The procurement strategy
The procurement route
The Public Contract Regulations 2015 (the Contract Regulations), unless superseded, will apply to the procurement and it will be carried out in accordance with those Regulations.Back to top
Choice of procurement procedure
PSAA is keen, if possible, to enter into contracts with a larger number of suppliers registered as local public auditors than the current five. This could include a non-registered firm working with a registered firm.
This will give PSAA the ability to manage auditor independence issues, for example, where an audit supplier has a pre-existing relationship with an opted-in body which prevents it from accepting an audit appointment. It will also provide the flexibility to enable PSAA to respond to the significant number of joint or shared working arrangements for which partner eligible bodies often express a preference for the appointment of a common audit supplier. By entering into contracts with a number of suppliers, PSAA will help to support the drive towards a long term competitive and more sustainable market for local public audit services.
Because the nature of the services being procured is highly specialised, PSAA will follow the restricted procedure (rather than the open procedure) in accordance with the Contract Regulations. This will enable PSAA to identify those suppliers with the necessary financial standing, technical capability, skills and experience to provide services and then invite all those shortlisted to tender.
Bids will be accepted from suppliers which are registered as, or that are currently proceeding through the registration process to become, a local public auditor with a supervisory body approved by the Financial Reporting Council, currently the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). The registration and ongoing monitoring processes test supplier quality and competence.
Bids from consortia or other forms of joint working arrangements will be permitted where at least one member organisation within the consortium or arrangements is individually registered as (or going through the process of registration to become) a local public auditor with the ICAEW.
An award made to a supplier going through the registration process will be conditional on the ICAEW, as the Registered Supervisory Body, approving their registration and the procurement will not seek to prejudice ICAEW’s approval process.
Suppliers invited to tender will be asked to quote prices for a contract length of five years, which matches the opt-in period for eligible bodies. The contracts will include the option to extend the contract duration by up to a further two years, by mutual agreement.
Variant bids will not be permitted.Back to top
PSAA will structure its procurement and invite bids as set out in the paragraphs below, subject to confirmation once the number of eligible bodies opting into the scheme is known.
There will be a single England-wide contract area, containing between 7 and 11 lots. There will also be a further two lots which will be classed as “development lots”.
The size of the lots will be graduated to enable bidders to match their capacity and risk appetite with their preferred lot size.
The number of individual lots and their indicative value will be clearly set out in the invitation to tender. PSAA will reserve the right to award work in excess of the lot size as a mitigation should we be unable to award all lots.
For each individual lot, PSAA will give an indication of the minimum volume of work which the lot will contain.
The two “development lots” will be sized at around 2% and 1% of opted-in bodies in order to encourage new entrants.
There will be no requirement for bidders to participate in joint audits.
Except for the development lots, each lot in its final form will reflect a sensible balance of geography and a blend of the different authority types, taking account of the guiding principles used when making auditor appointments. Most lots are likely to include one or more public interest entity (PIE) audits. However, in addition to the two development lots, two further lots will exclude any PIE audits.
The indicative value of each lot will be expressed by reference to the ‘audited body notional value’ (ABNV), which comprises the published scale fees for 2021/22 for all opted-in bodies. This will establish a consistent baseline for bidder’s pricing.
Within the invitation to tender we will provide further information that will be helpful to bidders in their consideration of bid prices covering:
- those future regulatory and Code-related changes up to April 2023 that we expect bidders to reflect in their pricing. Correspondingly, we will identify those possible changes where there is insufficient information available to do so and outline how these will be handled; and
- a schedule of opted-in bodies which details for the most recent audit year completed, the scale fee and the nature and value of recurring fee variations that are already baked into the scale fee.
Named audits will not be allocated to a lot until the procurement is complete and the subsequent consultation processes with opted-in bodies and successful bidders have taken place. Having a larger number of lots increases the opportunity for a greater proportion of a lot to be concentrated in specific geographical areas rather than being spread across the country.
There is no “auditor of last resort” in England, unlike other UK public sector procurers of volume public audit services. Given the statutory nature of audit, and its obligation to make an auditor appointment to every opted-in body, PSAA will endeavour to encourage the market to bid in a manner which represents value for money for the public purse, without damaging sustainability.
When making auditor appointments following contract award, PSAA will consider the status of prior year audits and will be guided by the following principles:
- ensuring auditor independence;
- ensuring any contractually guaranteed levels of work are met;
- ensuring a blend of authority types for each audit firm;
- taking account of a firm’s principal locations (as specified in its tender response);
- providing continuity of audit firm, where appropriate; and
- accommodating joint/shared working arrangements between local bodies where possible.
Bidding rules relating to lots
In the interests of market sustainability, and subject to receiving sufficient bids and to the outcome of the evaluation of responses to the invitation to tender, PSAA expects to award no more than 35% of the aggregate value of its total portfolio (and potentially a lesser maximum percentage) to any single supplier. Ideally PSAA wants to enter into long term contracts with a larger number of suppliers than we do currently, reflecting a more balanced distribution of work. Our lot structure will aim to enable this, subject to us receiving sufficient bids. The exact number of lots that any successful bidder could be awarded will be set out in the invitation to tender documents.
Bidders will be required to indicate the maximum amount of work per annum that they are able/would be willing to deliver, as a percentage of PSAA’s total work based on 2021/22 scale fees. Where a bidder submits bids for multiple lots, this information would be used by PSAA to ensure that any bidder is not awarded work in excess of its stated capacity. In addition, bidders will be permitted to indicate that, should they win a lot, their bids for smaller sized lots are to be withdrawn.
Bidders will not be required to bid for all lots. However, they will be able to bid for all lots which fall within the range which they have specified as their maximum capacity.
PSAA will award contracts to a number of suppliers, to enable it to:
- manage any independence issues that may arise when making auditor appointments to opted-in audited bodies;
- respond to shared or joint working arrangements between audited bodies;
- make an appropriate auditor appointment to each opted-in audited body after fulfilling its statutory duty to consult such bodies on proposed appointments; and
- support the drive for longer-term market sustainability.
Contract lots will be awarded to the suppliers submitting the most economically advantageous tenders i.e. assessed using a price/quality ratio.
Bidders will be invited to express their bids for each lot as a fixed proportion of the relevant ABNV. Bidders can submit a percentage value that is greater or less than 100%. Bidders will be able to submit different bid rate percentages for each lot.
PSAA recognises that the location of an audit is an important consideration for bidders. Bidders for all lots, other than the “development lots”, will therefore be able to select up to four geographical areas which would be least attractive/convenient for them to audit (from a pre-defined list of English County and Combined Authority areas). PSAA would seek to avoid appointing the bidder, if successful, to audits within the selected geographic areas. In the event that it was necessary to appoint the bidder to any audits in those areas, the relevant bid rate would be increased by a premium of 30% in respect of the audits concerned.
It is recognised that bidders for the “development lots” may have the capacity to work in a relatively limited geographical area compared to larger suppliers. They will therefore be able to select up to 4 areas in which they would be able to undertake audits and provide details of any exclusions within those areas using the same predefined list of English County and Combined Authority areas.
Should either or both of the development lots not be awarded, PSAA would seek to offer the additional volume of work initially to the highest scoring winning bidder across all the lots and, if this is declined, to offer it to the second highest scoring winning bidder across the lots and so on working down through lot winning bidders.
 Counties (including any Councils or Other Relevant Local Bodies within the County area), and Combined Authorities (including any Councils or Other Relevant Local Bodies within the Combined Authority area)
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PSAA strongly believes the national, sector-led, collective scheme offers benefits to both audit services suppliers and eligible bodies. By opting into PSAA’s scheme, individual bodies will avoid the costs of their own procurement and management of contracts and also the requirement to set up an auditor panel with independent members. Audit services suppliers avoid the expense of participating in multiple procurements and, where successful, the challenge of being subject to and managing a range of different contract management regimes.
PSAA’s costs of managing the scheme are covered by audit fees paid by opted-in bodies. Over the current contract term, from 2018 to 2023, our annual operating costs have averaged approximately 4% of total annual contract spend. We plan to continue to manage our own costs appropriately and to ensure that the national scheme offers excellent value for its members.
PSAA will continue to pool scheme costs and charge fees to opted-in bodies in accordance with our published fee scale as amended from time to time following consultations with scheme members and other interested parties.
As a not-for-profit organisation, PSAA returns to opted-in bodies any surplus funds generated by the scheme after all costs have been met. This obligation is set out clearly in our articles of association. Our most recent distribution of surplus funds, totalling £5.6m was announced in August 2021.
PSAA will consult on the proposed scale of fees for 2023/24 and subsequently expects to publish the fees applicable no later than the end of November 2023, subject to approval of the anticipated amendment to the Appointing Person Regulations which would move the latest date by which audit fees must be set from 31 March to 30 November of the year to which the audit relates.
For each year of the contract, PSAA intends to increase the remuneration paid to its audit firms by reference to the annual increase in CPI.
Additional fees (fee variations) are part of the legal framework. They only occur if substantially more or less work is required than is envisaged in the scale fee or the auditor is entitled to recover costs or expenses from the audited body under specific provisions in the regulations, for example in relation to public interest reports or objection work.
The regulations require PSAA to consider every fee variation on a case-by-case basis. Over the past nine months we have made improvements to our internal processes to enable the handling of a larger number of claims and we will continue to review and make improvements where possible for the benefit of all parties.
PSAA reviews and robustly assesses each fee variation proposal. We apply our technical knowledge and experience of all audits to assess each submission and can compare with similar submissions for other bodies across all our audit suppliers before reaching a decision. Our process requires that fees for additional work are discussed with and explained to the audited body before they can be proposed to PSAA. The Regulations require that the proposals must be approved by PSAA before they can be invoiced.
PSAA will provide a copy of the current rate card with the invitation to tender. Each winning bidder will be remunerated for additional work for each lot that it wins at a rate equal to the current rate card multiplied by its bid rate for that particular lot.
PSAA will update the rate card through the appointing period in line with changes to scale fees that are not related to the level of work – for example, inflation.Back to top
The key stages in the procurement process are set out below. In accordance with the Contract Regulations, PSAA will ensure that at each stage the process complies with the requirements of equal treatment, non-discrimination, transparency, and proportionality.
PSAA will use the Delta e-tendering platform to undertake this procurement.
Timetable and key milestones:
The timetable and key milestones for the procurement are summarised in Table 1. The target dates are provisional and may be subject to change.
Table 1 – indicative procurement timetable
|Key milestone||Target Date|
|Publish Contract Notice and issue documentation on request||w/c 7 February 2022|
|Deadline for submission of Selection Questionnaires||w/c 14 March 2022|
|Issue invitation to tender to short-listed suppliers||w/c 4 April 2022|
|Deadline for submission of tenders||w/c 11 July 2022|
|PSAA Board approval of contract awards, assuming a satisfactory outcome||August 2022|
Following a statutory consultation process auditor appointment for opted-in bodies will be made by 31 December 2022 for audit years from 2023/24.
This timetable is consistent with the requirement set out in the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, for an authority to appoint an auditor to audit its accounts for a financial year by no later than 31 December in the preceding financial year.
The purpose and scope of the procurement will be set out in the Contract Notice to be published on the Find A Tender Service and Contracts Finder.
Pre-qualification (selection) stage
The pre-qualification (selection) stage will be designed to enable PSAA to assess potential audit suppliers’ ability to meet PSAA’s requirements.
The selection questionnaire evaluation criteria will be:
- compliance with grounds that would otherwise lead to mandatory or discretionary rejection under the Contract Regulations;
- satisfactory organisational, financial and economic standing and insurance arrangements;
- capability and capacity;
- technical and professional knowledge and experience; and
- eligibility for appointment under the Act and Regulations, either through being registered with ICAEW or going through the process of registration.
Evaluation at this stage will result in a pass or fail outcome for each potential supplier. All suppliers achieving a pass outcome will be invited to tender.
The tenders for each lot will be evaluated in accordance with the published evaluation criteria to identify the most economically advantageous tenders. The relative weighting of price and quality will be 20:80 with 5 marks of the 80 quality marks being attributed to social value, which equates to 5% of the overall score. PSAA plan to ask bidders to describe the additional social value they will deliver from the contract, which could include the creation of audit apprenticeships and meaningful training opportunities. Bidders will also be asked to describe how their delivery of social value will be measured and evidenced.
The quality of responses at tender stage will be assessed against a range of relevant criteria such as audit approach, quality assurance, client communications and resourcing and capacity & capability including sector knowledge. Aligned with the Government’s proposal that the ARGA become the local audit system leader, we will seek the FRC’s input in developing our approach.
Bidders will only be requested to provide one response to the quality section of the tender irrespective of the number of contract lots they bid for, although some questions may require a lot-specific response. The “development lots” will be assessed against the same criteria but in some areas may have a different assessment focus requiring a separate response from bidders interested in these lots.
The formal tender evaluation criteria and methodology will be described in the invitation to tender documentation, and published on the PSAA website.Back to top