Mr Phua Peng Hwee asked if the discussions some government agencies have with selected vendors when drafting their specifications would give an unfair advantage to these vendors ("Ensure transparency of government bidding system"; Oct 24).
Government quotations and tenders are expected to follow principles of fairness, transparency and value for money (VFM).
While government agencies are allowed to speak to vendors to have a better sense of the products and services available in the market, they are required to craft their specifications in ways that do not favour any vendor or brand.
Where there is no intelligible way to describe a product or service without naming a brand, government agencies should include the words "or equivalent" in the specifications, to allow for alternatives that could meet the requirements of the quotations or tenders.
Mr Phua highlighted that in an invitation to quote (ITQ) called by a school, the duration between the closing date and its award was only a span of a few days.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has since checked with the school, which explained that it had proceeded with the ITQ for a training workshop on the basis that the ITQ was for a standard workshop package and that vendors would indicate their trainers' availability for the dates stated in the ITQ.
Nevertheless, to allow more time for vendors to schedule their trainers, MOE has since highlighted to schools to provide adequate lead time for vendors to quote and to fulfil the orders.
MOE has separately replied to Mr Phua to address his concerns on an ITQ where one vendor was not given sufficient time to confirm the necessary information for the award decision.
As a signatory to the World Trade Organisation-Agreement on Government Procurement (WTO-GPA), we assure Mr Phua and our business partners that the Government's procurement rules are aligned with the best international standards.
We thank Mr Phua for his feedback.
Lim Yuin Chien
Ministry of Finance
Ho Hwei Ling (Ms)
Ministry of Education