NParks could have gotten a better deal on Brompton bikes: Khaw

NParks officers riding Brompton foldable bikes.

SINGAPORE - Saying he does not condone wrong-doing, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan wanted two questions answered when the Zaobao report on the NParks' purchase of 26 foldable bikes came out on June 22.

First, why foldable bikes? And second, how was the supplier chosen?

In a blog post today, Mr Khaw said that he received the answers to the two questions on June 30.

While he was satisfied that the decision on the foldable bikes could be justified, he was not happy with the procurement outcome.

The 26 Brompton bikes cost $57,200 in total.

He said: "I thought they could have gotten a better deal, even though they had adhered to the prevailing Government procurement rules. Based on what I had read of the NParks report, I had no reason to question the integrity of the officer(s) involved."

Mr Khaw related that for thoroughness, on the same day that he received the report, he commissioned an MND Internal Audit Team to work with NParks and dig impartially and more thoroughly into the transaction. The minister said he wanted to verify if the procurement was conducted in a 'fit and proper' manner, as well as if the episode will yield lessons to improve the overall procurement system.

The MND audit, which was completed on July 20, confirmed that NParks' reason for the purchase of foldable bikes on staff productivity grounds was valid, said Mr Khaw.

It also verified that the procurement formally observed and complied with the existing rules.

Mr Khaw said: "However the audit also uncovered certain discrepancies which suggest a possibility of bias."

Earlier reports have stated that the invitation to quote a bid was published on government procurement portal GeBiz on Jan 25, the third day of Chinese New Year, with the closing day set on Jan 30. Only one company, BikeHop, submitted a bid during this period.

The matter was reported to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) on July 23. The officer in charge of the deal, assistant director of the Park Connector Network Mr Bernard Lim, was suspended the following day.

"The matter is now in the hands of the CPIB. If there is wrong-doing, appropriate punishment will be meted out," said Mr Khaw.

"I am mindful how this episode may be affecting the morale of my officers in NParks. I think we should be fair and not demoralise and tarnish the reputation of NParks as the department has many dedicated officers who continue to work hard each day to make Singapore a Garden City for the well-being of all of us."


ellenja@sph.com.sg

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