While he has no quarrel with the choice of the S$2,200 Brompton bike for its staff, National Parks Board (NParks) may have got a better price if there had been more participation in the bike deal.
Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said this in a blog post yesterday.
Some Singaporeans, including netizens, have questioned if the bicycles were too expensive. NParks bought 26 of them after a tender issued in January.
"I have asked MND (Ministry of National Development) staff to discuss this case with our agencies, to see if there are lessons which we can draw from this case.
"In all purchases we should always satisfy the criteria of 'value for money' when public funds are involved."
The New Paper reported last Friday that only one vendor - bicycle shop BikeHop - responded to NParks' tender. BikeHop had offered the Brompton bicycles and another brand that costs more.
NParks bought the Brompton bicycles after it "made some research, tested the equipment and after noting that the Brompton bid price was lower than the listed retail price of the same model".
Mr Khaw said NParks bought the right equipment.
He said: "Cyclists who are familiar with foldable bikes assured me that a Brompton bike, while costing more upfront, is durable and requires less maintenance, especially if heavy usage is anticipated.
"Its unique folding mechanism also makes it easy to carry and store. This is a useful feature for the female staff.
"I have accepted NParks' explanation."
He also said providing staff with bikes "was thought to be a simple and effective way to raise staff productivity".
He wrote: "...it enables the officer to cover more ground and do more inspections within the same time."
Officers from the Park Connector Division typically cover 30 to 40km a day daily.
Officers can take the foldable bicycles on public transport, ensuring that they can "get to field sites directly and individually", he said.
This saves the need for an office van to transport them and the bicycles to the various sites.
This article was first published in The New Paper.