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Singapore government transforming public service processes

The Second Minister for Finance spoke on Friday 28 February at Committee of Supply 2020 regarding transforming public service processes.

She addressed how the government is and will transform the public service for the future and covered the Ministry of Finance (MOF) efforts in transforming government procurement through rule reviews and pervasive use of technology.

She explained how MOF has used regulatory sandboxes to lift procurement rules and allow agencies to test new approaches. One such sandbox enables government agencies to negotiate with the most qualified bidders in open tenders to identify alternative solutions that provide better value for the Government.

Introduction of Dynamic ICT contracts

The government are also introducing more dynamism in some of its bulk contracts to be responsive to market changes. While current ICT bulk contracts allow suppliers to refresh their prices, the government is introducing further dynamism by allowing new requirements and new suppliers to be added throughout a multi-year contract. This is especially pertinent in an environment of rapid technology changes. Suppliers will be able to offer new products and services to the Government, without waiting for bulk contracts to expire.

Agencies can have faster access to newer technology and capabilities, leading to time savings of about three months each time this feature is used. They have piloted the use of dynamic contracts for two ICT bulk tenders (amounting to more than $700 million), and will scale this up to three more bulk tenders this year.

Public officers use digital transformation to focus on delivering better public services

The Minister also announced that Public officers can soon make small value purchases directly from e-commerce sites, which will enhance speed and convenience. The public service spends more than $60 million annually on small value items such as pantry supplies, stationery and small electrical appliances.

By the end of this year, MOF and GovTech will enable public officers to make small value purchases from e-commerce sites seamlessly, without having to claim reimbursement. A fully automated e-commerce model will lighten the processing workload on our corporate staff.

“Audit controls will be automated and monitoring done in the background. This will save our public officers more than 100,000 man-days a year, freeing up their time to focus on delivering better services to the public.” Said the Second Minister for Finance

She added that the government is partnering vendors in this digitalisation journey, particularly SMEs. By bringing their businesses online, SMEs can digitalise their processes from order to invoice to payment, and improve productivity. It also opens up new opportunities – SMEs can access an additional channel to supply government agencies and other buyers and expand internationally.

Government platforms dedicated to collaboration with SME’s in tech sector

The Minister explained how the Government informs companies of these opportunities. One key way that was highlighted was to partner with trade associations and chambers to reach out to SME’s.

GovTech, as the Government’s lead for ICT procurement, has regular platforms with SGTech to facilitate collaborations with the tech industry. One of the initiatives shared with SGTech is the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s Open Innovation Platform (OIP), which enables smaller enterprises to better access Government opportunities.

Since Open Innovation Platform (OIP) launch in July 2018, agencies have posted 13 challenges on OIP to invite the public to submit solutions, with prize monies of more than half a million dollars. This attracted 191 proposals, with more than 90% coming from SMEs, startups and individuals.

The Minister gave the example of the National Environment Agency (NEA), which posted a challenge on addressing air pollution from vehicles’ smoke emission. Twenty SMEs, startups and individuals submitted proposals. NEA is now working with the awarded startup to co-develop a proof-of-concept where video analytics capabilities will be used to detect smoke emissions remotely yet accurately. If the solution proves to be effective, it can be piloted and scaled up without the need for further tenders.

SG:D Spark programme gives start-ups priority access to government projects

For the ICT sector, Minister Rajah said they have gone a step further to list promising Singapore-based tech startups in a panel for government agencies to consider first. The SG:D Spark programme gives these startups priority access to government projects to build capabilities and track record for further growth.

Impress.ai is a local SME on the SG:D Spark programme that helps companies automate their recruitment process using artificial intelligence. It has grown its clientele to ten government agencies in its two years on the programme. These agencies, in turn, have benefitted from a more efficient and effective recruitment process. For example, Ngee Ann Polytechnic reduced the time taken to review over 4,000 applications, from 470 hours to just two hours.

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