New PPN 03/24 (Selection Questionnaire) - plus PPNs 01/24 (Carbon Reduction Schedule) and 02/24 (Use of AI in Public Procurement)

Hats off to the Cabinet Office and CCS for demonstrating admirable drive and energy in recent days with their bonanza of procurement publications and updates! These have included the response to the summer 2023 consultations, the Procurement Regulations 2024 and the first tranche of guidance on the new Act; see our blog posts here and here to read about those.

In the procurement team at M&R we have been inspired and are enthusiastically looking forward to seeing the new procurement law regime unfold as we head towards October 2024.

However, the government is certainly not neglecting the current procurement law regime; and yesterday published a new PPN 03/24 on the CCS SQ. This is the third PPN this year, with PPN 02/24 on improving transparency around using AI in public procurement, and PPN 01/24 introducing a new carbon reduction schedule for use in government contracts.

We look at each of these below.

PPN 03/24 – Standard SQ

This update replaces PPN 03/23 and is the “guidance” referred to in regulation 107 Public Contracts Regulations 2015, meaning that it is the only PPN that has statutory force. It applies to all contracting authorities and must be implemented by 23 June 2024 (although can be implemented now). The following questions in the standard SQ have been updated, so authorities will need to ensure they are using the latest version where relevant to the procurement:

  • updated payment related questions;
  • updated steel related questions;
  • clarity for contracting authorities on considering bids from Russian/Belarusian suppliers *as set out in Procurement Policy Note 01/22); and
  • removal of references to PAS91 which has now been withdrawn by the BSI.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the standard form SQ once the Procurement Act 2023 is in force. Under Regulations 6 to 12 of the Procurement Regulations 2024, many types of supplier information currently sourced via the SQ (basic information, exclusion grounds information, information around economic and financial standing, connected persons information) will be uploaded to a central digital platform, presumably leaving the CCS SQ redundant in these areas.

PPN 02/24 – Transparency around AI use in public procurement

This PPN is mandatory for central government bodies and is recommended for all other contracting authorities.

It notes that suppliers are not prohibited from using AI in preparation of tenders, and that using AI can be advantageous and time-saving. AI may often be used where a tenderer employs a bid-writer, for example.

However authorities must take steps to understand the risks associated with using AI, for example:

  • ask suppliers whether AI has been used in writing the tender;
  • ensure that confidential contracting authority information is not used to “train” AI programmes;
  • doing appropriate due diligence that is proportionate to establish robustness of tender responses;
  • preparing for an upturn in number of tenders received, as suppliers become equipped to submit more tenders thank to AI; and
  • potentially allowing more time in the procurement process, for due diligence and verification around AI.

The PPN lists some sources of guidance and best practice for authorities to use, and also includes eom standard questions that could be included in the ITT to establish whether a tenderer has employed AI in the submission of the tender.

PPN 01/24 – Carbon Reduction

In the first PPN of 2024, the Cabinet Office published terms and conditions (in the form of the Carbon Reduction Contract Schedule) to support contract specific carbon reduction objectives in certain Government contracts.  Following in the footsteps of PPN 06/21 (Taking Account of Carbon Reduction Plans in the Procurement of Major Government Contracts), this PPN appears to represent a step-change in the Government’s approach to holding Suppliers to account for achievement of their carbon reduction promises. Our colleague Simon Crane explains more here.

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