In brief

As part of its major e-government initiative, Singapore decided in 1998 to develop an ambitious e-procurement portal, moving the public sector procurement process online. It extends from publicising the tender to the delivery of bids to the invoicing and payment of the suppliers’ invoices and remains the “one-stop, non-stop” centre for government and business to interact.

The challenge

Singapore’s government has, since the 1980s, used computer technology to transform the administration and delivery of its public services. It has benefited citizens and businesses by providing greater convenience and cost-savings by making its service delivery more productive. Its approach, though, was predominantly focused on delivering information, with relatively little interaction between government and business, and this applied to government procurement as to other interfaces between the public and private sectors.

The initiative

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) was concerned that there should be an e-procurement initiative. “The concept of Government Electronic Business (GeBIZ) took root in mid-1998. The [MOF] decided to bring together different pockets of activities or systems in the Singapore public sector related to procurement to create a single integrated system that could support the entire procurement life cycle between public sector agencies and suppliers electronically.” [1]

GeBIZ seen as a “one-stop, non-stop government business centre, which would enable public sector officers to engage in e-commerce effectively”. [2]

GeBIZ was one of the largest government e-commerce initiatives, “fostering a more transparent and fair trading environment that would result in better value for money for the public service”. [3]

It had the following objectives:

  • To develop a common e-procurement system for the entire public sector.
  • To establish “open and transparent procurement in accordance with government procurement policies (including World Trade Organisation – Government Procurement Act)”. [4]
  • Facilitate demand generation.
  • To establish a complete repository of procurement information in one place.
  • The Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) project team developed the GeBIZ application in phases. The first phase was delivered in June 2000 and supported the electronic catalogue and the online publication of tender notices. More features such as online supplier registration, online tendering, small value purchases etc. were added over the course of the next two years.

The public impact

As of December 2005, there were more than 9,000 users in the public sector from 120 government agencies that were using GeBIZ for their procurement and other e-commerce activities.

By 2008, there had been an enormous amount of activity via GeBIZ:

  • 10,000 buyers.
  • 79,000 quotations worth SGD900 million.
  • 144 agencies regularly participating in GeBIZ.
  • 181,000 orders placed, worth SGD2 billion.
  • 5,800 tenders floated, worth SGD28.2 billion.
  • 42,000 suppliers that had participated in bids.
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What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.

Legitimacy

Stakeholder Engagement Good

The MOF funded the initial development and infrastructure cost of GeBIZ, and the system’s operational cost for the first two years.

DSTA was engaged as the application developer and system integrator.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) managed the overall project and infrastructure.

The other main stakeholders were the suppliers who bid for the government tenders.

Political Commitment Good

GeBIZ originated as an initiative of the MOF, which also provided the funding. It was therefore located in the heart of government. It was also consistent with Singapore’s drive towards a widespread use of e-government technologies to deliver increasingly interactive public services.

Public Confidence Fair

There was initial resistance from various government departments and from the public sector bodies involved in procurement. “There were differences in procurement practices across the ministries and other government agencies. The team had to expend much effort to streamline the procurement processes and to implement a ‘standard’ workflow that would best fit the existing practices. The initial resistance from public sector buyers in switching from the manual to the electronic procurement workflow process was another uphill task.” [5]

Policy

Clear Objectives Good

The objectives of GeBIZ were wide-ranging, to be a one-stop, non-stop government business centre, enabling the entire public sector to engage in e-commerce in a single place (see The initiative, above). It would also enable the private sector suppliers to be alerted to tenders and to submit bids and invoice for work done, again through a single portal.

Its objectives have been maintained throughout, and GeBIZis still operating successfully.

Evidence Strong

A detailed study was instituted to look into all aspects concerning the policy. “Various alternatives were evaluated in 1999 to determine the most cost-effective and viable way to realise the GeBIZ vision ... The study concluded that the best option was to develop GeBIZ based on existing procurement-related applications such as the Government Internet Tendering Information System ... This approach enabled business knowledge and past experiences captured in these systems to be retained. It shortened the development cycle and achieved maximum cost-effectiveness.” The administration also looked at several models from around the world.

Feasibility Good

The project was funded by the MOF for the first two years and developed by the DSTA, a statutory board within the Ministry of Defence, thus taking care of financial, technical and HR feasibility concerns.

A different approach was taken from 2004 onwards, which was, for the government, an untested approach. “In line with the policy on efficient use of resources, a decision was taken by MOF for DSTA to manage and operate GeBIZ as a central procurement portal for the public sector on a self-funding model from 1 April 2004. Instead of getting funds from MOF directly, DSTA was to recover the operational cost of GeBIZ directly from its users through the fees collected. For the DSTA project team, it was a journey into uncharted waters.” [6]

Action

Management Strong

This scheme appears to be well managed. Multiple officers are required to sign off on bids, reducing the risks of nepotism and corruption, and there is a clear procurement process. The DSTA is responsible for the management of GeBIZ, including invoicing (see Feasibility above).

The procurement process is also carefully managed:

  • “Evaluation is carried out by an evaluation team with representatives from user departments and technical specialists.” [7]
  • “To ensure checks and balances in the procurement process, the officer(s) evaluating the bids must be different from the officer(s) approving the award of the bid. This applies for both quotations and tenders. Quotations are approved by at least one officer while tenders are approved by a tender board of at least three officers.” [8]
  • Government agencies fulfil all “administrative duties associated with a contract after it is entered into”. [9]
  • The Auditor General’s office is responsible for conducting audits. Independent audits are also performed as a further guard against corruption.

Measurement Fair

The number of users and suppliers using GeBIZ can be easily measured. For example, the numbers of users and suppliers in 2001 were 4,291 and 4,393 respectively, which expanded to 8.919 and 12,465 in the 2002 financial year.

The business volume and total value of purchases that go through the system can also be established. However, there is little evidence that the government actively uses these metrics to influence their approach.

Alignment Good

Efforts were made by the government and specifically the DSTA to help enhance the acceptability of the portal and also to address the concerns of suppliers. This in itself shows that there was good coordination among the main actors.

“Singapore basically adopted an 8-stage process in procurement. It clearly defined the various policies and procedures for each stage of the procurement in an Instruction Manual, available to all public sector officers on an electronic Government Intranet system.” [10]

The move to self-funding through subscription charges created some problems with the suppliers. “In the weeks that followed, the number of calls to GeBIZ Service Centre increased seven-fold ... The GeBIZ charging model underwent a significant review in February 2005. A high level policy decision was made to grant each supplier one free user account with effect from 1 April 2005.” [11]

This led to a need for more interaction with suppliers by providing much-needed training in the use of GeBIZ. “To accelerate the training for suppliers, DSTA collaborated with NUS Extension in November 2004 and the Institute of Public Administration and Management in October 2005 to provide hands-on training to existing and potential suppliers, and to equip them with the background knowledge to handle transactions with public procurement agencies through GeBIZ.” [12]