Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Watz Buzzing - 17 Jul 2012 (update)

U-turn on Brompton foldable bikes shows need for citizens to keep govt accountable (update July 25, 2012)

Shortly after it was first disclosed that NParks had procured 26 Brompton foldable bicycles for a hefty sum of S$2,200 per bike, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan publicly defended the purchase.

In his blog entry “Value for Money” dated 04 July 2012, Mr Khaw said that he had queried NParks on the purchase, and he was “satisfied” with their explanation. “It looks like NParks has bought the right equipment,” added Mr Khaw.

In their reply, NParks had convinced Mr Khaw that the bikes were a simple and effective way to raise staff productivity as it enables the officer to cover more ground and do more inspections within the same time.

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Where were the Leslie Lopezs in NParks' Brompton purchase?

What's sad is that the mainstream media which investigated and reported the re-capture of Mas Selamat in Malaysia, did not (or chose not to) pursue the glaring discrepancies in the purchases of the Brompton bicycles, and left it to netizens to use whatever limited means they had to investigate and put sustained pressure on the Minister to call for an audit on the purchase.

Kudos to Hardware Zone Forumer 'SIM37' for his investigative posts 'CSI attempt: nParks Brompton procurement process ended up with a dodgy winning bidder!', which kept the pressure on the NParks purchase. Kudos to the bloggers and social media users who recognised something was amiss in the purchase and kept casting the spotlight on the issue.

These people refused to take the Minister at his word that there was nothing wrong in the purchase of these bicycles. And how right they were! We may all have been sorely misled if we had accepted what the Minister had said lock, stock, and barrel.

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Challenging our US$4 billion loan to IMF. Press Conference and Statement.

I’d like to thank you all for coming today. As you know on 6 July 2012, I filed in the High Court to request a judicial review of the government’s loan of US$4 billion dollars to the IMF.

Before I answer your questions I would like to take a minute or two to clarify some points.

As you know we have been trying to get an answer from our Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and President Tony Tan Keng Yam about our Republic’s loan commitment to the IMF.

TOC Report: Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s Press Conference on High Court Application

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NParks: We have adhered to govt procurement guidelines

Brompton foldable bike costing $2200 each bought by NParks

The National Parks Board (NParks) said it had adhered to government procurement guidelines. However, it said it will look into “fine-tuning its procurement process” for the purchase of items and improving future tender processes.

The recent purchase of the expensive hand-made Brompton bikes costing $2,200 each by NParks has drawn a firestorm on the Net.

NParks bought 26 Brompton bikes for its officers to use on patrols in Jan this year, costing a total of $57,200. The explanation given by Nparks is that at the close of its tender in Jan, only one vendor, BikeHop, had responded offering two options – the $2,200 Brompton and another more expensive brand. Hence, Brompton was chosen. NParks said it also noted that the price of the model of Brompton quoted at $2,200 was lower than the retail price of $2,250.

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CSI attempt: nParks Brompton procurement process ended up with a dodgy winning bidder!

After watching the TV show about the nParks brompton purchase. I've got more serious questions about this particular "company" that won the tender.

Note: I've no question over the model selection as I know the quality of a brompton bicycle. Besides the tender process, I just have these key questions/observations as to the eventual winner of this tender, a company known as "bikehop".

This company Bikehop,

Are they a bicycle shop?
Are they a tour agency?
Are they an online shop?

I can't figure this out.

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NParks Brompton Bike Saga: Netizen Reveals the Sole Bidder and NParks' Tender Process

The notice of tender was drawn up on 19 Jan, just before Chinese new year and put up on the gebiz site on 3rd day of Chinese New Year?

1. Which bicycle shop do you know in Singapore opens on 3rd day of CNY and will scan the gebiz website that has a tender that expires in a few days time? Full Story

Lastest Update 1 : EXTRA CSI Reveals More Information

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OPINION: How often do you see two letters from a writer on the same subject appearing on the same day in Straits Times Forum?

Straits Times Forum, 13 Jul 2012

CSI attempt: nParks Brompton procurement process ended up with a dodgy winning bidder!

-BikeHop is owned by Lawrence Lim (and his 2 partners).

-Lawrence Lim is friend with Mr Woon Taiwoon before January 2012. (who is very vocal about NParks having gotten 'A Good Deal' with the Brompton purchases from BikeHop).

-Woon Taiwoon is friend of both Bernard Lim and Wesley Su from NParks.

-Wesley Su is working under instructions from Bernard Lim at Nparks.

-Bernard Lim is a friend of ALL 3 BikerHop owners; Bernard knew Lawrence Lim and Willie Ong before January 2012.

-Friend is friends with friends and friends…. they are all friends and fans of Brompton bikes…!!! ^_^

Anyway, let's break it all down even simpler for you:

Assistant Director Mr. Bernard Lim of National Parks Board PCN,
is already a big fan of Brompton brand foldable bicycles,
and is a friend of at least 2 BikeHop bosses - Mr. Lawrence Lim and Mr. Willie Ong, BEFORE the short quotation notice was put up at Gebiz on the 25th January 2012 (which concluded with NParks buying 26 Brompton bicycles from BikeHop.)

Take note, these were BEFORE the procurement, not after.

OPINION: $128 foldable bike sold at Giant Hypermarket is not good enough for NParks?

Khaw Boon Wan: NPark's $2,200 bike right choice....

SINGAPORE - National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has defended National Parks Board's (NParks) purchase of 26 Brompton foldable bikes, each costing S$2,400, for its officers 

"A good foldable bike is hence considered an appropriate equipment for such staff. It offers us maximum operational flexibility in terms of usage and deployment," - Asiaone

Related:Netizen reveals NParks' procurement winning bidder - Hardwarezone Forum

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Local Brompton licensed reseller questions why NParks had bought from unauthorised reseller

Dignexx Facebook - In response to fervent online forum chatter in reference to the 26 Bromptons ordered by National Parks Board: almost all local bike companies do not follow Gebiz tenders as one would not expect government agencies to want to buy high-end bicycles for group use.

As the commodity indicated in the tender specs: a folding bike with 16 inch wheels is not a common commodity like tissue paper and pens, it would be fair to assume that Procurement/Purchasing would want to seek out the various players in the industry to ask them to consider bidding for their bulk purchase tenders, thus doing their due diligence.

NParks is aware that Diginexx is the authorized distributor that offers the 5-year warranty on the frame and 2-year warranty on parts. If it was really intended for local bike companies to tender for this bulk purchase, NParks would have been able to find through the various bids that there are likely cheaper alternatives to the Brompton and/or be able to receive a competitive price quote from Diginexx so that NParks can buy and save public money in the process.In this case, no local bike companies was aware of this tender, and there was only one bidder.

And even if NParks had really specifically wanted just the Brompton for their usage, the model in question is a M6L. A M6L retails at S$2250 per bike at Diginexx which will cover the 5-year frame warranty and 2-year warranty on parts.

In comparison, buying a total of 26 M6L Bromptons at $2200 per bike is unfortunately not a fair deal for NParks especially when the bikes come from a non-authorised reseller, which do not and cannot offer the official five-year frame warranty and two-year parts warranty.

As a result, the issue remains contentious as reflected in many forums such as mycarforum, hardwarezone and CNA forums. Link

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My experience in tendering for a project on GeBIZ

If NParks said that the procurement adhere to guidelines, then these guidelines is all rubbish ! Let me share an incident on how I was “invited” to bid in GeBiz.

I was doing a small project for a school. The teacher asked me to do a site survey. After the site survey, the project quoted was only a few thousand dollars. Not wanting the hassle to get more vendors, the teacher verbally said my quote was ok. But he could only award the project to me through GeBiz. So the teacher told me that when the ‘tender’ was up on GeBiz, he would call me.

I would just need to submit my quote – exactly the same quote we agreed. He also said that as no other vendors would be able to meet his requirement as they did not know what the details were and also the fact that no other vendors would know that such a project tender would be available in GeBiz. So true enough, I put in a bid as was told – only one vendor put in the bid and got the job.

Although the project I did was a low value, I just want to highlight that GeBiz is fundamentally flawed! Just look at how NParks can award the purchase where there is only one bid and moreover this vendor is from oversea.

- a company needs to be registered with GeBiz before a caompany can put in a bid in GeBiz. When did this company register ? If it is just before the tender or after the tender is called, something real fishy is going on.
- And how many times have this company participated in GeBiz tender before ?

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Should We Still Khaw on NParks?

This post is a continuation of Know What You Are Defending, Mr Khaw

Parks Department Director Kong Yit San had a great vision for his department ever since he took over the reins. By now, a quick check revealed that he is the Assistant CEO of NParks. A high flyer indeed. Kong's Parks Division was special. Under him, the Parks Management department flourished. When one walk through their office, you will never know you are walking through a statutory board department. It was simply superb and the first reaction you would have would be, "I don't mind working here!

"A simple glance across the department tells you what they are trying to achieve - a unique, carefree, freestyle environment never experienced by any government bodies or even other NParks' departments across the company.
Instead of straight neat rows of tables and shelves and filing cabinets, they have lounges, common tables. You can literally work anywhere. A few thread mills or stationary bicycles in the middle of the department, and other fun things.

You know - google or facebook style in a much toned down manner. (after all it is Singapore). Parks dept staff are not required to report in office if they don't need to as long as they finish their work and record it via the laptop they are provided. Parks Department is very proud of their office. That's perfectly fine. In fact, they should be applauded by making a the first radical move to soften the working environment of civil service. 

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The dying days of a dynasty

Was there anything wrong with the purchase of $2,200 high end branded bicycles for public servants? No, definitely no. Minister had spoken out to defend the decision.

Academics too sang in support. Nothing wrong. The whole process was done properly, lowest bid, cheapest available, right procedures. The only hint of some wrongdoings was the admission that it could be done better and the system could be improved. My God, our civil service procedures were found wanting in the 21st century for such a simple straight forward process.

I think tendering is such a new thing in the civil service and they are still testing out the processes. I can only think of Ah Beng and his seventh month bidding which is more effective, efficient as a transparent tender system.

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Using power to give immunity to the powerful

The executive has effectively given our judiciary a blank cheque to be mercenary, biased, lazy and incompetent. It has done this by extending a blanket guarantee that judges will be shielded from criticism through the use of an archaic legal concept of “scandalising the judiciary” – a form of contempt of court.

Under this concept, any criticism of judges and their work is a criminal offence, unless the criticism can be proved, hammered in with nails large enough to crucify Christ. The problem with extending such immunity is that it creates a moral hazard. In fact, it is entirely logical that in the long run, that immunity itself will corrupt the judiciary.

There are two grizzled “justifications” for such a law.

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New Singapore ‘citizens’ from China can easily ‘re-convert’ back to PRC citizenship

Mr Lee Sir! Please note that the PRC can always give up their Singapore citizenship to go back to China once they have earned enough. China’s IC can be made every three years.

It is so simple as to include your name in the ‘Book of Citizen’ or ‘Hu Kou’ (in chinese) then proceed to the Police Station to have an IC made.

In this way, they can simply get back their citizenship in China anytime! My ex-wife is a Shanghainess who did that! Think please Mr Lee

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How Many Wrecked Lives Behind the S$288 Million Collected?

Singaporeans and permanent residents paid a total of S$288 million in casino levies in 2011 and the first six months of this year.

Last year, S$195 million was collected while another S$93 million was collected from January to June to this year.
Singaporeans and PRs must pay a 100-dollar levy each time they visit.

S$288 million is a lot of visits.

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Letter: Why more than three-quarter of MPs absent from Parliamentary sesson? - Chong Foo Sin

It was reported in "LTA's role under scrutiny" (July 10) that the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (Amendment) Bill was not passed when the debate ended, as fewer than a quarter of members were present in Parliament.

I understand that many of our Members of Parliament have full-time jobs or that our Ministers may need to attend to important commitments. However, something is wrong when fewer than a quarter were present at the end of the debate.

Are our MPs showing respect to Parliament, their fellow MPs and their supporters? Link

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Singaporean uncle earns $50,000 monthly by renting out rooms to freelance prostitutes to do their ‘business’

Jalan Suka off Geylang Lorong 24 has been in the spotlight lately after an irate resident Adam Goi wrote a lengthy letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong complaining about the ‘flourishing’ vice trade there. (read more here)

The Chinese evening tabloids then reported an elderly woman living there who got into conflict with the freelance prostitutes plying their trade there.

A 59 year old Singaporean uncle claimed today that he earns about $50,000 monthly by converting his residence there into a budget ‘part-time’ brothel for the prostitutes to conduct their ‘business’.

He reported rent out the rooms in his terrace house in Jalan Suka to the freelance prostitutes at a rate of $6 per 10 minutes.

The unlicenced prostitutes hailed mostly from Indonesia and they served mainly the foreign workers working nearby. Unlike prostitutes working legally in brothels, they do not go for monthly medical examination and HIV screening which exposes them to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases

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Concerned Indian parent writes to Heng Swee Kiat on CHC’s proselytizing activities in Singapore schools

An Indian parent Harveen Narulla has written to Education Minister Heng Swee Kiat express his concerns about the proselytizing activities of City Harvest Church (CHC) in Singapore schools.

Mr Harveen Narulla began his letter by expressing his concerns at CHC’s specific targeting of children in schools:

“As a parent of 2 young children this targeting of children and young persons in schools concerns me extremely. Ideally my wife and I want our family and community, and the modeling we provide, to have the guiding say over my children’s religious choices. At the very least, we do not expect them to be subject to influence in a place we had thought to be a safe space from religions influence.”

He urged Mr Heng to take ‘decisive action’ against City Harvest Church:

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The Elites will always be Elites.

It took a lost of a GRC for the PAP to realise the seriousness of the situation on how ordinary Singaporean are sick to the neck of the open immigration policy of the government.

Hsieng Loong used to tell Singaporean on how much we need to rely on foreigner and Singapore will be collapse and lose it competitive edge if we don’t have them.

Now after losing the record number of seats in the parliament the PAP is stating to sing a different tune.

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China bribed and subverted ASEAN?

I was shocked to read this in the ST. It brought me utter dismay. How could the meeting have ended this way? Either the chair, the Cambodian FM was damn stupid or he must have been bribed by China. Smart move by China. Learned all the lessons of the history of the region over the past few decades.

Shame on you Cambodia. I can say the most awful things about you which my Foreign Minister can't. Screw you Cambodia. You are a Chinese spy and a traitor to ASEAN. How much did the Chinese pay you Hor Namhong and your boss Hun Sen?

Cambodia has to choose if she was an incompetent chair or a traitor.

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OPINION: Keeping the poor away from Gardens by the Bay

Yahoo! News Singapore, 14 Jul 2012
You see, non-Singaporeans are charged $28 to look at the results of hoarding 225,000 species of leaves and branches from around the world that are perennially held hostage in the opulent glass houses known as domed conservatories.

Singaporeans, on the other hand, only need to pay $20 to look at these same kind of things that grow slowly and silently out of the soil rather purposelessly.

But most importantly, setting a high admission cost will help keep poor people out.

Certainly, you wouldn't want them around when the entire set piece is a tourist attraction and Singapore needs to put its best foot forward. Full story

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