About the Author

Ken Cole
SPS Consultancy

Ken Cole has worked in senior positions in both the public and private sectors and was one of the founding Directors of SPS in 2001. He recently completed a three year secondment as Director of the London Centre of Excellence. Ken has thrilled many public and private audiences with his incisive analysis, robust delivery and his belief in 'telling it as it is'. His blog is a regular commentary of the improvement and efficiency agenda.

Make sure you pay a frequent visit to find out Ken's latest thoughts on the workings of government, the latest policy initiatives and much more...

Recent Blog Posts...

Hijacking Procurement
Ken Cole
Mar 25, 2013
Mr Pickles uses the 'P word'.
Ken Cole
Mar 07, 2013
Haringey Leads London
Ken Cole
Feb 14, 2013
Time to rethink Supplier Evaluation
Ken Cole
Aug 30, 2012
Smoke and Mirrors in Whitehall!
Ken Cole
Jul 12, 2012
Collaboration at its best
Ken Cole
May 25, 2012
Latest Procurement Card Scare
Ken Cole
Mar 21, 2012
iESE - a model for a Big Society?
Ken Cole
Mar 06, 2012
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
Ken Cole
Feb 03, 2012

Playing the Pre-Qualification Game

Mar 08, 2010


The Times recently ran a story entitled ‘big contractors squeeze out the little man’ (6thFebruary 2010, page 58). It was about construction and my initial reaction was to dismiss it as yet another lobby group whinge, until my attention was grabbed by the throw away line about ‘change in procurement practices’. Reading on there were the comments about the barriers created by framework contracts, which I have already made my views clear about in previous blogs. However, they also mentioned the pre-qualification stage which is apparently bemusing so many businesses across the UK.

The Pre-qualification process used to be a detailed fact finding process which allowed potential providers to find out more about the work in hand, while at the same time allowing contracting authorities to undertake an early form of due diligence. Sadly, this common sense is no more. Across the country, this important process is being turned into a complete administrative farce as social engineers, busy bodies, tick boxers  load in more questions and demand copies of policy statements so that they can demonstrate their perceived value to their employing organisation.

So, what has been the reaction to this nonsense to the private sector? For most of the big providers, they either make up the answers or maximise their use of Google search facilities to find a policy statement that they can copy and adapt for themselves. As one senior executive said to me recently, “it is all about ticking boxes so that we can get the invitation to tender”. Unfortunately for many smaller companies, they have to keep a lean ship, concentrate on doing a good job and run a day to day business. To them, the purpose of the pre-qualification stage is to ensure the potential suitability of a supplier so the provider is able to do an excellent job at optimum cost to the tax payer / share holder? What an absurd concept indeed!


Another issue is the complete lack of transparency (or logic) surrounding the financial capability criteria. One London Borough insists on a blanket turnover minimum of 4 x the annual value of the contract for any type of contract without being able to explain why this reduces financial risk. This stops specialist SMEs from qualifying as it is not uncommon for a large part of their annual capacity to be taken with one contract, and how are they expected to grow?    The other quick method for analysing financial capability is to use D&B or similar reports. But it is almost impossible for a SME to get a good score on these. For example, despite the fact that I pay ALL of my suppliers with order, D&B said I was at a high risk of late paying!    Local Authorities and Government bodies need to stop paying lip service to engaging with SMEs and clean up their PQQ act.
Michelle van Toop
24/09/2010 17:42

Have Your Say...