A donation of 28,145 laptops by the Government of China in 2012 to Guyana was filled with technical problems, according to a special audit report.
Former head of the One Laptop per Family (OLPF) Programme, Margot Boyce, told auditors that the Great Walls laptops had battery and keyboard failures, damaged LCD displays and malfunctioning of the motherboard.
That donation was part of OLPF Programme that involved the distribution of 90,000 laptops to low income families across the country.
This Programme was launched in 2011 by former President Bharrat Jagdeo, but four years later, under another President, Donald Ramotar, the Programme was in deep trouble with only half (50,009) of the 90,000 laptops shared out.
According to audit report prepared by chartered accountant, Ram and McRae, and released over the weekend by Government, the Great Wall laptops donation was a major component of the Programme with China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation (CNMIXC), in collaboration with the Government of China involved.
The grant was for ¥50,266,815 or $1.63B to the Government of Guyana. The contract was signed on May 30, 2012 by the Permanent Secretary at the Office of the President, Omar Shariff, and a representative from CNMIXC. The average price for one unit was $58,044.
The grant came from three Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreements signed between the Government of China and the Government of Guyana on October 2, 2004, September 28, 2008 and December 23, 2009 respectively.
To fix the technical issues, the audit report said, CNMIXC provided a number of spare parts to the OLPF “free of cost” and brought in two technicians from China to assist in rectifying the problems.
“However, due to the quantities of laptops damaged, the level of technical support was totally inadequate and the physical count at August 5, 2015 observed by Ram & McRae, revealed a total of 3,158 damaged Great Wall laptops.”
According to the audit report, the overall objective of the OLPF project was to improve the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Guyana.
Of the 55,145 laptops acquired, 27,000 were purchased from Haier Electrical Appliances Corp. with the balance from Great Wall.
With regards to the Haier purchase for 27,000 laptops, the report disclosed that a tender was launch by the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to procure 27,000 netbooks/ laptops for phase one of the One Laptop per Family Project.
“The method of procurement used was “International Tendering” and eleven bids were received by the NPTAB. According to the evaluation report, eight of the bids were disqualified due to the fact that they did not comply with all the requirement of the NPTAB or did not provide all information requested.”
However, three bids came in that were deemed “substantially responsive” US$7,534,296- Haier Electrical Appliances Corp; US$7,479,000- Johs Gram Hanssen and US$9,072,000- Abboud Trading Corporation.
The three bids were evaluated by a committee which comprises of Sesh Sukhdeo – former Senior Project Manager, OLPF; Grace McCalman – Guyana Revenue Authority; Shawn Husain – Ministry of Finance; Nikolaus Oudkerk – Office of the President and Alexei Ramotar – E Government (Technical Assessments).
On September 16, 2011 the Government of Guyana signed an agreement with Haier Electrical Appliances Corp. Ltd (Haier) to supply 27,000 Haier Netbooks/Laptops at a contract price of US$7,561,296 ($1.56B) or $57,086 per unit.
The contract was signed by the then Permanent Secretary at the Office of the President, Dr. Nanda K. Gopaul and the General Manager of Haier, Sun Yongle.
The OLPF project was halted by the new coalition government last year, pending a reconfiguration and questions over its management.
Laptops for Teachers
The David Granger government then announced that it will be targeting teachers and other special groups.
On September 15, 2015, a grant agreement was signed between the Government of Guyana and Aerospace Science & Industry Shenzhen Co. Ltd. (China), regarding the procurement of 9,609 laptops to be provided by China at a total cost of ¥50,000,000 or $1.63B. According to the contractual agreement, the unit cost per laptop is $169,737, the audit report said.
The report questioned the high acquisition cost.
“However, the new laptops are of a higher quality and possess higher specifications than the laptops acquired by the previous administration. Nevertheless, laptops of similar quality and specifications are listed on the international markets for prices ranging from $86,310 to $108,974.”
The Ram and McRae report was highly critical of the project, citing the hiring of two children of a former Parliamentarian of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic.
It spoke of little training for the recipients of the laptops, theft, and too many staffers and departments.
Monies for the project were reportedly paid by the National Frequency and Management Unit (NFMU), a highly irregular transaction, the auditors said.