Local firms deserve help in securing govt projects

I read with a heavy heart that another IT project to build critical public services was awarded to a foreign provider ("Accenture wins tender for next-generation trade platform"; last Friday).

Local companies NCS and CrimsonLogic lost out to multinational Accenture's lowest bid of $107.8 million.

Should price be the only consideration when awarding such projects?

SingPass was a bold, innovative initiative by the Government and it has served the public well. When a tender was called to revamp it two years ago, it also went to Accenture.

SingPass has become such a fundamental element of online services. Isn't it logical to keep it in the hands of a local or even government-controlled entity?

It is hard to imagine that any other country would allow such a critical facility to be in the hands of a foreign company.

We can understand the Government's position on transparency and openness to world trade, but has this gone too far?

With our open policies, foreign companies can come to Singapore and compete on the same footing as local ones.

But when Singapore companies operate on foreign soil, we do not necessarily get the same treatment, as most other markets have erected barriers. This has created a sentiment among local companies that we don't have an advantage anywhere, at home or aboard.

Can local companies handle such high-stake projects?

Cost-wise, local companies may have a disadvantage when matched against foreign firms.

A global company like Accenture has a wider range of expertise and can draw resources from other countries efficiently, likely at lower costs. This is why it is logical and reasonable to give some other considerations to local companies, in order to have a level playing field.

In the past few weeks, there has been a lively discussion on the shortage of local IT professionals. When engaging in such projects, a local company can recruit, train and retain expertise.

When awarding major IT projects, the Government can synergise the process and help to create optimal effects for government online services, local industry and local IT professionals.

Ben Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline 'Local firms deserve help in securing govt projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe