Promoting accountability for procurement of public projects through the Contractor Registry (CRS)
Building and Construction Authority

The Problem

Procurement of public sector infrastructures and building projects is the key driver for construction demand in Singapore, constituting about $10-15 billions (40 to 60% of total construction demand) yearly of the government budget. Prior to 1985, contractors wishing to undertake public sector projects had to register separately with each of the major government agencies covering projects on public housing, schools, hospitals and industrial and infrastructures on roads, drainage, waterworks and port facilities. Each agency had its own construction project procurement criteria for pre-qualifying contractors for inclusion in its register.

With each agency having its own registration body and requirements, it was a costly exercise for the contractors who wanted to provide construction services for different government agencies. More resources in terms of time and money were needed for the contractors to adapt the project contract documentation and implementation to fulfill the different agencies’ procurement criteria. Beside various fees to be paid by the contractors to be registered with the agencies, there was also a lack of transparency due to the differing procurement requirements. For example, the contractors were given different assigned project tendering limit that they were pre-qualified for by different agencies. This might lead to confusion and unhappiness amongst the contractors due to lack of clarity on the differing registration criteria by the different agencies.

Public agencies involved in the procurement of public infrastructures and building projects had to devote manpower and resources to maintain their own register of contractors. There was no formalised way to share information amongst the public agencies on contractors with unsatisfactory performance or malpractices which might lead to incompletion of projects or projects with sub-standard quality. There were also possible accountability issues arising from each agency administering their respective contractor registry and at the same time awarding projects to contractors whom they have pre-qualified to participate in tendering for their very own projects.

In 1985, the separate lists of contractors administered by various government agencies were standardised and centralised under the Contractors Registration System (CRS) to provide construction-related goods and services to the public sector. The centralised CRS is administered by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The CRS was set-up officially in 1985 to amalgamate the registers of all public sector agencies to provide a one-stop registration service to all contractors who wish to tender for public sector construction projects. CRS ensures that the registered companies have achieved sufficient track record, financial resources and employ a minimum pool of technical expertise before they can tender for public sector projects.

The impacts of the CRS are:

(a) Improve Transparency
CRS provides a uniform set of registration criteria for the registration of contractors which helps to improve transparency for contractors who wants to tender for government projects. The lists of pre-qualified contractors as well the procurement criteria for various types of works are also made available online to the public.

To support the CRS, an online depository (named as e-C41 Report) of information on the pre-qualified contractors listed in the CRS was developed. The depository contains contractors’ past projects’ performance and contractors who were debarred from tendering of public projects due to malpractices. The depository helps agencies to eliminate the need to second guess the performance of contractors prior to involving them for tendering of their projects.

(b) Improve Accountability
As BCA is a neutral body to administer the CRS, all public agencies intending to procure any construction projects would have to choose contractors through the CRS. Since public officers awarding the construction projects to contractors are not administering the CRS, this would minimise opportunities for contractors to give kick-backs and cahoot with public officers to attain favours to win tenders for public projects. To further enhance accountability for the procurement of public projects, debarment of contractors from tendering of public projects due to poor performance or malpractices is carried out by the Standing Committee On Debarment (which is administered by Ministry of Finance) which also acts as a neutral party.

(c) Cost, Manpower and Time Savings
Since CRS dispense with the need for different public agencies to duplicate registration processes, this would lead to cost and manpower savings for both the agencies and the contractors as they would only need to register only once and pay one decent fee to be registered with CRS (instead of paying multiple registration fees). Lastly, the processing time for registration with the centralised CRS is now reduced to 14 days instead of more than 3 months required with multiple agencies.

(d) Build Capabilities and Raise Professionalism
CRS provides recognition to contractors who have demonstrated high quality work and high degree of professional and technical expertise. It also facilitates more capable contractors to tender for higher value public projects through promotion to higher tier. Capability building registration criteria such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 were introduced for the higher tier registered contractors.

As CRS was found to be useful and reliable, most private developers are also using the CRS to screen for suitable contractors to carry out their projects. A dedicated CRS website was set-up by BCA in 2002 and to-date it has tracked more than 2.3 million users/visitors worldwide.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
CRS was first proposed by BCA to our parent Ministry of National Development for endorsement in 1984. After the endorsement given by our Ministry, BCA consulted various government agencies and industry associations through meetings and correspondences for the official implementation of CRS in 1985:

Government Agencies:
1. Ministry of Finance
2. Ministry of Environment
3. Housing and Development Board
4. Jurong Town Corporation
5. Port of Singapore Authority
6. Public Utilities Board
7. Urban Redevelopment Authority
8. Public Works Department
9. Other agencies

Industry Associations:
1. Singapore Contractors Associations
2. Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore

Feedback from government agencies that had their own registers was sought to create various standardised categories of type of projects such as general building, civil engineering, piling, various mechanical and electrical services etc with their respective grades of tendering limits. In addition, agencies views were also sought on other CRS registration requirements such as financial status, strength of professional and track records.

When CRS was created in 1985, the government designated the CRS through BCA as the Government Registration Authority. It was mandated in the Government Instruction Manual (IM) that any government agency intending to procure construction or construction-related services must engaged a contractor registered with CRS which was administered by BCA. To ensure that only genuine contractors are registered in the CRS, contractors with poor performance or malpractices could be debarred from tendering of government projects through the Standing Committee on Debarment.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The strategies used to implement the CRS are:

(1) Garner Buy-In from Stakeholders
As the CRS is administered by BCA, it has dispensed the need for other government agencies to maintain their own registries of pre-qualified contractors. This has resulted in manpower, cost and time savings for both government and the contractors, who need only to prepare the documentation for one single registration with BCA instead of multiple registrations in the past.

To further garner buy-in from stakeholders, BCA held regular consultations with the stakeholders through meetings and correspondences to take into consideration their specific procurement needs before standardising the registration criteria. The integration of registers from other agencies to CRS was implemented in 2 phases allowing about 12 months of gradual transition period.

(2) Mandate Use of CRS
The government mandated the use CRS since 1985 through the Government Instruction Manual (IM) that any government agency intending to procure construction or construction-related services must engaged a contractor registered with CRS which was administered centrally by BCA.

(3) BCA as Neutral Party
As BCA is a neutral body administering the CRS, this has resulted in greater accountability on the procurement process of public infrastructure and building projects by minimising the opportunity for contractors to give kick-backs and co-hoot with government contract officers to attain favour to win project tenders.

(4) Standardise Registration Criteria
The online CRS provides a uniform set of registration criteria for the registration of contractors which provides transparency for contractors who wants to tender for any public infrastructures and building projects. To improve professionalism, CRS also introduced a continuing education and training requirement for the required professional and technical personnel of contractors.

(5) Institute Sharing of Performance Report
Within 3 months completion of projects, agencies are required to complete performance report for their contractors to be deposited in the online depository administered by BCA. The depository contains searchable information on every contractor’s past projects’ performance as well as those who are debarred from tendering of public projects due to malpractices. The depository helps agencies to eliminate the need to second guess the performance of contractors prior to involve them for tendering of public projects.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Through the interactive consultation with the stakeholders such as government agencies as well as the contractors to get buy-in, the CRS was established in 1985. In the process of the consultation, various government agencies differing tendering limits and requirements for procurement of construction related services were standardised under the CRS. Other development and implementation of the CRS are enclosed below:
1984 Consultation with various government agencies and industry associations
Sought approval from parent Ministry of National Development

1984-1985 Merging of the contractors registries of the various government agencies through 2 phases

1985 CRS was established

1999 ISO9000 certification requirement was implemented for all construction companies tendering for projects above $10m in value

2002 Revamp of BCA Contractors Registry to improve the professionalism of CRS registered companies including implementing ISO14000 and OHSAS18000 certification requirements.

2008 Introduction of third party credit rating on construction companies tendering for projects above $10m in value.

2008 Tendering limits for different grades of contractors will be adjusted annually based on the inflation by taking into consideration the tender price index.

2010 Registry introduced a continuing education and training (CET) requirement top-tiered contractors

2011 Improve the professionalism of trade contractors and introduce new category of registration to promote the green building industry

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Initially, the stakeholders including government agencies and contractors were sceptical to the introduction of the CRS. The government agencies feared that the change would limit their ability to execute the procurement works as their needs might not be catered for.

Through interactive consultation with the stakeholders, we got buy-in from them. The government agencies realised that through the set-up of CRS, they were not required to maintain their own contractor registry for procurement of construction related services which helped to reduce their workload. For the contractors, they would only need to register with one central registration body instead of multiple registration bodies in the past.

The other challenge was to merge the contractors’ registries of the various government agencies into one centralised registry. The different registration systems by the agencies exhibited significant differences both in terms of the system structure and criteria for assessing the suitability of a candidate for registration. The fusion of the various registrations had to be effected through a gradual process of assimilation. Open discussions were held with government agencies to ascertain the requirements of each of these organisations with respect to maintaining the list of registered contractors. To allow gradual transition for the integration of the agencies’ registers into CRS, the process was implemented into 2 phases covering a transition period of about 12 months.

On the concern for lack of sharing of information amongst the stakeholders, BCA initiated the online e-C41 Report depository whereby government agencies could share and search for information on contractors’ past project performance and contractors who are debarred from tendering for public projects due to malpractices. To promote transparency, the CRS website is opened to public to access the registration criteria as well as the lists of pre-qualified contractors for various types of construction works and services.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Resources required from BCA to administer the CRS in the following areas:
(1) Handle contractor registration applications over the counter and online, hotline and processing of cases
(2) Update CRS’s registration criteria and lists of pre-qualified contractors
(3) Maintain the CRS website and online e-C41 Report depository
(4) Publish annual BCA Directory of Registered Contractors for distribution to government agencies
(5) Consultation with the stakeholders

As most of the functions and information on CRS are available online, the CRS was found to be a cost effective tool for the whole of government effort to streamline the process for procurement of public infrastructures and buildings as well as to promote transparency and accountability in the way the government deals with the business community.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
One factor for the CRS’s success is the mandatory requirement for all government agencies to adhere to CRS requirements for the procurement of construction related services for public building projects. Keeping the CRS requirement transparent by making it readily available online and through readily available public publications also helps in creating an open and fair competition environment for procurement purpose. The CRS was so successful that the private sector developers make reference to the CRS for implementation of their residential and commercial building projects.

The success of CRS caught the wind of countries in Asia and the rest of the world. Foreign counterparts visiting BCA often requested for us to share information on the CRS. They wanted to know how CRS is being managed and whether it could be relevant or emulated in their government’s procurement system. BCA has conducted briefings on CRS to foreign counterparts from China (almost all the provinces), Brunei, Tanzania, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, S Korea, Vietnam, just to name a few. The Building Contractors’ Association Ltd, Hong Kong also wrote to us for information on contractor registration procedures and regulations in 1984.

In 1999, South Africa Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) approached BCA for technical assistance to establish their own Construction Registers Service (also named as CRS for short). BCA successfully helped South Africa's CIDB to set up their CRS in 2003.

In February 2004, BCA was invited to conduct a peer review of the South African's CRS. The two-day review included the S. Africa’s CRS IT infrastructure and registry operations. BCA was specifically requested to provide critical review and technical advice to enhance their system and maximise their potential usefulness to their clients and industry stakeholders. In addition, BCA also contributed ideas on how to improve procurement methods and manage pre and post-award contracts.

To fully complete its understanding and the operations of its own CRS, the South African CIDB sent representatives to observe BCA's contractors registry operations before their actual kick-off on 1 April 2004. Similar to the Contractors Registry in BCA, the South African's CRS registration requirements focuses on the three main areas, financial, technical personnel and track record.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The CRS is a simple yet effective tool to manage the procurement of government construction services in Singapore. Being mandated for use for the procurement of all public infrastructures and building projects, the implementation of CRS has helped to promote transparency and an open and fair competition business environment. This includes a very transparent and incorruptible way of measuring the contractor’s capability and monitoring its performance through feedbacks from the agencies using the e-C41 Report and its online depository.

CRS is a one-stop registration to pre-qualify contractors to provide construction services to the public sector thereby saving time, resources and money for both the government agencies and the contractors. As standardised criteria are used by CRS to register all contractors which is available online to the public, it is a transparent system to both the government agencies and the contractors.

BCA also uses CRS as a catalyst to profile, differentiate and raise the capabilities of contractors. Since its official inception in 1985, the number of registered contractors has risen from 2000 to more than 9500 today. This includes foreign companies who are also keen to participate in construction tenders in Singapore. They view that the registration system here is very transparent, with clear guidelines and procedures for compliance.
In addition, government procurement has been used to raise capabilities of the contractors by tying the CRS with procurement policies and incentives. Two such examples are the Price Quality Method (PQM) framework and the Bonus Scheme for Construction Quality (BSCQ). The PQM framework places weightage on both quality and price for the evaluation of construction tenders and optimizes value by awarding to the tenderer with the highest combined price-quality score for the project. The Bonus Scheme for Construction Quality (BSCQ) is set up to promote the upgrading of workmanship in the construction industry. Contractors will be paid a bonus by the government if their quality of workmanship exceed a stipulated standard for the relevant building category. However, they will be penalised if their quality workmanship is poor.

According to the Annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Singapore has been ranked among the top five countries in the world with the lowest level of corruption from 2008 to 2011 out 183 countries assessed. In 2011 CPI results, Singapore has the lowest level of corruption in Asia. The Index covers issues such as access to information, bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, and the enforcement of anti-corruption laws.

In the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2011, Singapore is ranked 7th in the world and FIRST in Asia for having the least corruption in its economy. The IMD report covers criteria such as Government Efficiency with sub-factors including transparency and bribing and corruption.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Building and Construction Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Chiou Peng, Raymond Tay
Title:   Deputy Director of Managing for Excellence Office  
Telephone/ Fax:   65-6325-5088
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   5 Maxwell Road, #16-00 Tower Block, MND Complex
Postal Code:   069110
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore
Country:   Singapore

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