Although PAS91 has been around for some time now, it’s certainly getting a lot more “airtime” at the moment due to it being referenced in the guidance to the CDM (Construction, Design Management) Regulations 2015.
So, what is PAS91?
Entitled “Construction Pre-qualification Questionnaires”, but commonly referred to as PAS91, it is a publicly available specification that contains question sets suitable for use to assess construction supply chains. The definition of construction was taken from the CDM Regulations, so as well as new build PAS91 can also cover other areas, such as demolition, refurbishment, extensions, conversions, repair and maintenance. There are mandatory question modules that cover commercial aspects of the company (including governance, financial, key contacts) and health & safety. There are also several optional modules and the ability to add further specific questions.
PAS91 is now in its second version. Its development was sponsored by BIS (the Department for Business Innovation and Skills) and the steering group was made up of individuals from the public and private sectors, including Altius. Uptake has steadily increased, particularly in the public sector.
What PAS91 isn’t!
Although PAS91 provides a framework for asking questions of a supplier, it does not set a standard for what may be acceptable or adequate as a response. Setting an assessment standard was never within the scope of PAS91, its purpose is restricted to providing a standardised set of questions. PAS91 does, however, provide some guidance as to the type of evidence a supplier may provide in response to specific questions.
PAS91 isn’t currently geared towards suppliers of goods. If you have goods suppliers within your supply chain, particularly if you have a global supply chain, you may want to check out PAS7000.
Aims of PAS91
The aim of PAS91 is to provide a common set of questions so that suppliers, such as contractors, service providers, designers etc., will be asked questions that they are familiar with. It is intended that this will lead to reduced effort and significant savings in the procurement process, as well as the sharing of information. It is also hoped it will help encourage more participation from SMEs, many of which have found competing for business with large organisations unviable due to the resource /cost burden of procurement processes.
PAS91 and CDM2015
Although the CDM Regulations guidance does not make the use of PAS91 compulsory, if you do currently assess your supply chain it is worth considering whether your own process (particularly the health and safety aspect) covers the content of PAS91. If you find significant gaps or indeed if you are asking significantly more, it may be a good time to review the content of your current questions.
Using PAS91 as a supplier/contractor/designer
You may well have completed a prequalification questionnaire that was based on PAS91 without realising it (particularly if you operate in the public sector). As a supplier you cannot become compliant as such to PAS91, but you may become compliant for a specific client or assessment scheme that uses PAS91. Some of these could be part of “Safety Schemes In Procurement (SSIP)”, so you may be recognised at that level and appear on the SSIP Portal. You may choose to develop a standard set of answers that you update regularly so that you will be ‘ready to go’ at any time when approached to complete a PAS91 questionnaire. You should then be able to tweak your responses for specific clients.
Using PAS91 as a buyer/client/contracting authority
It is sound business sense to check out any organisation you are looking to do business with. You will want to ensure that they are financially viable, well governed and have the organisational capability to work on your behalf.
Many clients will seek to do this by the use of a questionnaire, often referred to as a PQQ (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire). As a client, you can claim that your PQQ process is compliant to PAS91, although at present there is no official means of getting certified. To claim compliance, you need to ensure that you ask all the mandatory questions by using the same wording as PAS91, in the same order and using the numbering system provided. You will also be obliged to publish your criteria for assessing responses, including the scoring system if you have one. Although additional questions can be added, bear in mind that PAS91 is there to reduce time spent on PQQs (by both parties). If adding additional questions, consider if they are absolutely necessary at the pre-qualification stage and whether they duplicate existing questions.
Where pre-existing certifications are in place, PAS91 will allow clients to recognise these and cut down on additional questions. For example, if the supplier has been assessed by a member of SSIP or has ISO 9001 or 14001, by providing evidence of this they can cut down on the number of required responses.
PAS 91 and the future
The current version of PAS91 is aligned with CDM2007, but with the introduction of CDM2015 it requires an overhaul, for example the role of Principal Designer is not addressed. This is likely to take place later on in the year. The key to the continued success of PAS91 will be to widen its audience and maintain its relevance, hopefully the next revision will prove to do both these things.