According to the findings from a survey of almost 200 English councils 27% of local authorities are now using the PAS 91 standard pre-qualification questionnaire exclusively. A further 36% are using the standard questionnaire published by the Crown Commercial Service.
But only 11% of councils insisted that tier 1 contractors use standard questionnaires down the supply chain.
The survey was carried out by the Specialist Engineering Contractors’Group found that while significant progress has been made in standardising the pre-qualification process, use of project bank accounts has failed to gain traction.
SEC Group CEO, Professor Rudi Klein, said: “I take heart from the fact that more and more councils are now using standard pre-qualification questionnaires.
“I hope this trend continues because, across the UK, firms are wasting over £1bn a year on needlessly filling in questionnaires and duplicating this exercise many times over.”
SEC is now urging the Government to make the use of PAS 91 a regulatory requirement under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The survey also revealed there was still no standard approach to assessing firms’ technical capabilities.
Only 6% of authorities valued trade association membership, while 18% relied on references. A fifth of councils relied on information about previous experience.
On standard contract forms local authorities were found to prefer the NEC for large capital works while JCT tended to be used for small value works. Almost 40% of councils now require their main contractors to use standard sub-contracts.
Take-up of project bank accounts – where payments are ring-fenced in one pot and discharged simultaneously to the supply chain – by councils remains slow but their use is increasing; fourteen councils are considering using them.
The lack of take-up is generally due to lack of information about PBAs rather than resistance to using them.