The long awaited revised “Selection Questionnaire” or "SQ" has now been published by the Crown Commercial Service. This replaces, with immediate effect, the previous CCS template PQQ for all above-threshold procurements.

The template is accompanied by helpful guidance from the Crown Commercial Service and can be accessed here.

The new SQ template is mandatory for use by any contracting authority in England for any above-threshold procurement covered by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and should be used with immediate effect.

What are the differences between this and the previous template?

  • change in terminology from PQQ to SQ
  • self-certification by suppliers to certify that they can meet the requirements of the SQ questions
  • only the winning bidder need submit evidence on request to verify its response
  • environmental and social obligations now covered in discretionary exclusion grounds
  • previous modules on health and safety and equal opportunities have been scrapped
  • additional modules on steel and skills and apprenticeships which should be used where applicable to the contracting authority or the procurement
  • contracting authorities must accept responses to their SQs in ESPD format

Why was a new template needed?

The template has been produced to align with the European Single Procurement Documents or ESPD. The ESPD is a Europe-wide method for suppliers to respond to via a self-declaration that none of the mandatory or discretionary exclusion grounds apply and that they meet the minimum standards for the required selection criteria. The idea behind the ESPD is that suppliers will have a reduced administrative burden because the same exclusion grounds will be used in ESPDs across the EU, meaning they will be able to re-use forms previously submitted for another procurement as long as the information is still correct.

Do I need to add anything to the template before using it?

Yes you do. The template does not have any methodology for evaluation of the responses, nor does it set out any minimum requirements, for example, for financial stability. Contracting authorities therefore need to tell suppliers in the SQ document how their responses to the questions relating to technical capability (and where applicable, financial standing) will be scored and evaluated, and what the minimum requirements are for financial standing.

Can I amend the template questions or add to them?

No, this is not permitted. Contracting authorities must not add any questions other than project-specific questions where permitted by the guidance. If a contracting authority wishes to do any of the following to the template, then it must notify the Cabinet Office Mystery Shopper scheme of the deviation:

  • changes to the wording of the standard questions and instructions
  • include additional questions which are not project specific for the procurement in question.

Do I have to use the template for Light Touch (LTR) procurements?

Whilst use of the template SQ is not mandatory for LTR procurements, and there is no requirement for contracting authorities to assess the mandatory and discretionary grounds for exclusion in a LTR procurement, the Crown Commercial Service recommends that the standard SQ is used, and contracting authorities should assess mandatory and discretionary exclusion grounds as a matter of best practice. The Crown Commercial Service recommends using Parts 1 and 2 of the standard template, along with a selection of relevant questions from Part 3.