Govt procurement rules are sound, but can be improved: DPM Tharman
The public sector's procurement system on the whole is in good working order and the rules are sound, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
But the Government will continue to review and improve on them, he said speaking in Parliament on Monday, highlighting several areas where changes will be made.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) will enhance rules on the handling of single bids by tightening approval procedures and ensuring that quotations are kept open long enough to encourage more suppliers to take part, said Mr Tharman, who is also the Finance Minister.
Where only a single bid is received, the MOF will require the officers in charge to provide additional justifications to the approving authority in each agency, explaining why they think the bid is competitive or reflects market prices. The minimum opening period for submission of bids for quotations for government contracts between $3,000 and $70,000 will be extended from the current four days to seven days, Mr Tharman said.
The Government wants to give suppliers a chance to take part, but does not want to extend the opening period to a point where "it slows down the routine functioning of Government".
The Government is also reviewing contracts that run for specific periods of time, as the Auditor-General has observed some agencies are being overcharged by vendors for work that was not priced up front in these term contracts.
He was responding to questions on government procurement from MPs Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC). Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang SMC) and Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC).
Concern have been raised on public sector procurement after a corruption probe into a recent purchase of Brompton folding bicycles by the National Parks Board. That probe follows other graft scandals, some involving high-level public officers.
Mr Tharman noted that in a report by the Auditor-General that will be released later on Monday highlighting procurement lapses in government, the majority of lapses were due to public officers "failing to follow existing procurement rules and principles" and "not due to a lack of rules".
In a response to a question by Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer SMC), Mr Tharman said creating a separate career track for government procurement officers is being looked at.