News Item: Trade Bodies Roll Out New Pre-qualification System

Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) 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 (CAS) pre-qualification system is aimed at reducing the burden of paperwork as existing systems are often complex and repetitive, and a major barrier to improving productivity. The current schemes in operation account for around 180,000 specialist contractors producing  over two million pieces of paper every year for 5,000 contractors.

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

This first phase of the new system includes the publication of a new standard used to pre-qualify companies, which is based on existing PQ questionnaires, and includes BSI’s PAS 91, covering 10 topics including desktop and site-based assessment standards.

Build UK and CECA have already appointed three assessment bodies – Achilles, CHAS,  Constructionline – to certify companies against the common assessment standard. Other Federations, including HAE, are also being encouraged to apply to become assessment bodies. HAE have recently completed a review of SafeHire to ensure it fully complies with the CAS. HAE’s aspiration is to gain recognition for SafeHire as the equal of CAS and in so doing help its members to reduce the multiple PQ requirements of various contractors.

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, for HAE members that would be SafeHire. 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.”

HAE Managing Director Graham Arundell said: “As an association HAE has long desired the opportunity to reduce duplication and cost, and by bringing SafeHire in to line with PAS 91 and CAS we hope the process will be simplified. There’s bound to be a transition period while the changes settle in, but hopefully this marks the roll out of a process that will simplify pre-qualification for the whole sector.”

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.