What is the ESPD?

The European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) is a standard form for use by all EU member states, which replaces pre-qualification questionnaires, and should make the process of bidding for a public contract easier. Its purpose is to remove some of the barriers to participation in public procurement, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

From 18 April 2016 all Scottish public bodies have issued and accepted the ESPD form for all procurement exercises above the EU threshold, and it is best practice for regulated (£50k and above for goods and services) procurements.

It should make the process of bidding for a public contract easier by allowing bidders to self-declare that they meet selection and exclusion criteria, without the need to provide evidence at that stage.

The same form will be used across the EU, so a bidder will be able to re-use a form which it has previously submitted for another competition, so long as the information is still correct.

In Scotland we refer to the ESPD as the ESPD (Scotland).

Where Do I Find a Copy of the ESPD?

Procurement officers will include the ESPD (Scotland) that you need to complete and submit with the procurement exercise and will include instructions on sourcing the ESPD (Scotland).

Procurement officers can use one of three versions of the ESPD (Scotland) in their procurement exercise as follows:

  • Word version of a full ESPD (Scotland).  This is a manual document that the procurement officer will attach (normally to the Contract Notice).  The procurement officer will have removed any questions that are not relevant.  You will need to enter your responses into the Word version of the ESPD (Scotland) and submit via Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) or by post, if sending manually.  A full, blank version of the ESPD (Scotland) can be found in the Procurement Journey;
  • PCS includes an online ESPD (Scotland) Module.  The ESPD (Scotland) questions are loaded into PCS, which allows you to create your answers on-line in an electronic form;
  • PCS-Tender (PCS-T) includes an electronic version of the ESPD (Scotland).  If using PCS-T the procurement officer will include their on-line ESPD (Scotland) and you will respond by entering your responses in PCS-T.  This ESPD (Scotland) is available on PCS-Tender.

Do I Need to Complete a New ESPD Every Time I Bid?

Yes. Each ESPD is configured to suit the requirements of that individual procurement exercise. Therefore, suppliers will be expected to submit an individual ESPD response that relates to those particular questions and requirements each time they bid.

Where the procurement officer uses the online PCS module or  PCS-Tender, suppliers will be able to store and reuse their answers to the ESPD standard questions.

Do I Need to Answer Every Question in the ESPD?

Yes.  The questions included in an ESPD have been deemed relevant to the particular procurement exercise.  As a result the procurement officer will be assessing all bidders responses based on these questions.

I Don't Understand Some of the ESPD Questions. What Do I Do?

Check the Contract Notice and any other tender documents you may have been provided from the procurement officer to confirm if any additional information there covers your question.

However never assume what a question is asking: an incorrect response could make the difference between your bid proceeding or not.  If you are unsure, raise a clarification via the PCS postbox (or PCS-T postbox), within the timelines the procurement officer has publishing for raising clarifications.

How Does the ESPD Work?

If the procurement officer is using PCS-Tender or the ESPD (Scotland) Word document for their procurement exercise, then they will set out the specific requirements and minimum standards that are relevant and proportionate for the procurement exercise in the Contract Notice (or the PIN if that is being used as a call for competition). 

If the procurement officer is using the online ESPD (Scotland) Module on Public Contracts Scotland the above is not necessary as the relevant information is contained within this Module. 

If using PCS-T or the ESPD (Scotland) word document, Procurement Officers must set out the specific requirements and minimum standards that are relevant and proportionate for the procurement exercise in the Contract Notice (or the PIN if that is being used as a call for competition). 

The procurement officer will then publish an ESPD which is relevant to their procurement exercise and make it available for anyone interested in bidding for their contract.

Bidders will complete and submit their ESPD response to the procurement officer, using one of the three methods outlined above.  The procurement officer will then assess the bidders suitability against the selection and exclusion criteria.

The ESPD (Scotland) can be issued to bidders within a tender document (when using an Open Procedure) or before the tender document is issued i.e. it is the first stage of a Restricted Procedure, Competitive Dialogue, Competitive Procedure with Negotiation or Innovative Partnership Procedure.

Will I Be Asked for Proof that my ESPD Self Declaration is True?

By law, a winning bidder has to submit all of the required certificates and documentation before they are awarded a contract. Bidders can be asked to submit their evidence at any point in the procurement process, if this is necessary to ensure that the process is carried out properly. In a Restricted, or two-stage, procedure, it is likely that those bidders which are shortlisted will be asked to submit their evidence at that stage.

From 18 October 2018, bidders have not been required to submit supporting documentation which an organisation already has in its possession.

What Happens If a Shortlisted or Successful Bidder is Found to Have Misrepresented Itself?

This will depend on what the issue is.  Further information is provided below:

  • If it emerges that a bidder is actually in one of the situations which is a mandatory ground for exclusion, or if it does not meet one of the minimum selection criteria, then that bidder must be excluded from the competition. Depending on the nature and stage of the competition, that may mean either that it proceeds without that bidder, or that competition should be re-evaluated without that bidder’s tender.
  • If it emerges that a business is in one of the situations which is a discretionary ground for exclusion, then the decision about whether or not to exclude that bidder will be up to the public body, which will have to take a decision which is in line with the EU Treaty Principles of transparency, proportionality, equality of treatment and non-discrimination.
  • If the issue is more administrative in nature e.g. mistakes in providing the documentation, then the authority will have the option of inviting the bidder to supplement or clarify the documentation provided.

Is the ESPD Available on PCS-Tender?

Yes, a fully electronic version of the ESPD (Scotland) is available on PCS-Tender.

Why is the ESPD (Scotland) DIfferent from the Standard Form Produced by the European Commission?

The ESPD (Scotland) is only superficially different to the standard version produced by the European Commission.

We have made two types of changes. Firstly, to reflect language and terms in more common usage in Scotland. For example, ESPD (Scotland) refers to supported businesses, rather than sheltered workshops.

Secondly, to insert some sub-questions to reflect developments in Scotland. For example, we have added a sub-question which asks specifically whether the bidder has breached the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010, because this is a mandatory ground for exclusion in Scotland.

Do Sub-Contractors Complete an ESPD?

For above OJEU procurement exercises, if a bidder proposes to sub-contract part of a contract, and relies on the capacity of that sub-contractor in order to fulfil the selection criteria, a separate ESPD (Scotland)  - sections I, II and III - must be completed.  It is up to the procurement officer whether to request the completion of the additional ESPD (Scotland) sections.  procurement officers can elect to ask for separate ESPD’s if relevant and proportionate to the procurement. 

If a sub-contractor is not relied upon, it is the procurement officers decision whether to request any parts of the ESPD e.g. I, II, III or more i.e. whether it is relevant and proportionate to do so.

For below OJEU procurement exercises, the procurement officer may ask for a separate ESPD (Scotland) from each sub-contractor if it is relevant and proportionate to do so.

If not using the online ESPD (Scotland) module in PCS procurement officers must specify in the Contract Notice or Prior Information Notice (PIN) whether separate ESPD (Scotland) are required for sub-contractors.

Does a Consortium Need to Complete an ESPD?

A separate ESPD response must be submitted from all Group, Consortia, Joint Venture or similar members and any other entities on which the bidder relies to meet the selection criteria.

The procurement officer may choose to request a separate ESPD from any other sub-contractor i.e. on those which the bidder does not rely on to meet the selection criteria, in order to verify whether or not there are grounds for excluding them.

If a sub-contractor is in one of the situations which would lead to its mandatory exclusion, the bidder will be required to replace that sub-contractor.

How are Completed ESPDs Submitted?

The procurement officer will have specified how to complete and submit the ESPD (Scotland) provided i.e. either:

  • via the ESPD (Scotland) word document and upload via PCS
  • via the online ESPD (Scotland) module in PCS
  • via the ESPD (Scotland) questions included on-line in PCS-Tender

Where several ESPD’s have to be submitted e.g. as a result of relying on a sub-contractor and/or due to being a group bid, it is the responsibility of the main bidder to collate and submit all of the completed ESPD documents.