A contract by the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government for RLG Communications Ltd to supply 103,181 pieces of laptops to schools in 2010 at the cost of GH¢51,257,500 ended up with the supply of only 90,448 with 12,733 pieces remaining.
The contract sum paid to the company was intensely scrutinized at yesterday’s sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament.
The 2015 Auditor-General’s report had indicted Roland Agambire’s RLG Communications Ltd for not supplying the 12,733 pieces of laptops as part of the general agreement, costing the nation an amount of GH¢6,366,875.
It was recommended that RLG be made to supply the rest of the laptops.
But there were more interesting twists to the whole saga as members of the committee, led by NDC MP for Ejura-Sekyedumase, Mohammed Bawah Braimah, probed further into the laptop transaction between the company and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations.
It was revealed by the current Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations, Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, at the sitting that when those laptops were supplied, the ministry realized that they were not up to the specifications because instead of 15.7-inch screen laptops with high specs or memory, the company supplied the ministry with 10.1-inch screen laptops with lower memory.
According to the minister, the attention of the supplier was drawn to the anomaly, with each computer costing GH¢500.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said the ministry then asked the company to supply 4,000 additional laptops with much more advanced specifications and higher specs and a screen size of 15 inches, but the company produced 3,800 pieces costing GH¢2,000 each, but with the same specifications like the previous ones.
He said the only difference was that the screen was detachable and could be used as an iPad.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said the way the contract was given RLG defies all laid down regulations for an award of contract.
He said that even before the contract was executed all the (contract) sum had been paid to the supplier, adding that the company was also given the sole responsibility to supply the laptops directly to the schools that were identified at the time.
The minister said after assuming office this year, he personally called Mr Roland Agambire and spoke to him about his company’s indebtedness to the ministry; and after several interactions, the CEO agreed to settle the indebtedness in installments.
He added that even though Agambire agreed in principle to pay the money, when he (minister) suggested that there must be a written agreement on how the remaining money could be paid, he (CEO) decided to drag his feet because he (CEO) only subscribed to verbal agreement for the settlement of the debt.
Prof Frimpong-Boateng said after raising the issue of settling the company’s indebtedness with the ministry, it found a way of stocking the ministry’s stores with an additional 2,000 laptops.
“But I have asked them to come and take back their laptops because we have not requested for such laptops.”
A member of the committee and New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Bunkpurugu, Solomon Boar, stressed that RLG Communications Ltd must be made to refund the money with an interest because GH¢6.4 million in 2011 or 2012 is not the same amount of money in 2017.
According to him, asking RLG to pay interest too will send signal to the rest of contractors who continue to shortchange government in the execution of contracts given to them.
The chairman of the committee, James Klutse Avedzi, appealed to the minister to hold talks with Mr Agambire and find a way of negotiating with RLG to either supply the remainder of the laptops with the specifications that the ministry wants or be made to pay the indebtedness to the ministry with interest.
The laptops were supplied for votes ahead of the 2012 elections when Sherry Ayittey was the then sector minister.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr