This article was first published in The New Paper.

Why were there only three working days as the quotation period?

A: NParks’ quotation was open for six days, which included four working days.

This was allowed for such purchases under current rules.

However, on hindsight, NParks agrees that it would have been better to open the quotation for a longer period so as to increase the opportunity and chances of more bidders participating.

Why wasn’t the tender process extended in order to allow for more bidders?

A: As the proposal submitted met the specifications and the quoted price was found to be reasonable after comparing it with market prices at that time, NParks decided to proceed with the purchase instead of calling for a re-tender to secure more bidder participation.

On hindsight, greater prudence should have been exercised to do so.

How does the Ministry respond to charges that the specifications called for were so specific, only one (type of) bicycle could fit the requirements? For example, weight of between 11-13kg, 16-inch wheels, etc.

A: As far as we are aware, this is not true.

Based on NParks’ product search and findings, there are at least four foldable bikes that met the required specifications within the budget range.

These are namely Flamingo, Dahon, Brompton and Bike Friday.

They are comparable in prices, with some bearing a higher price tag than the Brompton bike model procured.

What changes will MND be instituting with regards to the procurement process?

A: MND is working with NParks as well as other MND agencies to consider ways to strengthen our procurement controls for tenders and quotations.

For a start, we have imposed additional oversight requirements where single bids in any tenders are involved.

Appropriate approving authorities and proper justifications will be required over and above the current procurement procedures, to ensure that single bid awards are an exception to the rule and when accepted, are confirmed after critical assessment to be reasonable and justifiable.

We are also reviewing, in consultation with the Ministry of Finance, other aspects of our procurement system like the tender/quotation duration and are working towards an internal procurement guide to advise and guide our officers in their purchases.

We will continue our efforts to ensure that prudence is always exercised in the use of public funds.

We are mindful that government purchases need to be justified on a cost-benefit basis, that the procurement process must be open and fair, and that decisions taken satisfy the criteria of value for money.

This article was first published in The New Paper.