Government Procurement Service change of heart – good news for small consulting firms?

Late on Friday, the Government Procurement Service (GPS) announced a couple of significant changes to the current ConsultancyOne tender, which covers a range of professional services, from management consulting to audit and financial advice.

The first is that one of the key scoring questions on the PQQ, which basically asked how many consultants the firm could offer, has been scrapped as a scoring question. This clearly helps  smaller firms, who would have scored less well – for instance, the most generalist of the 15 lots required you to have over 200 consultants to score top marks.

Secondly, the deadline for the PQQ has been extended, although we don’t know till when yet.  We believe some bidders had complained that as much of the preparation period was over the holiday season, it discriminated against smaller firms who couldn’t get staff in to write bids during that time.  Having changed the scoring, GPS also need to give firms who weren’t going to bid, but may now fancy their chances more strongly, a chance to come into the competition.

I can see both sides of the argument on these points. Very small firms can’t in reality meet the needs of a national consulting framework, although the numbers required to score well did seem on the high side.  And I’m not sure about the Xmas argument – you might expect a small firm to have some spare time to do the PQQ at Xmas time whereas we might all be working flat out the rest of the year doing paid work! But GPS have decided to listen to the comments they have had from various SMEs and take action.

Anyway, there are two interpretations of this. The less positive is “why on earth didn’t GPS think of this in the first place if they were worried about small firms”? It seemed pretty clear that the question about numbers would disadvantage small firms, so it is a little odd this wasn't picked up sooner.

The other is, “well done to GPS (and the SRO) for  listening to bidder comments and responding positively to the issues raised by SMEs”.

We’ll  give them a seasonal benefit of doubt and compliment them based on the second! And I know Stephen Allott, the Crown Commercial Representative for SMEs in the Cabinet Office has had some input to the tender, so I imagine he will be pleased  by this as well.

There's still a lot of work needed to get through the PQQ, and you need strong case studies to stand any chance, but smaller firms should look again at the opportunity now if they were discouraged by the size issue.

Here’s the key element of the GPS communication:

“ After listening to feedback from suppliers since the publication of the OJEU advert for consultancyONE, Government Procurement Service will be removing the capacity question at F1 in each Lot. This decision reflects our commitment to open and transparent procurement and our determination to ensure that all suppliers have an equal opportunity to compete for a place on the framework regardless of their size....

In the interests of clarity we will revise the PQQ documentation, taking account of the feedback received, and will be extending the deadline for submission to allow for all interested suppliers to prepare their responses. “

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First Voice

  1. doug forbes:

    If this is like the previous one, then there will be many more questions which are discriminatory due to the slump in consultancy spend from the public sector in the last year.

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