The exclusion of participation in government contracts is a separate and distinct exercise of the judicial process and serves a different purpose, says the Second Finance Minister Indranee Rajah.
Responding to questions asked by MP Pritam Singh about the foreclosure process, Ms Indranee said that the Court will deal with the adjudication of liability and enforcement of sanctions for violations of the law such as corruption. However, the foreclosure process is a "government administrative procedure" to protect the government's interest as a buyer of services against those who have caused direct damages or losses to the government.
She stressed: "There must be a nexus with government-related contracts before the exclusion can be enforced." This echoes the statement made by the Home Office to the Straits Times in response to questions about why they had granted a high-value proposition to a company whose executives had been convicted of corruption two years ago.
The ST Marine graft scandal, which was completed in 2014, is the largest in Singapore so far involving the cover-up and acceptance of tuition fees of up to $ 24.9 million between 2000 and 2011. Former financial controller ST Marine Group Ong Teck Liam and six other former senior executives of ST Marine were convicted of corruption, the latter being sentenced in 2017.
Questions were raised as to why ST Marine was never excluded from GeBiz, the government procurement portal, which would have banned them from bidding on any public sector contracts.
Speaking directly on the case of ST Marine which received the 2016 million dollar contract in 2018 for the construction and maintenance of at least 12 aluminum patrol boats for the Coast Guard Police for a period of at least 15 years Ms Indranee said that the CPIB investigations revealed no connection to a government agency or contract where corruption occurred. Therefore, circumstances in which impairment may be recommended under policy parameters have not arisen.
In his response in Parliament on Monday, Indranee also noted that the charges and convictions were against individuals, not the company as a whole, and that this happened a long time ago.
She said: "In this case, the accusations and convictions were against the individuals involved, ie former financial controller of the ST Marines group and six other former senior executives. They were sentenced in 2017 for crimes committed in the period between 2000 and 2011, being the most recent act 8 years ago. "
Facing the lapse in the notice of award – which the TOC previously reported and received no actual response from the MHA directly – Ms Indranee said that the notice of award was indeed published within 72 days of the award, according to the regulation.
We had previously informed that other suppliers who had made offers in the same tender were only notified more than 120 days after the award of the contract, well beyond the required 72-day period. They only knew of the award for ST Marine after receiving an automatic email in November 2018, stating that the bidding period had ended and that the contract had been awarded in July 2018.
Contesting this, Ms Indranee said that the contract was actually awarded on November 26, 2018 and a notice of award was published in the government procurement portal GeBiz the next day, November 27, 2018. She added: "The award date was initially incorrectly shown as July 27, 2018 and this has been fixed. "
Continuing with Indranee's response, Mr. Pritam asked if the SCOD would begin to take into account past convictions of the private sector in considering exclusion in order to protect the interest of the government as it is reasonable to assume that companies with past convictions of the sector would expose the government to risk if they take public sector contracts.
Ms Indranee said that in order to protect against risk, there is already a process in which government agencies take into account the evaluation of the competition in a holistic way, assessing the performance risk, the integrity of the contract or the risk of reputation.
So basically, the SCOD will not take into account private sector corruption convictions when it comes to possible exclusion, since the holistic assessment already covers this aspect of risk assessment.
If that were the case, could not the same kind of holistic assessment be applied to companies that were convicted of corruption in public procurement? Why the double standard?