Measures to Ensure Fair And Open Competition Among Bidders13 Aug 2012
Date: 13 August 2012
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance:
Whether past and current Government procurement processes ensure that the bidding is indeed open to the market and whether the processes are designed to ensure fair competition amongst bidders and good value-for-money for our fellow Singaporeans.
Reply by DPM and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam:
1. Singapore’s Government procurement system is based on the principles of open and fair competition for public tenders, getting value for money, and an unequivocal stance against corruption or any other abuse of the trust placed in public officers.
2. All government agencies are required to post their invitations to tender and quote on the Government Electronic Business portal, or GeBIZ. It is an accessible platform, and levels the playing field for smaller suppliers especially. To ensure transparency, Government agencies are also required to publish on GeBIZ the schedule of bids and notices of award after the tender or quotation has closed.
3. Anyone can search for business opportunities easily on GeBIZ. It is also easy for suppliers to register as GeBIZ Trading Partners. They get a free user account, which enables them to download quotation and tender documents, and submit their bids electronically.
4. The GeBIZ system is not passive. GeBIZ Trading Partners can sign up to receive alerts on relevant business opportunities. Government agencies may also alert suppliers to opportunities posted openly on GeBIZ through the GeBIZ alert system, or through phone calls or publicity on their own websites. This is to ensure that the contract receives sufficient attention from potential bidders, without compromising fairness and transparency.
5. MOF will encourage agencies to proactively alert potential suppliers when procuring unusual or atypical products or services, in case these suppliers are not registered with GeBIZ or are not already receiving alerts.
6. We will extend the minimum opening period for suppliers to submit bids for quotations (i.e. for government contracts of between $3,000 and $70,000 in value), from the current requirement of four working days to seven working days. This will help ensure that suppliers are given a fair chance to bid for such contracts. Where there are exigencies which require a shorter opening period, the approval of a Director (or equivalent) may be sought.
7. For larger procurements, which are handled by tenders, the minimum opening period is already set at 14 calendar days (or 25 calendar days if the tender is covered under Singapore’s international trade agreements). In practice, many tenders are open for longer than the minimum period.
8. Suppliers’ proposals will only be considered if they meet the requirements stipulated in the invitation to tender or quote. They are then evaluated on the basis of overall benefits and costs. Value for Money does not necessarily mean going for the lowest bid. Upholding Value for Money requires officers to evaluate bids holistically, taking into account the quality and reliability of the product over its life cycle. Public officers can be assured that they will not be penalised for doing so.
9. Overall, our system of public sector procurement is in good working order. We have sound rules which are in line with international standards, and a dedicated corps of public sector officers, the majority of whom live up to the conduct we expect of them. But in a system with 80,000 procurements each year, some lapses will occur. We therefore place importance on independent audits, , open channels for irregularities to be reported, and robust enforcement action when any wrong-doing is established.
10. It is therefore a whole system that upholds procurement integrity and deters wrong-doing. This is elaborated on in the oral reply by DPM and Minister for Finance in response to related questions by Members at this sitting.