, contact details, financial and health and safety information. There are specific questions to answer depending on whether you are a contractor, designer or service provider. To remain compliant, these questions must use the same wording and appear in the same order.
The next section contains optional questions relating to certain areas of the company, such as Environmental Management, Quality Management, Policies on Equal Opportunities and Diversity and Policy on Building Information Modelling (BIM).
The third section contains a framework for asking a set of additional project-specific questions that establish professional or technical ability. These questions should be chosen carefully to reduce any unnecessary documentation and only request information that is relevant and proportionate to the contract.
How does Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) relate to PAS 91?
Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) was founded in 2009 to help SME’s by developing transparent, simple and strategic procurement. Supported by the HSE, SSIP aims to streamline prequalification and encourage straightforward mutual recognition between its Member Schemes. Many suppliers, contractors and designers are registered with an SSIP Member and below are just some of the well-known members and supporters that are accepted:
• CHAS (Construction Health and Safety)
• APS (Association for Project Safety)
• SMAS (Safety Management Advisory Service)
These assessment providers can also benefit from the use of PAS 91. It can reduce the time spent on having to develop and refine their own questions and will release more time, so they can focus on developing and selling added value services.
Is PAS 91 a requirement of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015?
When considering CDM15, the guidance does not make the use of PAS 91 compulsory. As the SSIP core criteria for assessments are aligned to this government-backed construction pre-qualification document, it ensures that there is consistency within supply chain management.
Since the implementation of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, PAS 91 has been amended to ensure that it is aligned with the new legislation. It also now addresses the requirements of the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD).
PAS 91:2013 +A1:2017 is the latest version and is more closely aligned with the standard Selection Questionnaire and ESPD. Before this version was published, contracting authorities were required to carry out a ‘pick and mix’ style process, selecting sections from the standard Selection Questionnaire and PAS 91:2013 in an attempt to produce a standard selection/pre-qualification document for procuring works.
The update to PAS 91:2013 has resulted in questions about supplier identity and financial information being amended. These changes now reflect the approach of Part 1 of the Selection Questionnaire, and there are additional tables included in the document for public sector purchasers to use. They list the mandatory and discretionary grounds for exclusion set out in the 2015 Public Contracts Regulations with suppliers required to self-declare.
Has PAS 91 fulfilled its aim?
The overall aim of implementing PAS 91 was to address the problems faced by small and medium-sized businesses when it came to completing a variety of different PQQ’s for different clients. As discussed, the framework set out in PAS 91 allows buyers to use a standardised questionnaire that is familiar to contractors, designers and service providers alike. The latest revision of PAS 91 has brought it in line with the recently updated Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, and this ensures that any health and safety issues are considered during the development of the construction project.