Khaw addresses bike-buy concerns

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan clarified yesterday that he did not "jump the gun" in revealing interim findings by the National Parks Board (NParks) on the purchase of 26 Brompton foldable bicycles.

The purchase of the bicycles from the sole bidder for the tender had sparked criticism, with many people questioning the hefty $2,200 price tag per bicycle, as well as the timing and duration of the quotation period.

Last Tuesday, the NParks officer who oversaw the bicycles' procurement, Mr Bernard Lim, was suspended.

Noting that many Singaporeans had written to him to express concern over the issue, Mr Khaw blogged yesterday that the public has "a right to know" about updates on the case.

In a July 4 blog post, Mr Khaw had said he was satisfied with NParks' explanation that the bikes raised staff productivity, but noted that a better deal might have been possible if more vendors had participated in the tender.

"I thought that I should share this interim finding with the public, so long as what I disclosed did not affect the ongoing audit," he said yesterday.

Based on an NParks report on the matter on June 30, Mr Khaw said he "had no reason to question the integrity" of the staff involved in the purchase. Still, he was "not happy with the procurement outcome".

To be thorough, he commissioned a Ministry of National Development (MND) internal- audit team on June 30 to work with NParks to "dig impartially and more thoroughly into the transaction".

Besides verifying if the procurement was conducted in a "fit and proper" manner, he also wanted to see if the episode would yield lessons to improve the procurement system, he said.

However, he did not mention MND's preliminary investigation findings in his July 4 blog post because he could not say much then, or even now, "as doing so will compromise investigations", Mr Khaw said.

After the audit was completed on July 20 and uncovered discrepancies which suggested a possibility of bias, the case was reported to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

Mr Khaw said the matter was dealt with using "firm but measured action, balancing the resolute pursuit of justice with the need for fairness and due process".

He stressed that he does not condone wrongdoing, and would do his best to get to the bottom of matters within his purview. "Wrongdoers will be exposed and appropriately punished," he said.

"That was how I dealt with the National Kidney Foundation and Ren Ci incidents, when I was in the Ministry of Health. This is the same approach, now that I am in MND."

joyfang@sph.com.sg


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