Procurement is the complete process of acquiring goods and services from third parties. Taking equality into account at an early stage in the procurement process can help to ensure goods and services procured externally are fit for purpose for all staff and students, and can reduce costs in the longer term.
It can also ensure the institution meets its legal obligations. The Equality Act 2010 requires HEIs, colleges and their contractors to ensure that they do not unlawfully discriminate in their employment practices or provision of goods, facilities or services.
In Scotland and Wales, institutions have a specific duty to have due regard to whether award criteria and contract conditions should include considerations to enable them to better advance equality. You can find further details in the Equality legislation section.
ECU worked with the British Universities Finance Directors Procurement Professionals Group and procurement and equality and diversity practitioners from a range of institutions to produce guidance on equality in procurement.
The Equality through procurement in FE and HE breaks down the procurement process step-by-step, providing practical guidance, ideas and case studies at each stage.
- Putting equality into the procurement process; planning the contract, the tender process, managing and monitoring contracts
- Supporting departmental or devolved purchasing
- Toolkit – model questionnaires, contract conditions and relevance assessment tools
Effective procurement practice
The guide includes some examples of effective practice that help to embed equality in procurement:
- Develop pre-qualification equality questions to include in all tenders for works or services of high value.
- Develop equality guidance for key staff managing purchasing processes.
- Include procurement guidance in online equality and diversity training, and equality guidance in procurement training.
- Discuss equality considerations as part of initial contract commencementwith contractors.
- Hold regular equality reviews with key purchasing and contracts staff to establish any key equality considerations for contract and performance reviews.
- Include equality clauses in contracts.
Government Procurement Review Update
The government replaced its standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire with the new Standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ) in their Action Note 8/6 (September 2016). The standard SQ is used, during the supplier selection process, to gather basic information about the suppliers. This was introduced to help make the supplier selection process for HEIs more simple. It also includes exclusion grounds listed in the Public Contract Regulations 2015.
We have reviewed ECU’s ‘Equality through Procurement in Further and Higher Education’ guidance in light of this. The new version of the Government standard SQ can be found in the ‘Procurement Policy Note: Standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ) Action Note 8/16’.
Some requests have been added to the standard SQ. Commercial organisations have been asked to make a slavery and human trafficking statement to confirm certain practices in their supply chain. In addition, they encourage central government organisations and other contracting bodies to consider skills and apprenticeships if possible.
The main questions that were in the old questionnaire but that are not included in the new Selection Questionnaire are:
- Tax fraud and Tax avoidance
- Section 7.4
- Section 7C, which asked specifically about Equality, Environmental Management and Health and Safety
However, the Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010 applies to HEIs procurement processes. More information on this is available in our ‘Equality through Procurement in Further and Higher Education’ publication.
Overall, these recent changes will affect public sector HEIs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and those tendering into government.