Smaller suppliers can use unaudited financials to bid for govt tenders

From Oct, company stamps also no longer needed on tender-related documents, following feedback from SMEs


FROM October 2018, companies will no longer need to affix their company stamps on government forms - including tender-related documents submitted through the GeBIZ portal - unless required by legislation.

"When technology changes, we also have to change the way we regulate," said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat, announcing the move on the sidelines of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) SME (small and medium enterprises) Committee meeting on Thursday.

This is one of two recent moves to streamline regulatory requirements and reduce compliance costs for firms dealing with the government, for which the Pro-Enterprise Panel (PEP) - comprising members from the private sector and government agencies - worked with public agencies.

Firms previously needed to affix company stamps on government forms to verify their identity, but the government received feedback that this requirement was outdated and unnecessary. As government services go digital, other forms of verification have become available, such as digital platforms and digital signatures.

The PEP thus conducted a whole-of-government review of this requirement, with a view to removing it. This took into consideration feedback that it was cumbersome and time-consuming to download, print, physically stamp, scan documents and email them back to agencies.

The other move, which took effect from June 18, was to relax compliance requirements for Government Supplier Registration (GSR).

For registration, renewal, or financial upgrades, companies with an annual sales turnover of less than S$5 million can now rely on unaudited financial statements with underwriting, in a move expected to benefit an estimated 3,900 suppliers. Previously, audited statements were required.

Having a valid GSR status is sometimes part of the evaluation criteria for government tenders. The GSR system is meant to remove the need for companies to submit the same financial documents each time they bid for a government tender.

The Ministry of Finance and the PEP received feedback from SMEs that the requirement for audited statements was costly to businesses, especially those with an annual turnover of less than S$5 million. Under the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) guidelines, companies with annual revenue of less than S$5 million are likely to be exempted from having their financial statements audited. This is because one of ACRA's criteria for audit exemption is having a total annual revenue of less than S$10 million. (see amendment note)

Taking into account feedback from suppliers, MOF reviewed the requirement. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Chee noted that the new approach is "risk-calibrated" instead of "zero risk". He added that there are safeguards built into the procurement system, such as the need for firms to have proven track records and meet certain requirements for larger or longer-term tenders.

Thursday's meeting was the first of the new term for the SBF SME Committee, which has repositioned itself to go beyond advocacy. The committee will work with trade associations and chambers, government agencies, educational institutions, centres of innovation and the business community on activities and programmes to scale up SME capabilities, with details to come in September.

The new chairman of the committee is Kurt Wee, SBF council member and president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Mr Chee and Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad are newly-appointed advisers to the committee, joining existing advisers BRC Asia chairman Teo Ser Luck and Crescendas Group chairman and chief executive officer Lawrence Leow.

Amendment note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's guidelines require only companies with annual turnovers of S$5 million and above to have their financial statements audited, based on a media factsheet issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. ACRA has clarified that to qualify for audit exemption as a small company, one of the criteria is having total annual revenue of less than S$10 million. The article above has been revised to reflect this.