Hackathons could give public tenders a boost

The Government will promote the use of crowdsourcing methods, such as hackathons and innovation calls, which can help agencies reach a wider range of suppliers.
The Government will promote the use of crowdsourcing methods, such as hackathons and innovation calls, which can help agencies reach a wider range of suppliers.PHOTO: ST FILE

New approach, which will promote crowdsourcing, aims to spur innovation in govt procurement of goods, services

A range of new measures will be employed to try to spur innovation in public tenders, including adopting more outcome-based procurement methods and using crowdsourcing to tap the broader public for ideas.

The Government will also move away from awarding contracts purely based on the lowest bid, with price and quality evaluation becoming the default instead, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Mr Ong outlined the new approach at KPMG's Procurement Ignite Summit, held yesterday at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach.

He noted that the Government procures more than $20 billion worth of goods and services a year.

Its guiding principles of value-for-money purchases and transparent, objective processes will not change.

"However, government procurement is also a powerful tool to promote innovation and enterprise in a fair and objective way," said Mr Ong.

In outcome-based procurement, tenderers propose how to achieve desired outcomes, rather than just meeting specifications.

QUALITY MATTERS

We will make price-quality evaluation the default, such that value for money goes beyond price but also (covers) economic, social, environmental considerations, and contributions to productivity and innovation.

EDUCATION MINISTER ONG YE KUNG, on the new approach in public tenders.

"We need to be more open to fresh ideas, and not always go for only the tried and tested," said Mr Ong, previously minister in charge of Public Service Innovation.

In line with this approach, the Government will also promote the use of crowdsourcing methods, such as hackathons and innovation calls, which can help agencies reach a wider range of suppliers.

Another move is to make price-quality evaluation the default.

"We will make price-quality evaluation the default, such that value for money goes beyond price but also (covers) economic, social, environmental considerations, and contributions to productivity and innovation," said Mr Ong.

Price-quality evaluation has been more widely used over the years. The proportion of government procurement contracts not awarded to the lowest bid has risen from 30 per cent in 2012 to 50 per cent today.

Third, traditional rules will be lifted in selected areas for more capable agencies to experiment with different procurement approaches, said Mr Ong, without elaborating on which agencies these might include.

This "sandbox" environment will give agencies full licence to try different approaches, as long as these do not break the law or contravene the key principles of procurement.

The Finance Ministry will also compile a list of good practices.

"Although today's rules are principles-based, many agencies have a certain restraint to try out new practices since they are not written in the rules," said Mr Ong. The list of new practices aims to give agencies "the confidence to try them".

To aid the shift in approach, training will be ramped up.

The Defence Science and Technology Agency has been partnering the Singapore University of Social Sciences to run procurement courses since early this year, with 200 officers trained so far.

These will now be mandatory for new public service procurement officers, and the Government aims to extend them to the private sector.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2018, with the headline 'Hackathons could give public tenders a boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe