Government can obtain necessary goods and services for fighting Covid-19 without tender

The emergency procurement procedure was used for the construction of fit-out works for Government Quarantine Facilities, Community Recovery Facilities and Community Care Facilities.
The emergency procurement procedure was used for the construction of fit-out works for Government Quarantine Facilities, Community Recovery Facilities and Community Care Facilities.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Goods and services needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic can be obtained by government agencies without calling for a tender, owing to the urgency of the situation, two Ministers said in Parliament on Friday (June 5).

An emergency procurement procedure allows them to directly contract with suppliers who have the necessary expertise and resources, instead of openly sourcing on the Gebiz platform which it typically does, said Ms Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for Finance.

"For example, as we needed to quickly source for and fit out premises to house at-risk persons, and also secure essential medical supplies, the agencies concerned established direct contracts with the suppliers outside Gebiz who were best able to meet the requirements within the shortest time frame possible," she said in her reply to Nominated MP Walter Theseira on government procurement processes.

She said the use of limited tenders or direct contracting, is permitted under specific conditions, such as to protect public health or for reasons of national security. This is aligned with international standards laid out in the World Trade Organisation's agreement on government procurement.

Ms Indranee, who is also the Second Minister for Education, added that similar emergency procurement practices are adopted in other places, including Australia, the European Union, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong told the House that the emergency procurement procedure was used for the contracting of hotels and construction of fit-out works for Government Quarantine Facilities (GQF), Community Recovery Facilities (CRF) and Community Care Facilities (CCF).

He also said, in his reply to Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh, that the decision to set up CCFs and CRFs is approved by the multi-ministry task force, while rates for hotels used for serving stay-home notices are negotiated based on prevailing market conditions.

"The agencies will ensure the quotes from the commercial partners are reasonable by comparing against market benchmarks, scrutinising the invoices and ensuring the works meet the standards required by the Government before processing the payments.

"In some cases, we have been able to get private-sector companies to support the projects on a cost-recovery basis as part of their contributions to the community," he said.

 
 

In her speech, Ms Indranee said information on the proportion of Covid-19-related procurement done through Gebiz is not yet available as such procurements are still ongoing since the pandemic is not over.

"As the situation improves and there is less time urgency, a larger proportion of procurement will be carried out through the default process of open sourcing via Gebiz," she added.

But regardless of the procurement approach taken, "government agencies are required to ensure proper evaluation is done, and necessary approvals are sought, she said.

 
 
 

"In the event that direct contracting is used, government agencies are still expected to assess that the quotes from the suppliers are reasonable, by comparing against prevailing market benchmarks and taking into account the time constraints and worldwide market situation."

Ms Indranee added that all transactions done during this period are subject to audit and compliance reviews by the relevant authorities.

Mr Wong similarly stressed that government agencies do not simply go to one vendor for goods and services. They check different quotations from different vendors before making a choice, even though it is not required under the emergency procurement procedure, he said.