Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons from the Brompton bike purchase....

This tiny purchase ($56K) by a govt dept has been very extensively discussed- netizens have gone after every aspect of the purchase - cheaper and reliable alternatives exists, how the procurement processes can be gamed by specifications than can only be met by one vendor (brand), how the N. Parks misses out potential suppliers in its process because they were not informed and do not actively look out for govt tenders. The real problem that motivated people to discuss this purchase are not all these little things.
Most Singaporeans families have bicycles and many of us actually own this brand of bicycle called Aleoca which is sold at Giant. I went to check and found out that 2 of my 4 bicycles are Aleoca - I didn't even know because I was totally brand-agnostic when I bought them. Aleoca bikes cost between $100 to $200. I notice women taking their children to school every on their Aleoca bikes.

You may think I'm a cheapskate which is partially true but I'm not a cheapskate for every thing. I'm extremely fussy about chairs and mattresses because I sit and sleep on them for many hours. The chair I sit on to type my postings on this blog costs $450 and I feel it is not good enough -there are some parts of my body it does not support well and the next chair I get will have to address these issues which are a big deal for me. I looked around and the next chair I will buy is likely to be a Duorest[Link] which costs $1000 to $2000. Some people may think it is too extravagant but I think it is worth the price. Some people who are cycling enthusiasts prefer to pay $100 for chairs and $1000 for bicycles. Suppose I'm a civil servant and have been assigned to buy chairs for an office occupied by middle to upper management what should I do? I honestly think that Herman Miller chairs that cost upwards of $1.8K are definitely worth the price for their durability and design. However, these chairs are associated greedy investment banks and are very costly to the average Singaporean..... so do I avoid such a purchase that will definitely attract criticism and anger from the public? Those Herman Miller chairs purchased by NTU caused an uproar a few years back[Link]
The Singapore public wants our tax dollars to be spent they way that ordinary middle class families would spend it for items that they are familiar with e.g. chairs, furniture, bicycles. Singaporeans have gone through the thought processes themselves on how these type of items that they are familiar with should be purchased. Why wouldn't something be good enough for them not be good enough for N. Parks officers? ...Give and take some level of quality, durability and comfort. If you buy something that most middle class families will never buy because they consider it t oo extravagant you can expect criticism. There is a certain logic to this...the requirements for someone in the civil service shouldn't be too far off from people in the middle class when it comes to such items. I'm sure most N. Parks officers will have no problems with bikes in the $500-$800 range and that would be okay for members of public because it is not uncommon to find friends and relatives with an interest in biking spending this kind of money. ...but it is extremely rare to find anyone buying $2K Brompton bikes.
If I am assigned the task of buying office chairs for civil servants, I'll stick to the $200-450 price range. Those with special requirements and are very fussy about sitting comfort like myself should spend some of their bonus to buy their own chairs....and not expect tax payers to foot the bill.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, NParks are using that "we followed the proper procedure" thingy to deny any wrong doings or admit their failings. Cant they just call for retender?

Ng Eng Hou said...

LOL! Can't you see civil servants' buttocks are gold-plated, that's why they can only sit on expensive chairs to prevent 'gold' from falling out of their buttocks?!

There is no logic here. Who has the powers determines everything.

Have to count ourselves lucky that we don't need to sit on the floor!

Att Cch said...

Simply put, it's tax payers' money spent for public service. A simple test is whether the one spending the public money and using the item would be willing to spend the same amount or one close to it if he were spending his own money. Maybe that's what the public wants - for public servants to treasure public funds as if it were their own.

Anonymous said...

You see lah!
And they still say I cannot be trusted to manage my own CPF money.
Must control me with a Minimum Sum to double confirm.

I think these Millionaire Ministers should learn to better manage what they are supposed to manage first.
Before they tell me that I cannot manage my own CPF money.

What do you think?

Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin:
"What is quite clear, is that while everyone needs to plan for his or her own retirement needs, the state needs to ensure that via the CPF, we can provide a basic level of adequacy for most, especially for our lower income Singaporeans."

Anonymous said...

And I recall SDP chief Chee Soon Juan was pettily fired from his University post due to a mere $200 courier/postage that he 'misused' for sending thesis papers! In today's context, those would truly be peanuts.

The $2,200 spent was not 'misused' and instead were "properly acquired" through the procurement system. Some agencies really ought to take a hard look. If they can let this fly and get away, I don't know what else they can let go...without being caught yet, that is.

Read here for MORE CSI works:

Anonymous said...

Ya, after the money is being spend, Npark said they will improve the tender procedure. Sweeping everything under the carpet is PAP forte. No one is to be blamed. Did Npark just started their operations in Singapore or have they been around for decades and god forbid how many tenders were carried out in this manner. No wonder our govt always cried not enugh surplus to spend on the people welfare.

Anonymous said...

Whatever lah, ultimately will these affect PAP being re-elected as govt in 2016?

Or make the opposition any stronger?

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is, even if PAP govt make mistakes, big or small, they are still considered by 60% voters as the best available party to form the govt.

So the solution is to have a party considered by 60% to be better than the PAP.

Otherwise no use pointing out and criticising PAP for this or that mistake, big, small or whatever, tio bo?

Amused said...

How can they claim that the bikes are "properly acquired" through the procurement system when they specifically targets one vendor's product? How about their past procurements? With recent procurement scandals involving women and money, they ought to be more transparent on the procurement process.

Anonymous said...

"The Singapore public wants our tax dollars to be spent they way that ordinary middle class families would spend it for items that they are familiar with ... Why wouldn't something be good enough for them not be good enough for N. Parks officers?"

This hits the nail on the head. For your office chair example, the company could allow flexibility by offering a subsidy option - pay for say a $300 chair for all but if someone wants to get something good they can top it up with their own cash instead. So the $300 becomes a subsidy for someone getting their own chair. But then... flexibility in the civil service...? LOL

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with Lucky Tan. As a supplier who participate in GeBiz, I notice that many government department purchasers go for the higher end branded products like Hermen Miller types chairs for the office. This is especially so before the financial year end. I was told that if you don't spend your allocated budget, the allocation will be reduced the next year.

ah lian said...

The thing is, whether one or 10 companies tendered, N Parks must have set aside a BIG BIG budget for the bike purchase.

Anyone tendered through GeBIZ before? What I understand from my colleague who tendered for Stat Board projs before is: usually, even if only ONE company tendered, but their price is over the stat board's budget, the company will be asked to bring their price down.

So maybe, N Parks had $56k to "play" with, so why go for Aleoca when they can afford Brompton?

And a stat board civil servant client mentioned that they'd want to "use up" their budget, else next year, their budget might shrink. Eg. budget given for the year is $1 mil, but they only spend $800k nearing financial year end, they'll think of ways to spend the $200k...

ah lian said...

@ Anon 16/7/12 14:30

Ya, ya, EXACTLY!

Anonymous said...

The next time the government wants to increase gst, they can no longer justify it. Why? They need the money to buy more bromptom bikes!

Anonymous said...

This Bromptom biks Saga is just like SMRT incident. No accountability...

Anonymous said...

//This Bromptom biks Saga is just like SMRT incident. No accountability...//

Wrong. SMRT got one Ms Saw's head accounted for.
It's the LTA head that is missing.
As for Brompton, well, I really like to know if the person approving the tender is of "unsound mind"?
Majority of public can see how ridiculous this purchase and obscene and questionable the procurement process, except the 'approver'.
Who huh?

Anonymous said...


But do you know who appointed Ms Saw? Which incompetent leader appointed her even though she has no engineering background?

For the record, she resign on her own, SMRT did not dismiss her nor claw back any of her bonus.

All swept under the carpet.... Many standard excuse

1) No one could have forseen.
2) Impossible to have prefect procurement.
3) No amount of Engineering can...
4) Not realistic to expect NEA not make a mistake
5) Once in 50 years mistake.

No one accountable.. End of Story

Anonymous said...

The scandal is nothing but a indication of the rot within. Someone mentioned that "gaming" the procurement procedure is so easy that it's a open secret as to whole the preferred winner is. Another interesting fact people have forgotten was how the cleaning and estate management contracts were managed at Aljunied when PAP was there. The toxic investment was another issue. No one knows how the remisers or the broking firms were selected. Now just imagine what happening at all the GICs

Lye Khuen Way said...

Scandals are unravelling fast & furious these days.

As someone noted, it is only symptomatic of the rot that had set in quite a while ago.

Unfortunately, for us the "powerless ", but not so daft, there are few options.
Those in power, are cosy, deaf and blind to the noises that were there moons ago.

Back to this Foldable Bikes small-deal.
I expect the CPIB to be called in.

CHC was more creative. Incidentally, there is another Mega Church that happens to be Creative!
Wow! Creative & Harvest. They did warn you, no?

Anonymous said...

Where is our money?

To everyone here, just a short notice to alert people -

The perennial question gets a boost with the return of the good Prof Balding blog. He has since restored everything from the old blog.

Hope people will go take a look.

Aleoca biker said...

I notice that in the photos of the NParks employees using their high-end Brompton bikes, none of them are wearing helmets. Which leads me to wonder if the officers are properly insured in the first place to ride on public roads, which is the one of the key purposes for the bikes being bought in the first place. Currently, they are transported to the parks by NParks vans (where passengers are insured); if an NParks officer on a Brompton gets killed or injured by a hit and run vehicle, the costs to the tax payer will be far more than the savings of $600 per month for the entire fleet of 26 bikes for many years!

Also, did NParks consider about likely theft of the bikes when the NParks staff bring the bikes home. I will bet that these bikes will be targeted for theft, now that people know that they cost so much! My guess is that the fleet of 26 bikes will disappear as quickly as the NTUC Comfort cabs in Suzhou!

P.S. I have had 3 bicycles stolen in the past few years. Sigh. I am sure that they have been sold to foreign workers.

Anonymous said...

There must be some perks within a working environment. If it is not monetary then it could be physical comforts.

Take example many decades ago, offices had no air conditioning. No fans either!

Installing ceiling fans or table fans to keep the employees cool and comfortable was a perk. One may seek employment if one knew that a certain company provided such perks, and yet paid less wages.

Working outdoors may not attract many applicants. Providing high quality tools such as the Brompton offers an attraction.

Yes, it is public funds.

I think the item is not the issue but the process in acquiring it is.
It is very slip shod.

Anonymous said...

Duorest chairs good for men who wear trousers but not for ladies. The seat has sharp edges that make the thigh area painful.

Anonymous said...

Need not look further than their swanky 5 star Hotel looking Government office...they need to fit the image I guess since it's taxpayer's $$$ anyway.

Anonymous said...

Too much $$$$$ lying around. That is the crux of the problem. I am very sure there are millions of wastages throughout the government. I remembered long time ago, some government departments and GLC offices are even more luxurious that those in the Banks. 6 inches thick carpet which u feel like floating when u walk on it.

Anonymous said...

While singaporeans grapples with jobs lost to foreigners and wages suppressed, what that civil service do is like adding salt to wound by splurging on bromptoms bicycles. Is that the right thing to do? Where did the money come from?

Aren't there still poor elderlys who scavenge for cardboards and collect cans from dustbin? The money can be better put to use to help them. There are cheaper alternatives than bromptoms.

Anonymous said...

Why so much big hoo ha over Bromptom bikes?

NParks already said they will finetune their procurement process what.

What more do netizens want? Replace PAP as govt at next elections?

BK said...

Actually I have no problem with their purchase of Brompton bike, IF it's really what they claimed that officers will take public transport with their bikes (as shown in last Friday 13 July 前线追踪). This bike is really well designed for this purpose and definitely will reduce fatigue to the officers, allowing them to get their job done better. In my opinion, this is good use of money for the productivity in returns.

I do, however, have concern with the procurement process, IF what those 'investigation' now circulating online is true, ie. the tender is effectively only open for 3 working days (minus off weekends), the first day it opened was the third day of CNY, the narrow spec and such. It sounds more like an 'insider' trading.

Anonymous said...

The pigs just don't understand the concerns of Singaporeans.

That's why we need to vote in more Opposition candidates into parliament. Tio bo?

The driver is not only sleeping.
The driver is an L plate driver.
Need a driving instructor like Worker's Party to teach him how to drive.

Anonymous said...

Someone highlighted that the tender for the Brompton bikes was called over the CNY holidays with an effective period of only 3 working days after deducting the holidays.

If this is true, it will only serve to raise an alarm that someone may have a particular personal interest to plan it this way so as to attract the least attention from other tenderers.

Smell fishy since it ran foul of normal tender procedure ?hilding 70

Anonymous said...

"P.S. I have had 3 bicycles stolen in the past few years. Sigh. I am sure that they have been sold to foreign workers.
16/7/12 20:07". Unquote.

I suspect that your bicycles were more likely stolen by foreign workers.

Anonymous said...

I think the writer missed the point completely.. this case is obviously a case of someone inside Npark setting up a deal with familiar vendor for kick backs, not about petty indulgence. Why would a tender be called during CNY and with such a 3 working days window period?? Simple - You scratch my back, i scratch yours. The civil service and the govt have lost the moral high ground and corruption is getting rampant. If KBW can justify a deal like tat, i can't imagine the extent of the rot within the system.. Conclusion: It's seriously time to kick PAP out of govt.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, the National Reference Library in Stamford Road bought about 10 $2,000 executive chairs for the business corner. They wanted to give the image of an exclusive business environment. For about 4 years, only 1 or 2 persons a month used the corner.

This kind of purchase is for image: the image of NParks and Singapore Inc. It has nothing to do with use or cost-benefit.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The lesson to learn from the many cases of rot surfacing from the Civil Service is for the citizens not to trust the PAP government too much. Demand accountability and transparency from them, subjected to public scrutiny. Obviously even our million-pay Ministers are unable to curb the spate of corruption surfacing in our Civil service.

Anonymous said...

Increase welfare benefits by $30/month to needy families.

Debate for such a long time in parliament.
Minister even insulted us by saying;
What you want?
3 meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?

$2,000 for one bicycle.
No need to debate.

And you dafties want this type of people to represent you?

Anonymous said...

my guess is a family member of a MP is working for this bike company.

Anonymous said...

So is there going to be Bromptomgate Scandal in wikipedia ?

Anonymous said...

The TV explanation was all about the worth of the bike, which is debatable but may be acceptable. The whole issue is the tender process in government, not just NParks. Is it true that most of the time, government agencies have already some company in mind to work with and then they narrow the specs in such a way to limit the quotation by only a few companies and then through some "criteria" (subjective or "objective") narrow down to their dream partner? The accoutant general should look into this and the tender process in the interest of taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

"Is it true that most of the time, government agencies have already some company in mind to work with and then they narrow the specs in such a way to limit the quotation by only a few companies and then through some "criteria" (subjective or "objective") narrow down to their dream partner? "

Please. Don't we know that all this can be gamed ? Of course shitty media will always distract the real issue as we have shitty government. What do you think ?

Anonymous said...

Simply horigible. Very disgusting to have this kind to be mp.

Anonymous said...

"...but it is extremely rare to find anyone buying $2K Brompton bikes."

The official Brompton dealer in Sg has doubled his retail space in a matter of 3 years and is the 7th largest (by sales volume) distributor in the world. Some families have up to 4 bikes, that's abt $10K spent.

Everyone takes delight in their choice of 'toys' / hobbies and will find reasons/excuses to indulge. My Brommie was bought second hand.

shirley gunawan said...

Y are peeps arguing fir the sake of arguement sake?

Aleoca is the kind of bicycle that will fall apart anytime during a ride. Most singaporean family will not buy them if they have money. N u expect government scholars to spend money on trash metal?

Take a look at all the comments online on aleoca

This is a ridiculous debate imo.

Anonymous said...

The question is not about bikes. It is about cronism and PAP.

Anonymous said...

I hope this saga will not lead to gov body made purchase solely just based on initial cost - I learn from someone that recently a regulatory body is going to buy from a vendor A becasue the price is cheaper - while vendor B provide better testing result than A.. mind you as a regulatory body your testing result has to be reliable.. it is also well known that vendor charge higher than vendor B in service contract and parts.. that mean a higher operation cost.