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15 April 2014 | Will Green
A spending watchdog in Singapore has criticised “procurement irregularities” in the government.
In a report the Public Accounts Committee said public procurement “continued to be an area prone to lapses”, including:
• Waiving competition on weak grounds
• Allowing bid alterations by certain bidders after the tender had closed
• Not disclosing evaluation criteria up front in tender documents
• Not evaluating tenders properly
The report, produced in response to "audit observations" in the Singapore auditor-general’s financial report for 2012/13, said: “The committee was concerned that even with efforts over the last few years to enhance procurement rules and procedures across the public sector, there were indications that some public sector entities were not sufficiently diligent in ensuring compliance with procurement rules.”
The report highlighted problems in five ministries and the National Research Foundation of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the committee sought written explanations from the bodies concerned.
Among the projects singled out for criticism was a tender by the Republic Polytechnic (RP) for the supply and management of support officers, worth $S9.42 million (£4.49 million), in which “the tender evaluation committee had justified that the awarded tenderer’s prices were ‘fairly reasonable’ although the price for the major cost component was three times higher than that of the other shortlisted tenderer”. In response the Ministry of Education “acknowledged that RP could have exercised greater diligence and care” and “the tender approving authority had not critically questioned the basis of the recommendation”.
The committee said it found 46 instances of small value purchases, totalling $112,400 (£53,686), made by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) that “appeared to have been split from 13 higher value purchases to avoid calling open quotations”. In response the PUB has tightened controls and introduced quarterly reviews and procurement training.
The committee also “noted that laxity in oversight and monitoring of outsourced projects by a few public sector agencies had resulted in overpayment to contractors and irregularities in tendering processes”.
This included the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) $10.38 million (£4.96 million) deal with a contractor to manage car parking that was extended twice despite “surprise field audits showing high absenteeism rates of the patrolling officers of between 70 and 80 per cent since 2010”. In response the URA said it had “implemented several key measures” to “prevent patrolling officers from straying out of their assigned cluster of car parks”.
In a statement the Ministry of Information, quoting the committee’s report, said: “The committee observed that a significant proportion of procurement lapses was due to human factors and not the lack of rules and procedures. The committee would like to emphasise the importance of public officers having the right values, attitudes, skills and expertise to prevent lapses and fraud.”