NEWS4 September 2009

Small MR suppliers ‘excluded’ by public sector procurement

Government UK

UK— Independent researchers are claiming that public sector procurement practices are leaving them out in the cold - and changes designed to open up the field to smaller providers could make things worse.

A government-commissioned report on how to encourage SMEs to bid for public sector business has recommended that pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQ) be standardised, but members of the Independent Consultants Group have said that these questionnaires more often exclude small research businesses than encourage them.

In an article for Research today, a group of ICG members argue that the criteria must be made relevant to suppliers of all sizes, and that public sector buyers need to make sure they have properly qualified people to assess whether agencies make the grade.

Questionnaires commonly include requirements that are irrelevant to many independent MR suppliers, they claim, such as having an equal opportunities policy, ISO 9000 accreditation, or high levels of business insurance. The criteria should instead focus on experience, professional qualifications and the ability to select appropriate research methodology, they argue.

“We believe that those best able to make a fair assessment of both PQQ submissions and resultant tender applications are those public sector personnel who will use the research outputs,” they write.