New LSC Tender: the PQQ

In my previous article, we looked at what categories were being tendered for and questioned whether the LSC’s intentions as set out in their Outline of Tender process document complied with EU Procurement law given that new entities planning to start trading at the contract start date would be unable to be obtain the Specialist Quality Mark or be Lexcel accredited on their first day of trading.

We raised this issue with the Legal Services Commission and they have now relaxed this requirement. Now, new entitles will only need to pass the Specialist Quality Mark at the desktop (documentary) stage by the contract start date.

The Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) has been published and is designed better than in previous exercises. The wording is clearer and there is less scope for confusion this time around. Further, the questions clearly indicate whether the response would lead to the bid failing.

Many organisations will feel more comfortable with this PQQ. However, many agencies will be concerned that the LSC will still reject a number of tenders for supposedly submitting a blank form and not answering a particular question despite the applicant being adamant that no such mistake was made in practice.

In the last recent family tender, at least one firm had its application rejected on the basis that it had allegedly submitted a blank tender information form. When we were asked to assist with an appeal on this point, we were able to prove that a fully completed form had been submitted just 14 minutes before the portal closed. To submit a blank form, this firm would have had to go back into the portal, delete the tender form, upload another blank form, save the changes and then press the submit button again. The firm insisted that did not happen and it would have been difficult to do in practice.

The experience referred to above in addition to the hundreds of other firms that have had their tenders rejected for submitting a blank form or supposedly making another technical mistake in the submission of parts of their tenders shows the need for being able to prove precisely what was submitted.

One way of demonstrating proof is to purchase a video screen capture software product which can record the submission of the bid or the checking of the bid. This enables playback of every step and would provide objective evidence of what was submitted and when.

Check, and check again
Properly checking your bid is essential. In the past, too many firms have relied solely on just one member of their staff to complete and submit the bid. Firms must ensure that the bid is checked by at least one additional person. The eTendering system allows firms to print and save PDF copies of their completed PQQ and these could easily be reviewed by another staff member. The more people who check a bid, the less likely that mistakes will be made.

In the event of any technical discrepancy, the implementing of a series of verification checks in addition to having a method for recording what was submitted could make the difference between winning or losing an appeal.

In the next article, we will comment on the telephone PQQ.


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