Jul 24, 2011 News
… Education Ministry scampers to cover tracks
Digital Technology, the firm that has secured multi-million dollar computer contracts from the government since 2002, has been found to have supplied wrong and faulty equipment to the University of Guyana. And the Ministry of Education is looking to cover its tracks in the growing scandal.
On Friday, the company issued a statement to assert its reputation given revelations by this newspaper, including that its Head Office address in Brooklyn, New York has been found to be but a barber shop.
“Our strategic alliances allow us to provide our customers with quality products and services at competitive prices,” the company said, but the evidence paints a different picture.
Minister of Education Shaik Baksh had claim that there have been no complaints since the government and his Ministry in particular has been dealing with Digital Technology.
On Friday, Digital Technology said that it adheres to “high value and ethical standards” and this is one of the reasons for the “excellent relationships” it shares with its clients.
But Digital Technology had way less than an “excellent” relation with the University of Guyana. The local university has been supplied with equipment by the company through the Ministry of Education.
Sources have told Kaieteur News that the Ministry of Education recently paid the company $10 million to replace two 25KVA UPS (uninterrupted power supply systems) that were damaged by the massive flood in 2005.
The original equipment were of the Powerware brand. The Ministry made a decision to replace the equipment with the same pair of Powerware-branded UPS.
However, Digital Technology delivered equipment different from the specifications it should have.
What the company supplied was two 20KVA APC UPS – a different brand and a less than the required KVA.
The equipment was installed by a different company, which has an East Bank Demerara address and which was said to be an extension of Digital Technology.
The equipment was installed some time in October 2010, but did not last more than a month. The University complained to the Ministry of Education, Digital Technology and the firm that installed the equipment, but to no avail.
With months of delay, the University decided to hire another company and as a result Digital Technology has not been held to account for the faulty equipment.
In fact, this was not the first time that the University had concerns with the company.
A senior University official told Kaieteur News that the University in the past did buy equipment directly from the company, but it was found that the equipment would soon need repairs. And as a result, the University stopped buying from the company and now sources directly from Dell, through a relationship established with the University of the West Indies.
Krishendat Sukhu was employed at the University of Guyana as a Computer Technician when he was sent on a three-month training programme to India in 2005, but upon his return to Guyana, sources told Kaieteur News that he refused to abide by obligations to serve the University.
On Thursday, Minister Baksh defended the company, saying it was not a “fly by night” entity, since it was handed a total of 38 government contracts since 2002. Baksh went as far as to say that the government has had no complaints about the company.
However, caught in the scandal and unable to account for any due diligence done on the company before the award of one of its recent contracts – amount to $223 million – the Ministry seems to be making sure that it covers all its tracks before more revelations emerge.
On Friday, sources told Kaieteur News that officials from the Ministry touched down at the University’s Berbice campus to take details regarding computers that were supplied to that campus a while back.
In addition, the officials were also Friday at the University’s Turkeyen campus, taking details about computers that were delivered by the company since last December.
It appears that no checks were carried out on the equipment that were delivered to the University. Kaieteur News understands that an estimated 30 computers with equipment were dropped off at the University since last December, but the Ministry of Education officials were only Friday verifying the equipment following revelations about the company.
In the case of the $223 million contract, it appears at the company would do the same thing, that is, deliver the equipment following which checks would be made.
This seemed to be direct contradiction to what Minister Baksh on Thursday suggested that “the computers and accessories will have to be supplied to the Ministry before any payment is made and even in that case, all payments will not be made until the Ministry of Education is satisfied with the quality of the products.”
But the Minister’s statement was different from what was said to bidders in an addendum to the bid documents for the supply of the computers to 110 schools. The bidders were told that the winning contractor would have to deliver the computers to the schools in question and not to the Ministry of Education.
Each of the schools is slated to receive 20 desktop computers, a server, 11 UPS, 11 surge protectors, one printer and one projector. It is when the computers are delivered to schools that tests and inspections of items will have to be carried out, as the addendum to the bid documents suggest.
Meanwhile, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) yesterday said the recent revelations by Kaieteur News show that with each passing day “our country continues to suffer more and more from the soiled hands of this government of thieves.”
Despite the exposure of scams and rackets, the WPA said there is no letting up, and instead the attempted cover-ups are becoming flimsier and more absurd.
“The latest ‘Barber Shop’ scam exposed in nauseating detail in the Kaieteur News reveals the true motive and intent behind the ‘one-laptop-per-family’ project,” the WPA statement claimed.
The party said that with the ongoing Amaila Falls/Synergy Holdings scam one would have thought the PPP/C Administration would have been careful about “its nefarious connections to its highly publicized US cronies, gangsters and fraudsters operating business shells for purposes of conniving and thieving.”
“No such thing has happened and once again taxpayers money and the Public Treasury are being raided by these shady operations and operators linked to the PPP/C Administration,” the WPA added.
The party has formed a coalition with other parties called A Partnership for National Unity and said that if elected it would ensure that such “blatant scams are subject to forensic auditing by specialists both local and overseas.”
On July 13, Digital Technology Group of Companies (as it was registered in Guyana) was awarded a contract valued at $223 million for the supply of 1,400 desktop computers to 70 schools across the country. On Monday last, the Education Ministry awarded a further $70 million to the same company to provide more computers, plus servers and overhead projectors.
On December 8, 2010, Digital Technology was written to by the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, which falls under the Ministry of Legal Affairs, regarding its breach of the Companies Act.
The company was found to be in default of lodging with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies a number of documents. These included Annual Returns, Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss Accounts and Auditor’s Report for 2010. The company was given 28 days to submit the said documents or risk being struck off the register.
The company did not attempt to dispute this fact and did not offer any explanation.
In that same year, 2010, the company was given a $37 million contract to supply computers and accessories to the Ministry of Finance. The Ministers could not explain how the company could have been awarded this contract when it was in breach of the Companies Act, and further refused to look at the documents which state this.
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