MPs want accountability for faulty POSITIVO laptops | The new times
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tasked officials from the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) with exposing whoever is responsible for potential losses resulting from faulty POSITIVO laptops.
RISA officials were appearing virtually at a PAC public hearing on Friday, September 18 to answer questions about instances of mismanagement of public assets identified in the Auditor General’s 2018/2019 report.
The report showed concern over a huge potential loss of funds associated with the management of the distribution of POSITIVO laptops between RISA and Africa Investment Smart Distribution (ASID).
In light of the implementation of the agreement between POSIVO BGH and the Government of Rwanda, the government has engaged ASID as the exclusive distributor of POSITIVO laptops.
The government purchased laptops from POSIVO GBH – which produced the gadgets locally – in accordance with its contractual commitment, then handed them over to ASID as stock on credit for sale.
This decision, according to Innocent Muhizi, Managing Director of RISA, was in line with the private sector’s commitment to the distribution and sale of computers in the country in order to extend access to laptops to many Rwandans, in particular students.
ASID had an obligation to reimburse the government after selling laptops.
However, the review of available documentation revealed that the government stands to lose funds amounting to 4.7 billion Rwandan francs.
These funds concern 19,449 laptops distributed by ASID and 7,246 defective laptops returned to RISA, the AG’s report reveals in its report.
Through review of available documentation, the audit identified 7,246 faulty laptops worth Rwf 1.35 billion.
These defective laptops had to be repaired by POSITIVO GBH. However, an investigation with management revealed that these laptops had not been repaired at the time of the audit in June 2019.
The AG report suggests that POSITIVO GBH delayed repairing them for a period of 384 days, and that these funds could be lost if these laptops are not repaired or replaced for use.
This situation implies that the one-year warranty period was over according to RISA CEO Muhizi.
Muhizi said an assessment carried out by the Authority in 2019 on the computer park revealed that 12,000 out of 19,000 computers were safe and were handed over to the Rwanda Education Board (REB) for distribution to schools.
MP Christine Bakundufite said that if the computers were checked for their condition during the warranty period and found to be faulty, POSITIVO should compensate them.
“More than a year has passed, but these laptops have not yet been repaired. What happened that computers take so long without being repaired? And who is responsible for this loss of 1.4 billion Frw? The Bakundufite MP asked the RISA officials.
Muhizi replied that the problem was because detecting mechanical faults required specialized equipment and a testing laboratory that were not available in Rwanda.
Asked who pays the repair costs, Muhizi replied that it is REB.
However, MEPs did not understand why REB should bear the cost of repairing computers whose faults are not its fault. They said the expense is a loss to the government.
PAC asked RISA to provide figures on the amount spent on fixing the computers, which it promised to do by the end of next week (September 27, 2020).
Low loan recovery rate
The AG report also questions the collectability of ASID’s debt to the government due to the low repayment rate.
He said that in January 2018, ASID owed the government a debt of Frw 3.5 billion resulting from an unpaid stock of 19,449 POSITIVO laptops received from the government for sale.
According to the debt settlement agreement signed between the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and ASID, this debt was to be repaid in 30 monthly installments from January 30, 2018 until June 30, 2020.
Hence monthly installment of Rwf 117 million. As of June 30, 2019, ASID was supposed to have repaid an amount of Frw 2.1 billion.
However, the audit noted that only 167 million Rwandan francs had been reimbursed, which represented 8% of the amount due as of June 30, 2019.
The report suggests that due to the low repayment rate, a debt of 3.35 billion Rwandan francs is at risk of being lost.
“We do our best to make sure we get the money back from the computers sold,” he pledged to PAC.
Established in Rwanda in 2014, Positivo-BGH, a Latin American company that moved to Kigali following an agreement with the government to manufacture computers locally.
Production started in 2015.