Tender process for consultants to be tweaked

A new process, to be rolled out next year for public engineering and infrastructural projects, will require consultants - like architects or engineers - to give a breakdown of manpower deployment and man-hour rates, instead of a lump-sum fee.
A new process, to be rolled out next year for public engineering and infrastructural projects, will require consultants - like architects or engineers - to give a breakdown of manpower deployment and man-hour rates, instead of a lump-sum fee.PHOTO: ST FILE

Those seeking public projects must give fee breakdown to prevent unrealistic bids

Tenders for consulting work on public infrastructure projects will be adjusted to prevent aggressively low bids which then fail to deliver results.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong revealed this at an Institution of Engineers Singapore (IES) dinner last night, when he highlighted how there have been recent cases of "fee diving" - in which consultants make "very low and unrealistic bids" to secure a contract.

A new process, to be rolled out next year for public engineering and infrastructural projects, will require consultants - like architects or engineers - to give a breakdown of manpower deployment and man-hour rates, instead of a lump-sum fee.

It will help agencies better assess whether resources proposed are appropriate for the job, Mr Wong said in a speech to about 700 engineers.

Past performance will also be a factor. "With these performance measures, we can establish a quality feedback loop - to recognise and reward companies that have performed well, and to make clear that there are consequences for firms that fail to deliver," he said.

The tender system for accredited checkers, like engineers who check building plans before these are submitted to the Building and Construction Authority, will also be changed to put more emphasis on quality.

Procurement is now based on fees alone. From next year, an engineer's track record and the strength of his past submissions will be part of criteria. Mr Wong said the Government is trying to send a "strong signal" to engineers and consultancies to not compete on just price, but also excellence and quality, and to "invest in these areas because it will pay off".

"So, the more you invest in quality, the better your chances of getting a government project," he said at the event, where the IES gave out several awards, including the Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award to former CapitaLand chief executive Liew Mun Leong.

The announcement comes on the back of a similar change to the price-quality tender for public-sector projects worth over $3 million. Last month, Mr Wong said the Government will raise the quality elements to 40 per cent to 60 per cent come January, up from 30 per cent.

Nanyang Technological University engineering professor Robert Tiong believes the changes may ensure better quality in the work. "By having clear fee breakdowns, you let government agencies know what they are paying for. Consultants also no longer have to bid the lowest just to keep their business going - they can emphasise their strengths and skills, and agencies can recognise that when they choose," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2017, with the headline 'Tender process for consultants to be tweaked'. Print Edition | Subscribe