Why MPs shot down computer labs

Wednesday June 9 2010

Information and Communication permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said MPs shot down computer project due to vested interests, while Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir rubbished the project as unsustainable. Photo/FILE

Information and Communication permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said MPs shot down computer project due to vested interests, while Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir rubbished the project as unsustainable. Photo/FILE 

By JACOB NGETICH

Political bickering and vested interest by MPs nipped in the bud the ambitious Sh1.3 billion Mobile Computer Laboratories Project.

The Sh6 million per constituency computer project that was part of the Sh22 billion Economic Stimulus Package fizzled out before it could see the light of day.

Communication and Information PS Bitange Ndemo said MPs shot down the initiative because it required them to partly spend their CDF.

Capital expenditure

The amount allocated for the project by the Treasury was only meant for capital expenditure, with operational expenditure derived from CDF, he said.

“Under the initiative, the CDF was to buy and fuel the bus that would go round the constituency and also cater for the two teachers,” Dr Ndemo said.

The PS said the mobile laboratories would have emphasised the importance of ICT across the country. He praised the initiative and said it was geared towards stimulating demand for ICT in both the towns and rural areas.

“People would begin to understand that there are other faster and cheaper ways of doing things by computer, and therefore create demand.”

Dr Ndemo added that ICT was an unavoidable phenomenon that should be embraced sooner than later for speedy growth of the country.

In his 2009-2010 Budget speech in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta allocated Sh1.3 billion to buy the computer labs for use by high schools students.

Mr Kenyatta explained in the Budget that this was meant to help expand access to computer knowledge to ensure no Kenyan was left behind by the ICT revolution. He said this would serve as a pilot project after which the government would expand the scope of the project to include primary schools.

However, months later, a member of the Finance Committee and Kisumu Town East MP Shakeel Shabbir rubbished it, terming it a deliberate attempt to make money and cheat the taxpayer with an unsustainable project.

Mr Shabbir claimed then that substandard buses had already been bought from India for the project.

The Ministry of Information would provide broadband or satellite connection, while the Ministry of Education was to scout for teachers and meet the operational cost.

Dr Ndemo dismissed the accusations and accused MPs of killing an initiative because of their vested interests.

“These leaders had wanted to control the procurement of the equipment.”

The PS said that some MPs had said they had few secondary schools, and so wanted the money to buy computers for the schools and not the bus.

Easily misused

“Our problem on this was the money would easily be misused; some would buy a computer for Sh20,000 and claim they bought at Sh100,000,” Dr Ndemo said.

The PS said that sample buses for the project had been showcased in Parliament last year before the MPs, with 12 computers fitted in them.

The buses had been roaming in Kibera, Korogocho and Mathare as part of the plan to spread computer knowledge.

The chair of Parliament’s Committee on the CDF, Mr Ekwee Ethuro, termed the concept as lacking logistical guidelines.

“How many students can be taught inside a single bus equipped with 40 computers?” posed Mr Ethuro.

The committee chair also had questioned the cost of the bus.

But Dr Ndemo said: “It is not a lot of money to run a bus; in any case Rwanda bought their buses at Sh18 million.”