Tighten public-sector procurement policies

SINGAPORE - Recent court cases have revealed how product suppliers either cultivated or made use of their relationships with key public officers to gain an advantage in public-sector tenders.

The latest Auditor-General's report shows that procurement lapses are still happening despite established procedures and policies ("Auditor-General flags procurement lapses"; July 18).

Many agencies prefer suppliers that have completed previous contracts or understand the rules and processes better.

In some cases, the incumbent suppliers have built good relationships with key officers.

This may lead to tender approvals being given despite the prices not being favourable.

Public officers involved in approving contracts should keep suppliers at arm's length. This is especially important when contracts are being awarded or renewed.

Perhaps the public service should mandate a centralised procurement agency, or allow only officers who have no previous dealings with bidding suppliers to evaluate tender proposals.

The respective ministries should accept bids only after competent officers or agencies have done the necessary evaluations.

The ministries should be required to seek their ministers' approval if they reject the evaluation and accept the bid of another supplier that was not recommended.

This proposal may seem drastic, but the public needs to be assured that taxpayers' money is not being wasted.

- Samuel Ng

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.