Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Mrs Lina Chiam asked the Minister for Defence in parliament on Wednesday whether a tender was called for the provision of an English Language course for one People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer from China and if so, what was the tender amount awarded to the education provider; and under what circumstances was the tender awarded.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen replied to Mrs Chiam’s question by stating that the staff college courses attended are useful to establish good relationships with the militaries of other countries, and understand their perspectives. When incidents occur, they can also be very useful resource persons on the ground.
“So for these reasons, militaries all over have for many years exchanged officers to each other’s courses to establish better ties,” said Dr Ng.
Dr Ng noted that the language of instruction can pose a problem for officers who attend courses run by other militaries, and language proficiency is important if the officers are to benefit from the course.
“For some foreign officers who attend Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)’s military courses, we have to help them gain language proficiency so that they can benefit from their time here,” said Dr Ng, adding that Singapore’s military officers spend time gaining language proficiency when they go to other countries for the same purpose.
Dr Ng said that one officer from the People’s Liberation Army required a personalised 360-hour English Language course and the Defence Ministry had put out a tender on the Government’s e-procurement portal, and awarded the contract to the lowest offer that met the requirements. This came to S$25,900, which amounted to about S$70 per hour.
Dr Ng emphasised that this was in strict compliance with the Government’s regulations.
As there was no explanation included in Dr Ng’s reply on the circumstances in which the tender was awarded, we took a look at the conditions set in the tender. The tender was called by Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) on 9th September 2014 and awarded on 26th September 2014.
Under the scope of requirement of the tender, applicants will have to cater for a one-to-one English course which is customised to improve the English communication skills of the foreign military officer whose first language is not English.
The contractor will have to equip the officer with listening, speaking, reading and writing skills with a stronger emphasis on listening and speaking skills. The course provider must be able to customise the course to suit the competency of the course participant.
The terms of the course package required by DSTA are as follows:
- 12-week/360-hour customised Intermediate English Language Course for one pax, up to one course-run for 2014.
- Intermediate English language training at a recognised and established language institution with the following criteria:
- Ability to customise the syllabus for military English communications.
- Provision of reading and study materials, including other relevant materials that facilitate self-study.
- Qualified instructor, preferably capable of communicating in Mandarin.
- Proposed instructor shall have at least five years of experience in teaching English at an intermediate level to students whose first language is not English
- The institution should preferably have at least five years of experience in teaching English at an intermediate level to students whose first language is not English.
- Minimum six-hour lessons per day from Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.
- End of course report and monthly progress reports to allow the Authority to gauge the progress of the officer.
- Flexibility to accommodate changes to time-table.
- Conducive learning environment (No construction works in progress in the vicinity).
- Ability to cater for site visit of the institution when required by the Authority. The Authority will inform the Contractor if the need arises.
- Preferably close proximity to the west or furthest city area from SAFTI MI.
A total of 6 bidders tendered for the course to be provided and Dr Ng said the lowest bidder won the bid.
The lowest bidder is local language school, Language Works at a price of $25,900.
Dr Ng noted that while Singapore has to help foreign officers who attend SAF’s military courses gain language proficiency so that they can benefit from their time here, he did not seem to have explained why Singapore is paying for the English course attended by an army personal from another country.
Dr Ng also did not elaborate on previous payments of such courses, and the likelihood of future payment for similar courses for foreign military personnel.
In other news, SAF and PLA have started their third bilateral training exercise this month in Nanjing China. About 70 personnel from each side are taking part in the eight-day exercise, which will include seminars and an infantry exercise with a live-firing demonstration.