State readvertises the tender for supply of school laptops

Pupils at Kimisagara Primary School in Nyarugenge District use laptops in the classroom. Fresh tenders for Class One laptops have been invited after the initial bid failed to secure a supplier.  PHOTO/FILE
Pupils at Kimisagara Primary School in Nyarugenge District use laptops in the classroom. Fresh tenders for Class One laptops have been invited after the initial bid failed to secure a supplier. PHOTO/FILE 

The government has invited fresh tenders for the supply of free primary school laptops as it races against time to procure the gadgets at a price it can afford.

Publication of the tender comes two weeks after the state terminated the previous process saying its pricing was above the budget.

Education secretary Jacob Kaimenyi said the lowest bidder had quoted Sh32 billion against a budget of Sh12 billion, leaving the government with a budget deficit of Sh20 billion.

It remains to be seen whether the State will be second time lucky to procure the laptops at the budgeted price.

Computer market experts have said that the main defect with the procurement process may not be overpricing but unrealistic budgeting by the government.

At Sh12 billion for the supply of 1.38 million computers, the government had priced each laptop at Sh9,200 a price computer dealers say will be hard to find given the ministry’s specifications.

Firms tendering for the job must deposit bid bonds of Sh7.5 million for printers, Sh10 million for projectors and Sh50 million for laptops.

“Bids must be delivered to the head of supply chain management services at the Ministry of Education on November 14 and shall be opened in the presence of the bidders or their representatives who choose to attend on November 14 at Harambee Avenue,” reads part of the international tender notice.

We could not establish whether the ministry has retained the earlier specifications for the laptops or downgraded the number to be supplied from the initial figure of 1.38 million.

Ministry of Education insiders, however, told the Business Daily that the major change in the new process is that the laptops, printers and projects will be procured over a period of two fiscal years to fit the budget. 

Under the new plan, teachers will get laptops with higher specs compared to the children’s.

The government has maintained that it will deliver the laptops in the first term of 2013 and the timeframe for the new tendering pointed to the commitment.  Prof Kaimenyi had previously cited higher specifications as one of the possible reasons that drove the prices up.

But he also acknowledged that collusion among the vendors, high insurance, transport and storage costs may have bloated the prices.

Evaluation of the bids by the ministry’s technical team revealed that bids had priced each laptop at between Sh23,000 and Sh28,000.

The government had planned to spend total of Sh12 billion for the purchase of 1.38 million laptops which translates to around Sh9,200 per laptop.

A total of 126 firms bought the bid document out of which only 20 returned them.

Upon evaluation of those who returned the bids, only nine firms were shortlisted and, of which only three met the technical specifications.

The lowest bidder quoted Sh28.7 billion which was more than three times the budget. HP Commercial the lowest bidder quoted Sh28.7 billion, with a unit price of Sh20,639. Chinese firm Huawei PTE Ltd, the highest bidder quoted Sh60.5 billion.

Others are Samsung Electronics (Sh39.1 billion), Symphony Technologies (Sh38 billion), Haier Technologies (Sh34 billion), ZTE Corporation (Sh33 billion) and Telkom  Kenya (Sh32 billion).

Mastec EA Ltd 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 programme was one of the pillars in the Jubilee manifesto and is meant to boost computer literacy.

The government will be spending Sh17.4 billion annually in the next three years to buy 1.35 million laptops, development of digital content, building capacity of teachers and rolling out computer laboratory for Class Four to Class Eight in all schools throughout the country.

This means the laptops will only be given to students between Class One and Three while those between Class Four and Eight will use computer laboratories—a pointer that the State will need to spend on the flagship project for only three years.

The total spend over the three years has been put at Sh53.2 billion and includes analysts concerns that it will be cost effective to introduce computer labs in schools over laptops.

The ministry also seeks to procure 20,637 printers and to distribute a similar number of projectors to each primary school across the country.