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Sat October 16 2021

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Trade bodies roll out new pre-qualification system

10 Apr 19 Industry trade associations are putting their weight behind a new pre-qualification system that they hope will make construction procurement more efficient for clients and contractors alike.

The new common assessment standard pre-qualification system is designed to reduce the burden of paperwork
The new common assessment standard pre-qualification system is designed to reduce the burden of paperwork

Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) are today launching the first phase of a new pre-qualification (PQ) system that they would like to see replace all various schemes currently available.

The existing PQ system is complex and repetitive, they say, and a major barrier to improved productivity. With all the schemes currently in operation, around 180,000 specialist contractors produce more than two million pieces of paper every year for 5,000 contractors.

The aspiration is that the new common assessment standard system will ultimately allow for greater consistency and efficiency in how companies become pre-qualified for work at the first stage.

The roll-out of this first phase of the new system includes the publication of a new common assessment standard used to pre-qualify companies. Based on existing PQ questionnaires, including BSI’s PAS 91, this covers 10 topics and includes desktop and site-based assessment standards.

UK and CECA have also appointed three assessment bodies – Achilles, CHAS and Constructionline –to certify companies against the common assessment standard.

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The system is being overseen by an interim panel consisting of representatives from construction clients, contractors and trade associations.

The plan is that, once the new system is fully up and running, companies will not have to be certified by more than one recognised assessment body. A data sharing arrangement is being developed that will allow contractors to obtain PQ information from any of the recognised assessment bodies. Build UK and CECA contractors will be transitioning to the new system over the coming months, they said.

Build UK deputy chief executive Jo Fautley said: “The construction industry is making great strides towards more collaborative working and this new PQ system has been developed by industry, for industry, based on standards that clients, contractors and the supply chain have all agreed on. We look forward to the industry getting on board with it over the coming months so we can realise the efficiency gains for everyone’s benefit and boost overall productivity.”

CECA director of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “CECA has long advocated an industry standard approach to PQ and the new system which builds on PAS 91 will simplify the process and reduce duplication and cost. Change takes time and there will be a transition period, but this marks the start of the rollout of the new system which we anticipate will play a key role in the future delivery of world-class infrastructure.”

The initiative has been welcomed by the government’s Construction Leadership Council (CLC). Ann Bentley, chair of the CLC’s business model workstream, said: “The Construction Leadership Council welcomes and supports the proposed reform of the current PQ process – it is a real and practical way of reducing bureaucracy and improving quality in the procurement process. Companies will be able to demonstrate that they meet an agreed industry standard and clients and contractors will be able to rely on the certification. The CLC will be encouraging adoption of the revised standard throughout Government construction procurement.”

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