How Hardwarezone Forum broke the Brompton bike fiasco
A timeline showcasing the power of crowdsourcing and snooping in forums.
The NParks Brompton bike fiasco will go down in history as the first case where anonymous people on an Internet forum blew the whistle on shady procurement processes by a government organisation.
Here’s a timeline summarising how the unnamed folks on the Hardwarezone Forum put one and one together.
Jan. 25, 2012
The National Parks Board (NParks) wants to buy foldable bicycles for its officers.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, on the third day after Chinese New Year (Monday, 23 January) and when many businesses remained shut, a tender was called.
Only one bid was submitted by one vendor.
Jan. 30, 2012
The tender closed just six days later — with only three working days, after deducting the weekends — on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012.
June 22 to 23, 2012
Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao reported the decision to purchase 26 UK-made Brompton bikes at $2,200 each from a company called BikeHop.
This report was highlighted on Hardwarezone and a lively discussion quickly followed.
June 26, 2012
Late evening, June 26, 2012, a message from DigiNEXX, the official distributor of Bromptons was re-posted onto Hardwarezone.
It had originally been posted on thelovescyclingsg Facebook fan page.
This message said that as the government rarely buys folding bikes, sellers of such equipment would not normally anticipate a government purchase.
The message also flagged the issue that BikeHop is not the official distributor of Bromptons in Singapore.
June 27, 2012
A Hardwarezone member posted a series of images believed to be relevant screenshots from the GeBiz procurement portal.
But they have since been deleted.
June 30, 2012
The interested public was reaching a conclusion.
“Due diligence apparently was not exercised,” wrote one forum member.
The same day, another forum member raised the point that NParks ended up not buying from the official distributor and may, therefore, not receive the proper warranty coverage.
July 4, 2012
Minister Khaw Boon Wan finally addressed the issue on July 4, 2012, in a blog post.
He defended NParks and its purchase of the bikes.
Khaw said he would ask his ministry staff to “discuss this case” with the agencies involved and to draw “lessons” from it.
July 5, 2012
Finally, Straits Times reports on the matter, focusing on Khaw Boon Wan’s blog post.
July 7, 2012
Straits Times carried two letters to the editor, on July 7, 2012, with readers voicing concerns about the procurement process.
July 14, 2012
Straits Times ran a reply by the CEO of NParks, Poon Hong Yuen. In his reply, he defended the procurement process and outcome.
On the same day, a Hardwarezone forum member published a thorough investigative report pointing out for the first time ever that two employees of NParks were acquaintances or friends with BikeHop owner Lawrence Lim.
It was the first time anyone linked the case to NParks Assistant Director Bernard Lim.
There was even a photo of him.
July 25, 2012
Eleven days later.
The purchase of 26 foldable Brompton bikes by the National Parks Board (NParks) is reported to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
Bernard Lim Yong Soon, 42, is now facing trial.
The CPIB is charging him with providing false information to public officials, as he allegedly lied about his relationship with Lawrence Lim of BikeHop.
CPIB could not find evidence of corruption, news reports say.
Read the full breakdown of the saga here.