English course for PLA officer was not the cheapest bid

lina chiam dr ng

By Terry Xu

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Lina Chiam, asked the Minister of Defence in Parliament on 5th November 2014 about the tender amount awarded to the education provider for the English course for one officer from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and under what circumstances was the tender awarded.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen replied to Mrs Chiam’s question by saying that the PLA officer had required a personalised 360-hour English language course and the Defence Ministry had put out a tender on GeBiz, the Government’s e-procurement portal, and awarded the contract to the “lowest bid” 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 Government procedures“.

But according to the tender data in GeBiz, it might not be the case after all.

Bidding companies for the tender to conduct the English course are supposed to meet the scope of requirement given in the tender documents by DSTA:

  • 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.

The table below shows the quoted price for the course by the individual companies.

Tendering CompanyQuoted Price
GLOBIBO PTE. LTD.25,860.00

Although Megatrons Pte. Ltd seems to be the cheapest option, a quick search on the company will show that the company majors in IT services and training. While it may be cheap, the company might not however deliver what is required of the job scope.

The next cheapest quote given is from Cyber Aided Computer Training Center Pte Ltd, but it too does not seem to fit the bill of a language school. It also does not have a website to indicate its services.

The third cheapest quote, $40 cheaper than the winning bid of $25,900, is by Globibo Pte Ltd, a branch company of an international company which specialises in language courses and was formed in 2008.

According to the data dug out by website TR Emeritus, the company which won the tender (Language Works) is a company which was started in 2011 with a paid-up capital of $1, owned by a Singaporean by the name of Sun Liqin.

Distance of companies
Locations of the bidding companies and SAFTI MI

So given that the distance of Globibo Pte Ltd and Language Works is about the same from SAFTI MI and both companies would likely be able to meet the requirements set, there is a question of why a lower bid by Globibo Pte Ltd was sidestepped for a slightly higher priced course by Language Works Pte Ltd.

Also, why did Mr Ng  say in Parliament that the contract was awarded to the lowest offer that met the requirements?

As Mr Ng did not go into the specifics of how the tender was awarded in response to Mrs Chiam’s question, this raises questions over what was or were the deciding factors to award the bid to Language Works Pte Ltd. Did Language Works offer something more enticing in course syllabus compared to Globibo Pte Ltd or was Globibo unable to fulfill certain criteria as set out in the scope of requirement despite being a long time player in the language training industry?

About the paid up capital of $1.

Although Language Works Pte Ltd is registered with only a $1 paid up captial, as a GeBIZ Trading Partner, there is no prerequisite for paid-up capital. However, if the tender requires supplying of materials, one may need to apply for Expenditure and Procurement Policies Unit (EPPU) Supplier which requires a paid-up captial of $5,000.

While we question the reasons and factors behind the winning “lowest” bid , the question still remains of why Singapore is paying for the English course attended by an army officer from another country.