The common assessment standard (CAS) is a set of general prequalification questions that buyers can ask suppliers, either directly or through assessment schemes. A key aim of the CAS is to help standardise the current construction prequalification landscape, to the benefit of both buyers and suppliers. The questions in the CAS are accompanied by assessment criteria which enable reliable assessment against the new standard.
Who is behind the CAS?
The CAS has been created by construction umbrella body Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), and it's currently being rolled out in consultation with a growing number of public sector and commercial stakeholders. Other industry bodies, such as the ECA, are active contributors.
So what does it cover?
Broadly, the CAS builds on BSI's construction prequalification document PAS 91. The CAS asks health and safety, financial, quality, environmental, CSR and various other questions.
Regarding health and safety, the CAS assessment is designed to fully recognise suppliers who have a current certificate from an assessor who is part of Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP). Nearly all the health and safety questions in the CAS and SSIP overlap, so these questions don't have to be answered twice. Overall, there appears to be a good synergy between SSIP and the CAS.
The CAS also allows question exemptions for those who have UKAS certificated management systems standards such as ISO 45001, 9001 and ISO 14001 and there are other exemptions, e.g. for very small businesses (those under five employees). Many questions are yes/no questions, or "advisory" -- meaning the answer will be seen by a buyer but not being able to answer positively is not an automatic assessment fail.
Who is providing the assessments?
Initially, assessment to the CAS is available through Achilles and CHAS (Constructionline is expected to follow soon) and some suppliers may already have heard about the CAS from these bodies. Other providers, perhaps even including trade associations, may also offer the CAS in due course.
All three of these initial assessment providers are currently working on a "data exchange platform" which will fully enable cross-recognition. This is expected to be ready by September 2019.
Once the data exchange platform is in place, it's reasonable to expect various construction buyers will begin specifying the CAS, recognising a successful CAS assessment via any provider.
It's worth noting that buyers will decide whether they want a supplier to show evidence of CAS compliance through an annual "desktop" or on-site (supplier's office) assessment. Also, buyers will decide whether they want a supplier to meet the CAS or whether they are content with e.g. an SSIP level certificate.
OK, so what will assessment cost?
CAS assessment providers must operate to rules and guidelines set up by a CAS interim oversight body (via Build UK) but fees for CAS assessment -- and any other commercial charges or services -- are decided by the providers (as required by competition law). Currently, the assessment fees vary (see the provider details below).
However, a key aim of the CAS is that, over time, a supplier should only have to pay once for general prequalification, and the overall cost of doing this should be much less (in terms of money and time) than undergoing numerous prequalifications, as is often the case now.
So, can we choose who we are assessed by?
That's the intention. With the CAS, many suppliers will be able to choose their prequalification assessor (as opposed to being told by a buyer who to be assessed by). This "customer choice" situation may lead to more competitive assessment pricing and better assessment service for suppliers.
Is the CAS a positive move?
It looks like it. The aim is to provide, over time, the prevalent route to prequalification in construction and maintenance. This should reducethe current range of prequalification schemes and the associated waste and additional costs to buyers and suppliers. A "one route -- many providers" solution for prequalification may take a while to develop, but the CAS looks like a good start.
How will the CAS be updated?
It's anticipated that an industry steering body will be set up, to guide the development of the CAS in the interests of the industry (including suppliers and buyers). This move is likely to be facilitated by Build UK and CECA, enabling the CAS to benefit those involved across UK construction and maintenance in a sustainable way.