Background to PAS 91
PAS 91 (Publicly Available Specification) is a standardised pre-qualification document which was developed for the construction industry to reduce the need for suppliers to complete a different questionnaire for each different buying authority.
The PAS 91 is a Government-commissioned questionnaire that is a “recommended common minimum standard for construction procurement” according to Constructionline.
The main and most obvious aim of PAS 91 is to help buyers to identify suitably qualified contractors. The thinking behind its standardisation is also to reduce bidding workload for suppliers who theoretically would only need to complete it once.
Unfortunately this is not always the case however, and oftentimes buyers will require suppliers to complete the PAS 91 regardless. With this in mind, we have created this short guide to help suppliers more easily navigate what is unquestionably one of the most complicated application forms in procurement.
How it Works
The standard PAS 91 is generally comprised of three core parts:
- Mandatory Questions – These usually follow a similar structure to the different though related Standard Selection Questionnaire (SSQ). The mandatory questions will ask for general information on your company, finances and general policies and processes. Most PAS 91 questionnaires will have specific sections which must be completed depending on whether you are a Contractor or Designer.
- Optional Questions – These are not optional for the supplier to complete, rather they are optional for the buyer to include. Optional questions will usually look to gather information on your policies and procedures in areas such as quality, environment and diversity / equal opportunities.
There is also a question here on building information modelling (BIM) which often catches smaller providers out. If you currently have no information or process with regard to BIM, we recommend that you look into it.
- Additional Questions – This section usually incorporates a few longer-form questions which the buyer wishes to ask. They will usually ask for more detail on your experience, processes, quality, staffing and resources, flexibility and use of initiative etc.
Several sections in the PAS 91 allow for exemptions which can drastically reduce the time spent on the questionnaire if you hold certain accreditations and memberships. Registration with a Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) scheme as well as accreditations such as ISO9001, ISO14001, ISO18001, CHAS, can all help in bypassing certain sections.
While PAS 91 should be provided in a standardised format, the criteria for Pass/Fail are not standard. It is therefore up to you to make sure you feel that you satisfy the buyer’s specific requirements for success.
Bear in mind that the presentation of the PAS 91 document can vary from a simple word document, to a complicated spreadsheet, to an online questionnaire. These should all be the same in essentials, but can vary in terms of how easy or hard they may be to navigate and complete.
What You’ll Need
To make sure you successfully navigate the PAS 91 and don’t waste more time than necessary, we have assembled a list of things you may want to gather in advance:
General Company Info
Every PAS 91 (and SSQ as well) will require a range of standard company info. this will include details such as company name, registered address, contact details, company number etc.
We always recommend collating this info in some form of spreadsheet or word processor so when the time comes, you can just copy-paste all the relevant info efficiently
Gather as many policies as you hold. The main ones you will almost certainly need will be Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity, Environment and Sustainability, Quality Assurance.
If you keep all of these in the same location, they will be easy to find and attach when they are required.
Certificates / Registration Numbers
You should keep a centralised log of all of your memberships, accreditations, certificates and awards etc. Make sure they are well organised and that you have registration numbers and expiry dates in one, easy-to-access location.
Accounts and Insurances
You will almost always need to submit evidence of your insurances and audited accounts for the most recent few years. You should have all of these in one location under a uniform naming scheme to ensure you can easily access them as required.
Most, if not all tenders will have minimum requirements for finances and insurances. There is little to be done if you don’t meet the financial requirements, as you would automatically not comply. You should however be able to purchase or upgrade to the required insurances without much hassle.
There is no easy way around a PAS 91 and only experience will help you to truly master them. To make sure the whole process is as straight forward as possible here are a few of our closing tips:
Follow the instructions
The first place most people fall down is in not following simple instructions. Read everything first, make sure you understand and then move on to completing the form.
Complete it in order
Rather than hopping around which may cause you to miss things, we recommend simply completing the form in order. Obviously there may be sections which you need to come back to, but a methodical approach is by far the most efficient.
If you’re confused, ask the question
Often times the buyer will throw in inexplicable instructions or questions that don’t make sense. We were once asked to complete a PAS 91 in an un-editable PDF! In such cases there is little to be done, other than to simply ask the buyer a question. You may feel silly, or worry the buyer will turn on you, but it is always worth asking. Usually, if you’re confused, so is everyone else. Even if the buyer is stubborn, they should usually help you out in the end.
There are no two ways about it, properly completing a PAS 91 takes time. There is no use rushing as you will invariably make mistakes. Instead you should simply plan out enough time to complete it and take your time.
If you’re still stuck…
If you’ve read down to here, and you’re still stuck, give us a call! We’d be more than happy to help.
As mentioned, a PAS 91 is a one-off project, so if we go through this process together once, it will be usable across the board for future PAS 91 bid submissions.
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