During a parliamentary sitting this week, four members of parliament urged the government to do more to promote “best sourcing”. The term is used to mean judging contract bids on more than price, and including criteria such as offering fair wages to workers.

Mr Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) started the ball rolling when he asked the Finance Ministry to spell out how government agencies support best sourcing.

Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo replied that the agencies are ‘encouraged’ to follow a 2008 tripartite advisory on responsible outsourcing from the Government, employers and the labour movement.

It is being updated and when ready, ‘the Ministry of Finance will ensure that public agencies are aligned with the revised recommendations’, she said.

She also cited examples of how government agencies have taken the call to heart.

The National Parks Board requires landscape contractors to employ certified workers, while the National Environment Agency has introduced a voluntary accreditation scheme for cleaning companies that meet the standards it set.

— Straits Times, January 18, 2012: Do more to promote best-sourcing: Labour MPs, by Toh Yong Chuan

Responding, Mr Zainuddin called for more political will, suggesting that advisories alone would not be sufficient. Mrs Teo however, argued that advisories were effective in signalling the ministries to incorporate the practice into their procurement procedures. She also told the chamber that while it was possible for the government to coax statutory boards to support best sourcing, government-linked companies have “‘their own employment practices”.