News: Government review found no sign of collusion among developers

Feb 4, 2020

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong shared that no cases of wrongdoing was found by his ministry.

A government-led review has dismissed a claim that developers have been colluding with each other when bidding on Government Land Sales (GLS) tenders – an act which National University of Singapore (NUS) academics had initially said led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue.

While the four NUS Business School researchers had retracted the claim from their paper, Associate Professor Daniel Goh, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament from the Workers’ Party asked in Parliament on Monday (3 February) whether developers could be exchanging information on government land sales which eventually led to lower winning bids.

In his written response, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong shared that no cases of wrongdoing was found by his ministry, and that the Land Sales Programme had an “open, transparent and competitive” tender process.

He noted that his ministry had looked into the 103 tenders awarded during the period referenced by the NUS researchers and discovered that all such tenders were awarded to the highest bidders, reported Today.

“These were broadly in line with or higher than independent estimates of the market value of the sites,” said Wong of the awarded bids.

All of the tenders received several bids, which ranged from three to as high as 23 bids for every site. In fact, more than 80% of the tenders attracted five bids or more, added Wong.

Published in January, the study originally claimed that there was evidence of insider trading within the land market.

It said that the top managers of real estate developers frequently played golf whenever a tender for government site was announced, and that the winning bids for the government sites were 14.4% lower compared to the winning bids submitted by those that did not play golf.

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The researchers believe the government incurred an average shortfall of around $147 million in revenue every year from November 2010 to May 2014.

However, the researchers retracted their claims, following Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore’s (Redas) categorical rejection that the industry is engaged in insider trading, price-fixing or collusion.

Led by NUS Business School’s professor of economics and real estate Sumit Agarwal, the researchers said they could not establish evidence of insider trading and removed the term from their paper.

Despite the withdrawal of insider trading claims, Wong said MND continued with the review of the 103 GLS tenders.

“In the event there is reason to suspect any collusion or freak result, the government will take the necessary actions, including closing the tender without award, or take enforcement action should there be any infringement of the law,” he added.

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg 

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