A Tale of Two Tender Processes

Tendering for jobs is a common exercise in the communications industry around the world. What’s different though is the process that bidders have to go through. One good example is the contrast between bidding for government-linked projects in Malaysia and similar jobs in Singapore.

Just as in Malaysia, tendering for government-linked projects in Singapore require bidders to fill-up and submit forms and documents ascertaining to their company’s legal standing, financial health, and so on. And, just as in Malaysia, they also have to create a “prototype” related to the project, to show how we plan to do it.

One key difference between Malaysia and Singapore is that the names and, more importantly, the prices from all bidders are displayed on the procurement website. Everyone who had put in a bid for the contract could see who else bid for the job and the amount they quoted.

It was transparent. It was open… It was so unlike Malaysia.

Anyone who has participated in a tender process here, especially for a government-related contract, will know how it is. You cannot get any information whatsoever.

“May we know the price of the winning bid?” – “No!”  “May we know who submitted the winning bid?” – “No!”  “May we know who the other bidders were?” – “No!”  “May we how many other bidders there were?” – “No!”  “May we know why we were not successful in our bid?” – “No!”

It would be wrong to release these details before the tender process is completed. But once it is done and dusted, once the decision has been made and the successful bidder identified, there should be no more need for secrecy. In fact, not only should the names and price quotes be made available to all those taking part in the exercise, but also the prototypes that were submitted.

Practising such transparency helps the industry grow because all of us can learn from one another, leading to more benefits for the country as a segment of its economy is strengthened.

Another thing is that the tender process should be streamlined to be more efficient and respectful of bidders’ time. Too often, companies are asked to provide multiple prototypes, which means that we have to put paying jobs to one side. Not only that, bidders are often required to print multiple sets of documents, which is really a waste of resources and not very sustainable.

There is really no reason all that work, as one prototype should be enough to show understanding of the job scope. And besides, samples of our past work are also submitted as proof of capabilities. In contrast, when tendering for government-related jobs in Singapore, bidders only had to submit one prototype and everything was submitted online.

So here’s to more transparency in the government tendering process, more efficiency, and a better way of doing business.