Whether you are at the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) application stage of a tender or making a framework there are now a growing number of requirements before you will be considered an eligible supplier or service provider who can participate in an Invitation to Tender (ITT). Perhaps the most noticeable development in this area pertains to certification for quality and environmental performance.
Although questions relating to ISO 9001 (the international standard for Quality Management Systems) and ISO 14001 (the international standard for Environmental Management Systems) have featured in procurement questions for some time, both the weightings of such questions and the rigour with which they are evaluated have increased dramatically.
For years, prospective service providers have been able to adequately respond to questions relating to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 by stating that they were in the process of gaining certification, despite having no clear immediate intention to do so. Whilst this response often failed to gain full marks in the evaluation process it was still sufficient enough to support the application, and very rarely did it result in any exclusion from PQQ’s or ITT’s.
However, a review of forthcoming procurement requirements has shown that this position is no longer the case. Demonstration of strong quality management and environmental stewardship is now allotted a greater weighting within an increasing number of public and private sector tenders. This is mainly due to the growing acceptance of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 as the internationally recognised standards of best practice.
As a result, the public sector is using these standards to wholly determine the quality and environmental credentials of potential suppliers. From a service provider perspective, possessing ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification increasingly helps to dispel any potential concerns relating to a business’s ability to consistently deliver quality products and environmental stewardship.
Additionally, the way in which tender responses are being evaluated and scored is growing ever more stringent. Since 2006 all Government procurement teams have been required to follow the EU Procurement Directives and Contract Regulations. This has led to the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) producing policy notes and guidance on procurement regulations. The guidance issued by the OGC suggests that those evaluating ITT and PQQ submissions should adopt a scoring system of the following:
Local governments have also committed to making the ITT and PQQ process more consistent. In reality for many local authorities this has galvanised the review process of PQQ questions (and sometimes ITT) relating to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification into a “Pass/Fail” question, with those who lack certification often being disqualified from the tendering process.
Another factor at play is the widespread budget cuts that local governments have suffered as part of austerity measures. One outcome is that many public sector organisations no longer have the resources required to quantify the quality and environmental management credentials of every would-be supplier or service provider. The ability to competently evaluate a descriptive response is therefore often constrained, and the evaluation of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification on a pass/fail basis helps to bring consistency and continuity to the evaluation process. This is particularly true where the tender panel does not have EMS or QMS experience.
This often leaves those who do not possess a Quality and Environmental Management System certified to recognised standards, excluded from tendering processes. In recent work within the waste sector, WRM have witnessed instances where this has been the case. In one such example the incumbent contractor fell short on these requirements, rendering them unable to participate in a tender for a 15 year, multi-million pound contract.
Becoming aware of a change to the procurement approach upon receiving tender documents often means there is insufficient time to address the requirement, consequently resulting in the loss of lucrative contracts. This evidence clearly supports a more proactive approach for those whose core business is servicing public sector contracts.
So, do you need ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, to successfully bid on public sector tenders? Put simply, the answer is increasingly yes and it is highly likely that this will continue to be the case. Having ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification is rapidly developing into a necessity, rather than a nice optional extra for many high value procurement opportunities.
As a practitioner I would recommend that businesses supplying the public sector with goods and services consider gaining ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification, sooner rather than later. Discovering that ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification is required a few weeks before a PPQ or ITT deadline will undoubtedly provide insufficient time to fully address the requirements. Ultimately, obtaining ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification is a sound investment, which will increase your chances of securing high value tenders and the probability of retaining contracts which you may already possess. Despite the perception that gaining ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification is time consuming and expensive, the investment is rarely a bad one as the total cost of obtaining the certification is outstripped by the value of the contracts which it could enable you to secure and retain.
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