MPs want accountability over defective POSITIVO laptops

Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have tasked officials from Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) to expose whoever that is responsible for potential loss stemming from defective POSITIVO laptops.

Officials from RISA were appearing virtually in a PAC public hearing on Friday, September 18, to respond to queries on poor public asset management cases identified in the Auditor General’s report of 2018/2019.

 

The report showed a concern over potential huge loss of funds associated with managing the distribution of POSITIVO laptops between RISA and Africa Investment Smart Distribution (ASID).

 

In the light of implementing the agreement between POSIVO BGH and the government of Rwanda, the government hired ASID as sole distributor of POSITIVO laptops.

 

Government procured laptops from POSIVO GBH – which locally produced the gadgets – following its contractual commitment, and then handed them over to ASID in form of stock on credit for sale.

The move, according to Innocent Muhizi, the Chief Executive Officer of RISA, was in line with engaging the private sector in the distribution and sale of computers in the country so as to scale up access to laptops to many Rwandans especially students.

ASID had an obligation of paying back government after selling laptops.

However, review of available documentation revealed that government is at risk of losing funds amounting to Rwf4.7 billion.

These funds relate to 19,449 laptops distributed by ASID and 7,246 defective laptops returned to RISA, the AG report revealed in his report.

Through the review of availed documentation, the audit identified 7,246 defective laptops worth Rwf1.35 billion.

These defective laptops were to be repaired by POSITIVO GBH. However, inquiry made with management revealed that these laptops had not been repaired at the time of audit in June 2019.

The AG’s report suggested that POSITIVO GBH delayed to repair them for a period of 384 days, and that these funds may be lost if these laptops are not repaired or replaced for use.

This situation implies that the warranty period of one year was over according to RISA CEO, Muhizi.

Muhizi said that an assessment the Authority carried out in 2019 on the computer stock found that 12,000 of the 19,000 the computers were safe, and were given to Rwanda Education Board (REB) for distribution in schools.

MP Christine Bakundufite said that if the computers were checked to establish their state within the warranty period and they were found to be defective, POSITIVO should would compensate for them.

“More than a year elapsed but those laptops were not yet repaired. What happened for the computers to take all that time without being repaired? And, who is responsible for that Rwf1.4 billion loss?” MP Bakundufite asked RISA officials.

Muhizi replied that that the issue was due to the fact that the detection of mechanical defects required specialised equipment and testing lab which were not available in Rwanda.

Asked to indicate who pays the cost of repair, Muhizi replied that it is REB.

However, MPs did not understand why REB should incur the cost of repairing computers whose defects is not its mistake. They said that the expenditure constitutes a loss for the Government.

PAC asked RISA to provide figures of how much was spent on repairing the computers, which it promised to do by the end of next week (September 27, 2020).

Low rate of loan recovery

The AG’s report also casts doubt on the recoverability of ASID’s debt to government due to low rate of repayment.

It indicated that in January 2018, ASID owed to the government a debt of Rwf3.5 billion resulting from unpaid stock of 19,449 POSITIVO laptops received from government for sale.

According to debt settlement agreement signed between the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and ASID, this debt was to be repaid in 30 monthly instalments starting from 30 January 2018 up to 30 June 2020.

Hence, monthly instalment of Rwf117 million. As at 30 June 2019, ASID was supposed to have repaid an amount of Rwf2.1bn.

However, the audit noted that only Rwf167 million had been repaid which represented 8 percent of due amount as at 30 June 2019.

The report suggested that due to the low rate of repayment, a debt of Rwf3.35 billion is at risk of being lost.

“We are doing our best to ensure that we recover the money from sold computers,” he made a commitment to PAC.

Established in Rwanda in 2014, Positivo-BGH, a Latin American firm that set up shop in Kigali following a deal with the Government to locally manufacture computers.

Production started in 2015.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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