NParks officer suspended over $57,200 purchase of foldable bikes

SINGAPORE - The National Parks Board (NParks) officer involved in making the purchase of 26 foldable bicycles, totalling $57,200, has been suspended, according to a statement from the Ministry of National Development (MND) on Tuesday.

This comes after an internal audit conducted by the MND.

The amount spent of the purchase raised some eyebrows, with many Singaporeans questioning if the Brompton bikes, costing $2,200 each, were too expensive.

NParks had bought the foldable British-brand bikes for its officers to use on patrols.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan had earlier defended the purchase of the bicycles but called for an audit to be carried out last month to review the purchase to ascertain NParks' justification and to see if its procurement process could be improved.

The audit found that "the reasons for purchasing the foldable bikes to enhance work productivity of NParks field staff were valid", but "it had also uncovered some discrepancies which, although inconclusive by themselves, suggested the possibility of bias in the procurement."

As a result, the Ministry has decided that the discrepancies were significant enough to warrant further investigation.

The officer in charge of the deal has been suspended until further notice.

On July 4, Mr Khaw said in a blog post that he had asked NParks for the rationale for the purchase, and the statutor board cited staff productivity as the main reason for the purchase.

He defended the move, saying: "Providing staff with bikes was thought to be a simple and effective way to raise staff productivity as it enables the officer to cover more ground and do more inspections within the same time." 

NParks officers in the Park Connector Division cover between 30 to 40km in their daily rounds.

Mr Khaw added that a foldable bicycle was chosen because such bicycles "would eliminate the need for an office van to transport the bikes and the staff to the areas of their daily rounds". The NParks staff would also be able to carry them onto buses and trains where necessary. 

He also said that Brompton was picked because only one vendor responded to the tender with a bid price lower than the listed retail price of the same bicycle.

While a Brompton bike costs more than foldable bicycles with similar specifications, Mr Khaw said cyclists told him the bike was durable and would require less maintenance after heavy usage.

He concluded: "It looks like NParks has bought the right equipment. However, it also looks like NParks might have gotten a better deal if there was greater participation in this quotation."

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