Designers protest 'unlimited changes' for design services in GeBIZ tender
Chairman of PR company likens 'unlimited changes' clause in GeBIZ tender document to packing food home from a buffet
"Unlimited changes" - this specific clause in a government tender for design services troubled one creative director of a design consultancy enough that she voiced her concerns online.
Ms Kelley Cheng uploaded screenshots of a tender document, which appeared on the Government's e-procurement portal GeBIZ on her Facebook (FB) page on Monday and wrote: "As a designer, I protest. Do you? Please share this post if you are against unlimited changes."
The post went viral, getting shared more than 2,000 times just from her page alone.
The Ministry of Finance has since agreed that it is unfair to expect suppliers to comply with unlimited changes and would be reminding all government agencies to ensure their procurement specifications are "reasonable and fair".
Ms Cheng, founder and creative director of publishing and design consultancy The Press Room, clarified: "I want to emphasise that in my FB post, I'm only against one specific clause from three selected GeBIZ documents."
She told The New Paper: "I'm not against GeBIZ or any particular government agency.
"I speak up in the hope of open communication and creatives working hand-in-hand with government agencies to create a sustainable and dynamic environment for our design industry."
She added that there are many fair and reasonable contracts on GeBIZ that every design agency can benefit from.
Many in the same industry stood by her.
Weighing in on the issue, Ms Rose Tan, chairman of public relations company Integrated Marketing Solutions Group, likened "unlimited changes" to going to a buffet and asking to dabao (Mandarin for packing) food home.
"You can't do that. Every change costs time and time is money for service companies like ours," she said.
Another professional, who wanted to be known only as a senior leader in the brand industry, said it is "a sad day for Singapore's creative industry when clients choose to devalue us as specialists and reduce us to the roles of domestic support to execute according to their whims and fancy".
She added: "This is a corrosive throwback to the era where skills are regarded as commodities to be used and thrown away."
But managing director of Asia PR Werkz Cho Pei Lin said GeBIZ is an open marketplace "where you are free to bid for tenders".
She said: "If you do not agree with the specifications, then you can simply not bid for that business.".
Ms Tan said the industry practice was that clients would ask to make small changes "and it is usually after the third proof reading, the client would sign and it is good to go".
Ms Cheng, however, stressed that most clients were reasonable in their requests and that not all government agencies inserted such clauses.
She felt that in many cases, designers were willing to go the extra mile to make changes to please clients, but formally inserting such clauses is not a good practice, as she fears that some clients may seek to abuse it.
"While I didn't expect such attention on my personal post, I'm happy that it has resulted in a positive outcome where the relevant government agency has reached out to me and assured that they will look into unfair clauses in tender documents," she said.
I'm not against GeBIZ or any particular government agency. I speak up in the hope of open communication and creatives working hand-in-hand with government agencies to create a sustainable and dynamic environment for our design industry.
- Ms Kelley Cheng
Yes, it's unfair: MOF, MOE
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) agreed that it is unfair to expect suppliers to comply with unlimited changes.
It will also remind all government agencies to ensure their procurement specifications are "reasonable and fair".
This came about after founder and creative director of publishing and design consultancy The Press Room Kelley Cheng's Facebook post of the issue went viral.
In its joint reply with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to The New Paper's (TNP) queries, an MOF spokesman said the ministry has received feedback that some tender or quotation documents posted on government e-procurement portal GeBIZ included the "unlimited changes" condition in creative services.
"MOF has looked into the matter and has verified that there indeed was such a requirement contained in the posted documents sourced to a local school," he said, adding that a circular will be issued to remind all government agencies of standing procurement principles.
The DesignSingapore Council, tasked to develop the local design sector, is also working with MOF to advise government agencies on the guideline for procurement of design services.
MOE also agreed that "the number of iterations should be reasonable and cannot be unlimited", assuring the specification has been removed from the school's tender.
The tender advertisement on Ms Cheng's Facebook page was posted in GeBiz by Whitley Secondary School on Feb 1 and it closed on Feb 11. TNP understands bids were submitted but the tender has not been awarded yet.
The school's principal, Mrs Tay Yang Fern, said: "We agree that the number of iterations should be reasonable and cannot be unlimited. We respect the work of professional agencies and it is not our intention to impose needless and unreasonable demands on them."