Unfair to expect suppliers to agree to unlimited changes, says MOF

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Finance (MOF) has responded in the wake of an uproar over a requirement for "unlimited changes" in a government tender for design services.

Agreeing that it is unfair to expect vendors to make unlimited changes, MOF said in a statement on Facebook that it will remind all government agencies to ensure their procurement specifications are reasonable and fair.

SEE ALSO: Govt tender asking for 'unlimited changes': Designer fears such clauses could be abused

The tender was first posted on government procurement portal GeBIZ by a local school, according to MOF investigation.

"The Ministry of Education agrees that the number of iterations should be reasonable and cannot be unlimited," MOF said in the statement.

"This specification has been removed from the school's Invitation-to-Quote (ITQ)."

MOF added that DesignSingapore Council, which is tasked to develop the local design sector, will advise the ministry on design services procurement guidelines for government agencies.

Attention was first drawn to the government tender on Feb 15 when designer Ms Kelley Cheng posted screenshots of the tender document on her Facebook page. The post has since been shared over 2,200 times.

Ms Cheng told AsiaOne on Tues (Feb 16) that she had previously avoided or ignored tenders that contained such clauses, "but now I've seen it too many times with increasing frequency, and felt the need to voice out."

Her post even prompted local satirical blogger mrbrown to quip: "Wah, [the government agency] got UNLIMITED BUDGET issit (sic)?"

Speaking to The New Paper, chairman of public relations company Integrated Marketing Solutions Group, Ms Rose Tan, likened “unlimited changes” to going to a buffet and asking to dabao (Mandarin for packing) food home.

“You can’t do that. Every change costs time and time is money for service companies like ours,” she told The New Paper.

Ms Cheng stressed that most clients were reasonable in their requests, and that not all Government agencies inserted such clauses. "Designing is all about building relationships with our clients, and we have built up good relationships with many of our clients, including those from the Government," she said.

She explained that in many cases, designers are willing to go the extra mile and make any changes to please clients. But, she felt that formally inserting such clauses in tenders was not a good practice to adopt, as she feared that some clients may seek to abuse it.

Ms Cheng said that she raised the issue as she felt that designers should be respected as professionals. "For example, no one pays a doctor a lump sum and then demands to be able to go back and seek treatment whenever they want or as many times as they like."

Since she made the post, DesignSingapore Council has gotten in touch with Ms Cheng. The designer said that she has been heartened by most of the responses so far, and was glad that DesignSingapore Council had given its assurance to work with MOF to relook at the government's procurement process.

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