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Government changes school laptops tender rules

Education cabinet secretary Jacob Kaimenyi at a past event. He said that the new measures are aimed at reducing the cost to government of buying the computers. Photo/FILE
Education cabinet secretary Jacob Kaimenyi at a past event. He said that the new measures are aimed at reducing the cost to government of buying the computers. Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Ministry of Education has made key changes to the rules governing the tender for supply of free primary school laptops as it seeks to bring down costs in the three-year plan.

Only manufacturers of laptops can participate in the fresh tendering, blocking out middlemen, who have been accused of inflating prices and making it difficult to fit in the government’s budget. 

“Only Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) may participate in the tendering,” the new rules say. 

The State has also strengthened its position in the tendering process by leaving open a window to negotiate prices with the shortlisted suppliers.

To further bring down the cost of supplying the laptops, the government has also taken the responsibility of moving the gadgets from the port of entry to the schools.

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This means that the winner of the Sh17.4 billion a year tender will hand over the consignments to the government at the port of Mombasa, if shipped in or at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport if brought in by air.

The tender for supply of the laptops was re-advertised on October 16th after the previous one was cancelled in August.

Education secretary Jacob Kaimenyi told the Business Daily that the new measures are aimed at reducing the cost to government of buying the computers.

“Some of the measures we have factored in the new tendering rules leave the government with responsibility of distributing the laptops to schools,” the minister said.

The announcement came as the government extended the bidding window by a week -- up to Thursday November 21 from November 14 ‘to allow for more participation and reply to queries by the interested parties.

As of Thursday, only 58 firms had bought the bidding document compared to 126 in the initial tendering exercise.

“This process is a bit different from the initial one because we have opted for a very selective process that allows the government to negotiate with the shortlisted vendors to arrive at a reasonable price,” Prof Kaimenyi said.

The government has also reduced the Bid Bond to Sh50 million from Sh228 million and the performance bond to Sh150 million from Sh3 billion to increase participation.

The number of laptops to be procured in the initial tender has also been reduced to 1.28 million from 1.38 million.

Additional 20,537 laptops for teachers will be bought separately, Prof Kaimenyi said. Restricting the tender to original equipment manufacturers blocks out companies such as Telkom Kenya and Symphony Technologies, who had expressed interest in the job.

Telkom Kenya had submitted a joint bid with Olive Technologies in the initial tendering process.

That leaves the competition to HP Commercial, Huawei PTE, Samsung Electronics, Haier Technologies, ZTE Corporation and Samsung Electronics who participated in the initial tendering process that was cancelled in August.

HP Commercial had quoted Sh28.7 billion or more than twice the budget and translating to a unit price of Sh20,639.

Chinese firm Huawei PTE, was the highest bidder having quoted Sh60.5 billion. Others were Samsung Electronics (Sh39.1 billion), Symphony Technologies (Sh38 billion), Haier Technologies (Sh34 billion), ZTE Corporation (Sh33 billion) and Telcom Kenya (Sh32 billion).

Mastec EA placed two bids quoting Sh32.6 billion in one and Sh31.3 billion in another while Shen Zhen Auto Digital quoted Sh30.3 billion.

The free laptop for every Class One child programme was one of the pillars of the Jubilee manifesto whose promoters say would make Kenya a world-class technology economy.

The State plans to spend Sh17.4 billion annually in the next three years to buy the laptops, develop digital content, build teachers’ capacity and build computer laboratories for Class Four to Class Eight pupils.

This means the laptops will only be given to students between Class One and Three and the accumulated units used to stock the laboratories.

That means the government will spend on the flagship project for only three years and then migrate all pupils to the computer laboratories.

The total spend over the three years has been put at Sh53.2 billion and is partly informed by criticism that it would be cost effective to introduce computer labs in schools instead of giving every child a laptop.

The State has also set aside money to buy 20,637 printers and to distribute a similar number of projectors to each primary school. Some 150 trainers, mostly from secondary schools, have been selected for training.

The small group of trainers are then expected to train the more than 60,000 teachers who will be handling the laptops.

Training of 60,000 teachers means each of Kenya’s 20,000 primary schools will initially get three computer literate tutors.

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has digitised content in seven subjects for Class 1–3 and is piloting it in selected schools in readiness for the roll-out early next year.

Success of the project however remains hinged on the government’s ability to connect the more than 8,000 schools that still do not have electricity.

So far 11,065 schools have been hooked to the national electricity grid and Prof Kaimenyi said 1,650 more will be connected by January.

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