'Unlimited changes' clause unfair: MOF

Ms Cheng of The Press Room had highlighted online a tender requiring vendors to agree to "unlimited changes" for creative services.
Ms Cheng of The Press Room had highlighted online a tender requiring vendors to agree to "unlimited changes" for creative services.PHOTO: COURTESY OF KELLEY CHENG

Ministry states stand after condition in govt tender for creative services draws online flak

A government school tender that required vendors to agree to "unlimited changes" for creative services has drawn much flak online, and now even the Ministry of Finance (MOF) has come out to say that the condition is "unfair".

A photo of the tender document, which had the words "unlimited changes" in bold and caps, was posted on Facebook on Monday by Ms Kelley Cheng, founder and creative director of publishing and design consultancy The Press Room.

It has since been shared more than 2,200 times from her page, with netizens calling the demand "ridiculous" and asking for an "unlimited budget" in return.

On Wednesday, MOF said on Facebook it "agrees that it is unfair to expect the suppliers to agree to unlimited changes. The Ministry of Education agrees that the number of iterations should be reasonable and cannot be unlimited".

The two words and the sentence have since been removed from the tender by Outram Secondary School for its 110th anniversary commemorative book, in a document to highlight amendments issued by the school on Wednesday. The original tender was posted on government procurement website GeBiz on Feb 11.

MOF said it will issue a circular to remind government agencies to ensure that "all procurement specifications are reasonable and fair".

It is also working with the DesignSingapore Council to advise government agencies on best practices for procuring design services.

Outram Secondary is not the only school that has asked vendors to agree to "unlimited changes".

The Straits Times learnt that Whitley Secondary mentioned the phrase thrice in a tender for creative services for its publications.

Meanwhile, designers said they welcomed MOF's response.

Ms Michelle Lim, chief executive of Chatsworth Medi@rt Academy, said: "I think it was a good gesture on their part, to acknowledge the mistake. This is also a good opportunity to educate civil servants on how best to work with vendors."

She noted that it was "common" for clients to make frequent changes. "The manager may approve the idea, but the director does not approve. We try to minimise the creative differences by getting the decision-maker to sit in for meetings."

Ms Cheng said: "I'm very happy and impressed that the authorities responded so quickly."

She told The Straits Times: "I was actually tickled by how the condition was strongly worded, like it's so rude. I didn't expect such an overwhelming response - I guess the post touched a raw nerve that's universal in the design industry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline ''Unlimited changes' clause unfair: MOF'. Print Edition | Subscribe