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Parliamentary Replies

Government's Procurement of Goods and Services during COVID-19 Pandemic

05 Jun 2020

Parliamentary Question by Assoc Prof Walter Theseira: 

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance (a) what has been the framework for Government's procurement of goods and services to address the COVID-19 pandemic; (b) what proportion of such contracts, by dollar value, have been issued through the standard Government procurement system on GeBIZ; (c) what are the considerations when issuing contracts otherwise; and (d) what steps are taken to ensure that all enterprises can participate in such procurement opportunities so as to ensure provision at competitive prices and quality.

Parliamentary Reply by Second Minister for Finance Ms Indranee Rajah:

The Government Procurement framework calls for open sourcing through the GeBIZ platform as the default approach. However, the use of limited tenders or direct contracting is permitted under specific conditions, such as to protect public health, or for reasons of national security. These practices are aligned with international standards laid out in the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Government Procurement.

To address the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation and avoid further worsening of the public health situation, government agencies had to obtain necessary goods and services as quickly as possible. While the default approach continues to be open sourcing via GeBIZ, the urgency meant that in some cases, it was not practical to do so. For such instances, the procedures under Emergency Procurement allow government agencies to directly contract with suppliers who have the necessary expertise and resources, instead of going through open sourcing. For example, as we needed to quickly source for and fit out premises to house at-risk persons, and also secure essential medical supplies, the agencies concerned established direct contracts with the suppliers outside GeBIZ who were best able to meet the requirements within the shortest timeframe possible. 

Similar Emergency Procurement practices are also adopted in other jurisdictions. For example, in Australia, the European Union, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, government agencies may directly award a contract without the need for open competition under emergency situations such as the COVID-19 crisis. 

The proportion of COVID-19 related procurement by dollar value through GeBIZ as compared with other modes is not yet available, as such procurement is still on-going. Agencies will continue to use the most appropriate approach that best balances urgency of need and value-for-money in our efforts to protect public health, and cater for the social and economic needs of Singaporeans and businesses. As the situation improves and there is less time urgency, a larger proportion of procurement will be carried out through the default process of open sourcing via GeBIZ. 

Regardless of the procurement approach taken, government agencies are required to ensure proper evaluation is done and necessary approvals are sought. In the event that direct contracting is used, government agencies are still expected to assess that the quotes from the suppliers are reasonable, by comparing against prevailing market benchmarks, and taking into account the time constraints and world-wide market situation. As with all procurements, transactions done during this period are subject to audit and compliance reviews by relevant Authorities. 

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