Talking Standards at the PCC

When a delegation from AmCham Taipei’s Infrastructure Committee called at the Public Construction Commission (PCC) recently, it was a chance to get acquainted with the PCC minister, Wu Hong-mo, a former deputy mayor of Kaohsiung who took up his current post when the Democratic Progressive Party government took office in May. Wu, who holds a doctorate from National Sun Yat-sen University in Marine Environment and Engineering, concurrently serves as a Minister without Portfolio.

The meeting was also an opportunity to exchange views on a variety of issues of concern to companies dealing with government procurement, an area overseen by the PCC. Wu was accompanied by eight members of the PCC staff, mainly from the Department of Planning.

The AmCham delegation expressed satisfaction that proposed draft amendments to the Government Procurement Law incorporate a change that the Infrastructure Committee has long advocated: a shift to base tender awards for public-sector turnkey projects on the “most-favorable bid” as opposed to the lowest bid, which inevitably poses risks of lesser quality.

Among the topics of conversation were provisions in the Government Procurement Law under which harsh penalties can be imposed on suppliers (including a ban on engaging in public projects for three years) in cases of misconduct or incompetence. At issue is whether this stipulation gives undue leverage to the government agency in the event of a contract dispute. PCC gave assurances that a sufficient appeal process is in place to forestall any abuse.

Another subject discussed was the difficulty that may arise for a contractor if the specifications for key materials and equipment in the bid proposal are not given in Taiwan’s National Standards of the Republic of China (CNS). The visitors pointed out that the CNS standards were originally developed by translating items from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), to which Taiwan is no longer a member. Since then, many additional ISO standards have been set for new or improved products, but these have not been reflected in the CNS system.

Minister Wu promised to bring up the matter with the Bureau of Standards, Metrology, and Inspection (BSMI) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs to devise a way for ISO standards to be fully accepted in cases where CNS does not reflect the latest or best technology. More generally, he pledged that PCC would be committed to promoting an open and fair competitive environment for government projects, as well as encouraging international participation to help in raising the quality of domestic infrastructure.