Govt to place greater emphasis on quality over price in public building tenders

The government will be piloting a new initiative to place greater emphasis on quality over price in public building tenders.
The government will be piloting a new initiative to place greater emphasis on quality over price in public building tenders.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Caught in a property downturn, the construction industry has seen desperate firms bidding for projects at excessively low rates.

In a bid to control such fee-diving, the government will soon pilot a new type of public tender that will place a greater emphasis on quality over price, announced National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday evening (June 13).

Speaking at the annual Building and Construction Authority (BCA) awards ceremony at Resorts World Sentosa, Mr Wong said: "Unhealthy price competition can lead to negative consequences for the whole industry… Consultants and contractors who bid very low to get the contract end up having to cut cost, and worse still, cut corners."

Currently, the quality of the consultant or contractor is given a 30 per cent weightage during tender evaluation. This will eventually be raised for all public tenders. Mr Wong did not give a timeline.

Agencies will also be stricter in penalising firms that do not deliver to the quality standards, he added.

Mr Wong said this will deter firms from fee-diving to win projects only to compromise on quality down the road.

Government agencies will also give more weight to those which have adopted new construction technologies.

Mr Wong said that technologies, such as design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) and virtual design and construction (VDC), allow companies to get the job done with fewer workers.

Since 2014, the use of DfMA technology is already required in some government land sales sites for private developments.

When implemented, it will provide an advantage to progressive firms in public sector tenders.

Developers and contractors will also be required to publish their quality scores in their sales documents, which can be an important consideration for homebuyers.

Said Mr Wong: "Greater access to such quality scores will help consumers make more informed choices."

He also announced a new task force aimed to prepare graduates in DfMA and VDC skills when they enter the construction trade, working with several higher learning institutes and industry associations to incorporate relevant skills into the curriculum.

One idea is to introduce a one or two-week long bridging course for graduating students. More details of this capstone programme will be announced later this year.

Close to 500 awards were handed out to the construction industry at the ceremony, including to property developer City Developments Limited and Woh Hup.

Both clinched the inaugural Quality Star Champion Award, a new award category this year (2017) to recognise a sustained commitment to raising the quality of the built environment.

This year, more firms were also recognised for their productivity efforts, which includes moving towards extensive prefabrication and advanced construction technologies, said BCA chairman Mr Lee Fook Sun.

Said Mr Lee: "We need the collective efforts of all stakeholders to transform our industry and the built environment. We have to keep raising our standards and stay relevant to changing needs."