Singapore

Three construction firms fined $32k for rigging bids for Wildlife Reserves projects

They were fined a total of $32,098 and Wildlife Reserves Singapore has barred them from future bids

Three construction companies were found to have colluded to rig the bids for eight tenders and quotations called by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), said the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) yesterday.

Shin Yong Construction, Geoscapes and Hong Power Engineering had exchanged information and coordinated their bids for the WRS quotations between July 1, 2015, and Oct 6, 2016.

They were fined a total of $32,098 for infringing Section 34 of the Competition Act, said CCCS.

Geoscapes was fined $19,739, Shin Yong Construction $7,148 and Hong Power Engineering $5,211.

CCCS said in a statement that it launched an investigation into the three companies after WRS submitted a complaint on Aug 28, 2015.

WRS had received e-mails from an anonymous complainant on Aug 17 and 27 that year alleging rigging of bids for its renovation, maintenance and construction projects.

Simultaneous inspections were conducted on Oct 6, 2016, at the premises of the three companies as well as at other WRS vendors.

Interviews were also held on site with Shin Yong project manager Toh Yong Soon, Geoscapes owner and director Koh Kian Hee and Hong Power owner Tan Chuan Hong, said CCCS.

Two former employees of WRS were also interviewed by CCCS, but were not identified.

Shortly after the inspections, all three companies applied for leniency under a CCCS programme that provides for such in return for cartel members' cooperation in giving information and evidence of their activities.

They admitted to colluding to rig bids in the quotations called by WRS.

BARRED

Meanwhile, WRS barred the companies from bidding for any of its projects.

On Jan 21 this year, CCCS issued a proposed infringement decision to the three firms. None submitted written representations to CCCS.

CCCS chief executive Sia Aik Kor said bid rigging is one of the most harmful types of anti-competitive conduct as it eliminates the pressure on suppliers to submit their best offers.

She said customers have an important role to play in protecting themselves against bid rigging.

"While any customer can be a victim of bid rigging, customers can protect themselves by spotting suspicious bids. Customers should study the bid submissions carefully to see if the bids submitted by suppliers are independent," she said.

Ms Kelly Chew, director of procurement at WRS, said it has taken steps to protect itself from such anti-competitive activities in the future.

"These include centralising the handling of tenders, defaulting to the calling of open tenders to encourage more vendors, including new ones, to participate, and ensuring goods and services are delivered in line with the tender specifications," she said, adding that WRS has an active whistle-blower policy shared with those they work with.

With this case, CCCS has issued a total of five infringement decisions against companies for bid rigging.

Motor vehicle traders and pest control companies were involved in previous cases.

COURT & CRIME