Thursday 26 July 2012

MND refers Brompton bicycles purchase to CPIB

By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 25 Jul 2012

The Ministry of National Development (MND) has referred the controversial purchase of 26 Brompton bicycles to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

MND was responding to media queries on Wednesday.

The ministry had previously issued a statement on Tuesday saying that it had suspended a National Parks Board (NParks) officer after an internal audit found discrepancies in the procurement process.

The officer suspended is Bernard Lim, the assistant director of the Park Connector Network.

The ministry said the discrepancies were "significant and warrant further investigation".

Last month, its internal audit team was instructed to work with NParks to review the purchase of the foldable bicycles.

The audit followed a media report of the purchase on June 22. The bikes cost S$2,200 each.

NParks said the bikes were needed to improve productivity in helping its staff inspect trees, and sites.

NParks' decision to buy the foldable bikes sparked online discussions, with some netizens saying cheaper bicycles could have been bought and that the tender was called during the Lunar New Year period, when many businesses were closed.

Following the incident, MND said it is working with NParks, as well as other MND agencies, on ways to strengthen its procurement controls for tenders and quotations.

For a start, MND has imposed additional oversight requirements where single bids in any tenders are involved.

Govt agencies urged to be more vigilant in dealing with spending
By Royston Sim & Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 26 Jul 2012

GOVERNMENT agencies should be more careful when making buying decisions, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) advised yesterday.

A spokesman told The Straits Times that in light of recent procurement lapses, MOF has been advising ministries and statutory boards to be 'more vigilant'.

Apart from the controversial National Parks Board (NParks) purchase of 26 Brompton folding bicycles for $57,200, other incidents include the sex-for-contracts corruption cases involving former Central Narcotics Bureau director Ng Boon Gay and former Singapore Civil Defence Force chief Peter Lim.

NParks officer Bernard Lim, assistant director of the Park Connector Network, has been suspended from duty over the bike purchase. The agency was questioned over its decision to pay $2,200 for each bike, which some cyclists noted was high.

It had also called for quotes during the Chinese New Year period and had set a six-day deadline for firms to respond.

The contract was awarded to BikeHop Singapore, the only company to make a bid. Diginexx, the official Brompton distributor here, had previously said in a Facebook post that no local bike firms were aware of the tender.

Yesterday, the Finance Ministry said quotations - for government contracts between $3,000 and $70,000 - must be open for at least four working days so companies have enough time to submit bids. It also clarified that there is no minimum number of bids for quotations.

Government agencies can award contracts even if only one company has made a bid, as long as the bid is deemed reasonable. The officers in charge of the procurement will have to justify to an approving authority why they consider the single bid 'competitive or reflective of fair market value', said the spokesman.

This authority comprises one or more officers appointed by the permanent secretary or chief executive of the public agency.

Procurements above $80,000 are approved by an authority comprising a minimum of three senior officers.

The MOF spokesman said ministries and statutory boards must adhere to rules and principles set out in the Government Instruction Manual of Procurement.

Government employees are also required to declare any conflicts of interest when carrying out official duties, including procurement. Those unsure should declare interests to their supervisors, the spokesman said.

'Specifically where an approving authority has a conflict of interest, he is required to declare his interest and be replaced by another officer,' she added.

In the NParks case, Mr Lim was friends with the three owners of BikeHop Singapore.

The spokesman said that under government procurement rules, tender specifications must not be 'biased or discriminatory such that it precludes competition'.

As far as possible, they should describe desired outcomes or performance, she said, adding that public agencies are responsible for making sure that these rules are followed.

The Ministry of National Development said it is working with all its agencies to strengthen its procurement controls for tenders and quotations, especially where single bids are involved.

Attempts yesterday to contact Mr Lim, said to be in his 40s, were unsuccessful. Friends described him as a cycling enthusiast who regularly engages the cycling community in his NParks role.

Mr Francis Chu, 52, co-founder of cycling group LoveCyclingSG, said Mr Lim was efficient in 'getting things done on the park connector network'.

For instance, if someone informed Mr Lim about a faulty light along a park connector, the problem would usually be fixed within a day, said Mr Chu.

Mr Lim sold his car several months ago and began commuting to work via bicycle, added Mr Chu. He worked for the Singapore Sports Council before joining NParks, and was a keen rugby player and golfer.

NParks officer responsible for foldable bikes purchase suspended
By Joanne Chan, Channel NewsAsia, 24 Jul 2012

A National Parks Board (NParks) officer responsible for the purchase of 26 Brompton foldable bicycles has been suspended from duty.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Tuesday that its internal audit team found significant discrepancies that warrant further investigation.

The audit team was tasked last month by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan to work with NParks to review the purchase of the 26 foldable bicycles.

MND wanted to ascertain NPark's justification for the purchase and to see if the agency's procurement process could be improved.

This followed a report on the purchase in the local media on June 22.

MND said the internal audit has been completed.

It said the audit established that the reasons for purchasing the foldable bicycles to enhance work productivity of NParks field staff were valid.

However, the audit had also uncovered some discrepancies which, although inconclusive by themselves, suggested the possibility of bias in the procurement process.

The purchase of the 26 bicycles, each costing S$2,200, had raised questions about why such costly bicycles were purchased.

The bicycles were meant for field officers doing their inspection rounds.

* Brompton bikes: NParks officer found guilty of lying
By Ian Poh, The Straits Times, 30 May 2014

THE National Parks Board (NParks) officer who tipped off a bicycle firm director about an upcoming tender was yesterday convicted of lying to auditors about their relationship.

Assistant director Bernard Lim Yong Soon was, however, acquitted of instigating Bikehop's Lawrence Lim Chun How to perpetuate the lie that they had met only after the tender was awarded.

Following a nine-day trial, a district court found it was more likely that the latter had acted out of a personal anxiety to keep their stories consistent when quizzed by the Ministry of National Development (MND).

Bernard Lim, 42, now faces up to a year in jail and $5,000 in fines for telling the MND they had first met on March 16, 2012.

They actually met at a night cycling event in September or October 2011. Bernard Lim later told Mr Lawrence Lim about the January 2012 tender for folding bicycles, for which Bikehop then made the only bid - for $57,200.

The court held that Bernard Lim had effectively tried to give the MND the wrong impression of what was actually a "highly supportive and nurturing friendship" between the two at an interview on July 18, 2012, in fear of his conflict of interest being exposed and possible disciplinary proceedings.

District Judge Marvin Bay yesterday said Lim had responded to questions in a "perplexing" and "oblique" way - such as by telling MND auditors he first met Mr Lawrence Lim at a meeting to discuss a delay in the delivery of a batch of the Brompton bikes.

The defendant - who declined to take the stand or call any witnesses - had also claimed that while the two men were Facebook "friends", this did not "necessarily translate to real friendship in the physical sense".

"I would have very much preferred to hear Bernard's explanation for his most peculiar answers," Judge Bay said.

Bernard Lim had also asked the Bikehop director to "unfriend" him on Facebook and told him not to reveal their relationship to anyone.

But after lying to auditors initially, Mr Lawrence Lim eventually came clean. He had also earlier requested a meeting at a hawker centre where he urged Bernard Lim to tell the truth to his bosses.

However, the judge said that if Bernard Lim had specifically wanted his friend to lie, he would have done more. "Indeed it is possible that he may have thought that Mr Lawrence Lim might lie in any case, but that expectation would be likely more from Mr Lawrence Lim's own anxiety to maintain coherence in their two accounts," the judge said.

Bernard Lim remains suspended from his job as his case is still before the court, NParks said in a statement yesterday. He is expected to be sentenced on June 10.

* Former NParks officer fined $5,000
By Ian Poh, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2014

FORMER National Parks Board (NParks) assistant director Bernard Lim Yong Soon was fined $5,000 and sacked yesterday.

But he appeared to smile in relief when he learnt he had escaped a jail term for lying to auditors over a $57,200 bicycle deal.

The 42-year-old had tipped off the owner of Bikehop, a bicycle retailer, about an upcoming tender he was in charge of to help the man. As a result, the company put in the sole, successful bid to supply 26 foldable Brompton bikes to NParks in January 2012.

Afraid of being discovered after the deal came under public scrutiny over the $2,200 cost of each bicycle, Lim lied to the Ministry of National Development during an audit that year.

He said he first met Bikehop's Mr Lawrence Lim Chun How in March, after the tender had been awarded, when in fact the duo had met at a cycling event at least five months earlier - before the tender was called. Bikehop's Mr Lim, however, came clean to auditors after lying initially.

Lim, who was convicted on May 29, was yesterday given the maximum fine by a district court for the offence.

While NParks announced yesterday that he had been dismissed with immediate effect, he was not put in prison as the prosecution had hoped. He could have been jailed for up to a year.

District Judge Marvin Bay noted that Lim's conviction was not for corruption, but for making a false statement to public servants. His conduct had not been as bad as that seen in other lying cases which resulted in jail, he said.

"Notwithstanding this, I must agree... that the court must take a serious view where an attempt is made to subvert the procurement process and the situation (is) compounded by a protracted attempt to conceal the relationship," said the judge as he imposed the fine.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy said that Lim had acted dishonestly and tried to manipulate the system.

Lim's lawyer Lawrence Ang, however, said he had spent 14 years in the public service before eventually joining NParks in 2009, and had acted "wholly out of character".

Both sides have 14 days to file an appeal.

Although convicted of lying, Lim was acquitted of instigating Mr Lim to perpetuate the lie, after the court found the latter had more likely acted out of personal anxiety to keep their stories consistent.

NParks acknowledges bicycle purchase could have been handled better
Foldable bikes issue dealt with firmly but fairly
Investigations on Brompton bike case completed

No comments:

Post a Comment