Also known as collusive tender, bid-rigging is an agreement between bidders to eliminate competition in the procurement process, thereby raising prices and lowering quality, which is a major risk to the integrity and effectiveness of public procurement, depriving the public sector of genuine opportunities to achieve value for money.
The procurement units and the officials are encouraged to learn and execute preventive measures to combat bid-rigging while raising awareness of bid-rigging risks has proven to be an important step to prevent the anti-competitive conduct, in ensuring value for money in public procurement.
This is in line with Brunei Darussalam’s national agenda to promote the efficient use of public resources and prudent spending, as highlighted by the Competition Commission Brunei Darussalam (CCBD) during a recent dialogue session with the Audit Department under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Held at the Multipurpose Hall of the Bahirah Building, the Executive Secretariat of the CCBD applauded the proactive move made by the Audit Department in requesting for the dialogue session to learn about the Competition Order, specifically focussing on bid-rigging prohibition.
The session was attended by over 40 officials from the Audit Department, led by Auditor General Haji Yusop bin Haji Mahmud.
CCBD was represented by Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii, as Chairperson of the CCBD; Commissioner Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina binti Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Sani, Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE); and Commissioner Hajah Nor Hashimah binti Haji Mohd Taib, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Security, Enforcement and Law) at the PMO.
The dialogue session discussed the key prohibitions of the Order, including the prohibition on Anti-Competitive Agreements, enforced since January 1, 2020, and shared recommendations consolidated from regional case studies.
Also discussed were good practices from experienced competition authorities and specific steps to render public procurement processes competitive in minimising the risks of collusive tendering.
The CCBD Executive Secretariat also shared at great length on the different forms of bid-rigging and the tools to detect and prevent bid-rigging in public procurement.
The session outlined some of the key measures to mitigate the risk of collusion, which included possessing market knowledge on a specific market, encouraging more bidders to participate in tender, defining tender requirements clearly and reducing communication among bidders, as well as clauses stating that bid-rigging is an offence under the Competition Order in the tender document.
During the dialogue session, it was emphasised that procurement officials should play a crucial role in bid-rigging detection, being vigilant on the warning signs of bid rigging and building a database to keep detailed records of bid documents and to report any suspicious bidding patterns to the CCBD, with substantial evidence, to enable investigation. The session concluded with an active dialogue deliberating on topics on the roles of the CCBD, application of the law, tender practices, as well as potential collaboration between the Audit Department and the CCBD in promoting competition in public procurement procedures and reducing the risks of bid-rigging to ensure an efficient use of public resources.