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What are the minimum standards to work across public sector construction projects?

Chancellor Jeremey Hunt delivered the UK’s Spring Budget last month, announcing the Government’s 2023 spending plans. It is clear the construction industry must play a vital role in regeneration and growth of the UK economy in the year ahead. With capital investment considered a central engine for growth, and the annual rate of general inflation set to fall by 6.6% by the end of the year, the country has staved off a recession, allowing the demand for public sector construction and infrastructure projects to grow.

Over one million opportunities were published last year on the Find a Tender (FTS) portal for public sector construction projects, and with 2023 expected to be a strong year for new contract opportunities, it is important to ensure compliance with the minimum standards to work across public sector schemes. So, what are the minimum standards and how can suppliers stand out in the tender process?

PAS 91

PAS 91 stands for ‘Publicly Available Specification’ and was developed for prequalification questionnaires (PQQs) to standardise the minimum requirements for construction procurement. Initially introduced in 2011 by the Government, it was advanced by the British Standards Institute (BSI) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), to systematise a question set for public sector buyers to assess compliance of prospective building contractors and their suitability to take part in the tendering process.

With four core mandatory modules, PAS 91 ascertains supplier identity, financial information, business and professional standing, and health and safety standards. There are four optional modules which include equal opportunity and diversity, environmental management, quality management, and Building Information Modelling (BIM). There can also be a set of project-specific questions included by the buyer where appropriate to the tender.

Confirmation of compliance with the optional modules, along with adherence to the Modern Slavery Act and Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption policies, demonstrate commitment to go beyond the minimum requirements of PAS 91 and this helps contractors stand out to public sector procurement teams.

The Common Assessment Standard

Drawing on the framework set out by PAS 91, The Common Assessment Standard is an advanced standardised set of questions, developed by Build UK, to improve efficiency and consistency, and drive down cost in the construction pre-qualification (PQ) process. In turn this saves buyers and suppliers time and money when tendering.

The Common Assessment Standard covers the majority of areas deemed optional under PAS 91. These are equal opportunity and diversity, environmental management, BIM, and corporate and social responsibility (CSR). Satisfying these advanced criteria will give buyers confidence when selecting a credible contracting partner and demonstrate a supplier’s advanced qualifications.

SSIP Accreditation

Following the revision of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations in 2007, Stage 1 Core Criteria for health and safety competence was introduced as an assessment tool for contractors and consultants working in the construction industry.

The SSIP Forum acts as an umbrella body to simplify and streamline health and safety assessment schemes making it easier for businesses to comply with legislation and the core assessment criteria is approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Reducing the need for contractors to hold an array of health and safety certifications, SSIP removes duplication and cost right across the supply chain, with one industry recognised accreditation that is easy for suppliers to manage and buyers to identity.

Financial Stability

It is important for suppliers to be able to demonstrate their financial stability when tendering for public sector contracts. A good financial standing will demonstrate resilience to unforeseen external economic influences, mitigating risk to the buyer.

Having a stable financial system demonstrates a contractor is capable of efficiently allocating resources, assessing and managing financial risks, managing the supply of materials, and maintaining appropriate employment levels. Failing to correctly assess the capability and financial status of a contractor or key supplier before contract award can have disastrous consequences for the project.

Localised Employment & Procurement

Since the Government’s introduction of the Social Value in Procurement Model in December 2020, the extended criteria built on those set out originally in the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, ensure that social value within larger public procurement contracts is fully provided for and evaluated. This is a significant change from previous requirements where social value was just ‘considered.’ The improved standards encourage new jobs and skills, promote economic growth, and tackle climate change in the Government’s national strategy to level up the UK and achieve Net Zero by 2050.

Public sector buying organisations and their supply chains have a responsibility not just to consider financial best value of a contract, but also how the services they procure can improve the economic, social, and environmental wellbeing of the local community. In an effort to meet their sustainability and social value objectives, public sector buyers are looking to work with contractors committed to boosting local employment and training opportunities, and those who support local procurement by engaging with regional subcontractors. This creates more opportunities for SMEs and reduces the carbon footprint of the project.

How You Can Stand Out in the Public Sector Market

Compliance Chain is the construction industry’s comprehensive software solution for managing and delivering successful projects. Compliance Chain has seen a rise in Principal Contractor members looking to work with local subcontractors across their public sector projects. Through the ‘supplier search’ function, Compliance Chain’s buyers are actively searching for subcontractors local to their sites.

Although it is free to join at Bronze level, there are several benefits to ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’ status memberships that allow suppliers to demonstrate their compliance to public sector buyers, find more tender opportunities in their area and increase the likelihood of securing wins for public sector contracts. Subcontractors who can demonstrate their compliance with the necessary standards, such as PAS91 and the Common Assessment Standard, have the credentials public sector buyers are looking for and can save time and money in the pre-qualification stages of the tender process.

Gold members can maximise their public sector pipeline of opportunity with their membership verifying additional compliance in key areas such as Equal Opportunity & Environmental Management, as well as Supplier Identity, Financial Information, Corporate Social Responsibility, Third Party Accreditation, Business & Professional Standing, Health & Safety and Quality Management. Commitment to go beyond the required information demonstrated in Bronze level memberships helps suppliers stand out to public sector buyers.

Compliance Chain Gold status makes compliance checks simple for suppliers to submit their information, and for buyers to find licensed contractors suitable to work across their projects. Visit to become an approved gold subcontractor within the Compliance Chain platform and open your business to new opportunities.

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