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Parliamentary Replies

Plans and Steps Taken To Support Best Sourcing Initiative (BSI)

17 Jan 2012

Date: 17 January 2012

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance:

(a) what are the plans and steps taken for all Government Ministries to support the Best Sourcing Initiative (BSI);

(b) how and when are the different Ministries changing their procurement procedures to illustrate the clear intent of the Government on BSI; and

(c) how will the Government measure the positive outcomes of the BSI in helping low wage workers get better employment terms.

Reply by DPM and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam:

1. The Government recognises that Ministries, as significant buyers of services, have an important role to play in achieving momentum in the Best Sourcing Initiative. In support of the BSI, many public agencies already take into consideration quality, and not just price, in awarding services tenders. To give just one example, the National Parks Board requires landscape service providers to adopt best practices such as employing professionally certified workers, and use of technology to meet expected performance standards.

2. All public agencies are also encouraged to adopt the recommendations in the Tripartite Advisory on Responsible Outsourcing Practices. This Advisory, first released in 2008, is currently being updated by the Ministry of Manpower and its tripartite partners. When the new Advisory is ready, the Ministry of Finance will ensure that public agencies are aligned with the revised recommendations.

3. Some government agencies like the NEA and the Singapore Police Force's Security Industry Regulatory Department (SIRD) have gone one step further to help professionalise and uplift the cleaning and security sectors which hire large numbers of low-wage workers, through grading or accreditation schemes. The grading scheme for security agencies was started in 2006, and made mandatory in 2009. Similarly, the NEA introduced a voluntary accreditation scheme for cleaning companies in July 2010. We have observed such efforts to be effective and will encourage more public agencies to introduce similar programmes.

4. To give such efforts an added boost, the Government is currently working with its tripartite partners to identify further measures that can be taken to raise the productivity and professionalism of low-wage jobs, and help workers receive higher wages and better employment terms. The Government will also look into how procurement can be done to support these measures. More details on these measures will be announced later.

5. Mr Zainudin is certainly right that the Best Sourcing Initiative should be assessed by its impact on the wages and employment terms of low-wage workers over time. We hope that this initiative will help not just low-wage workers who are engaged to fulfil Government contracts, but also other low-wage workers throughout the economy.