Wednesday 26 February 2020

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Govt denies Tab scam, challenges to provide Tabs+ at Rs 7200

 

Subhash Faldesai, chairman of Infotech Corporation and Sanguem MLA, has denied all the allegations of scandal in distributing Tablets to the students of Std V and VI, calling it a completely transparent process.

He has also challenged Prashant Kunkolienkar, CEO of Computronics Infotech, to provide Tablets along with other accessories and services at the price of Rs 7200 as claimed by him and Samir Kelekar while offering to opt for his quote.

While reacting to the allegations made by IT professional Kelekar and Kunkolienkar, Faldesai also asked why he did not bid for the Tablets with these quotes when he had quoted for the Laptops earlier.

Faldesai, in a press conference, expressed regrets that a highly acclaimed IT scholar Kelekar was taken for a ride by Kunkolienkar for the vested interest of his company.

Following is the full text of the replies to all the allegations made by Kelekar and Kunkolienkar: 

A - TENDER RELATED ALLEGATIONS:

Allegation 1:

Two categories created - Open category of 65% and Goan Category of 35% and then criteria are fixed to restrict participation in Open Category.

Response to Allegation 1:

Similar criteria has been followed for past 7 to 8 years and in 2009-10 when a PIL was filed in 2008-09 challenging these criteria, the same have been upheld by the Hon. High Court as being fair and valid.

It is important to note that in a project of this nature where large volumes are to be distributed and maintained across the entire state, it is imperative to have an agency having strong local presence and infrastructure to extend support services. Otherwise, the project will simply collapse in absence of support services and entire investment will be rendered waste. Hence, the tendering committee felt that the clause pertaining to having local presence was essential for the success of the scheme.

In the instant case, the entire order is bagged by Goan entrepreneurs and the Goa IT Business Association (GIBA) has hailed the Govt. for routing the business through the local channel partners and not approaching the manufacturers directly.

Allegation 2:

Tender which was first floated for e-notebooks was changed to supply of e-tablets and CVC guidelines were violated.

Response to Allegation 2:

The Govt. initially intended to give Netbooks to students. However, it was brought to the attention of the Govt. that Netbooks as a category was “End-of-Life”. It was decided by the Govt. to invite bids for both

Netbooks as well as Tablets and then subsequently take a decision in the matter and hence Tablets were also included as part of the same tender.

Accordingly, an “Addendum cum Corrigendum” was issued on 30th July 2013 and Tablets were also included in the Tender. Total period granted from advertising the Notice Inviting Tender and the last date for submission was a total of 3 weeks.

No CVC guidelines or GFR rules were violated.

It is pertinent to note that the Tender was purchased by 21 bidders which included Mr. Prashant Kunkolienkar of M/s Computronics who however for reasons best known to him did not submit the bid in time. Out of the15 bidders who submitted the tender documents, 13 qualified and were awarded contracts while 2 were disqualified.

Allegation 3:

ACER and SYSCON have been qualified for supply inspite of being blacklisted.

Response to Allegation 3:

Tender states that the Manufacturer/Bidder/Supplier “shall not be eligible if there has been a barring / black-listing notification issued against it (even if such barring / black-listing notification has been subsequently withdrawn) by any Government / Semi – Government / Quasi- Government organization or Govt. Corporation at any point of time during the last three financial years ending March 2013 or in the current financial year as on the date of notice inviting tender”.

As on the date of the Notice Inviting Tender, the blacklisting of ACER by Rajasthan Govt. was stayed by the Hon. High Court and as such the matter was subjudice. Also, as on the date of Notice Inviting Tender SYSCON was not blacklisted. Hence both the parties qualify for supply.

Allegation 4:

ACER and HCL are blacklisted by the Rajasthan Govt.  And while ACER has been qualified for supply, HCL has not.

Response to Allegation 4:

Although both the companies were blacklisted, as on the date of the Notice Inviting Tender, the blacklisting of ACER and HCL by Rajasthan Govt. was stayed by the Hon. High Court and as such the matter was subjudice. Hence BOTH have been qualified for supply.

In fact, the Purchase Orders issued by ITG clearly mention that the following brands are qualified for supply: HCL, ACER, LENOVO, HP, SAMSUNG and  DELL.

 

Allegation 5:

Inspite of approaching Directorate of Education, ITG, Secretaries, CM’s office, Vigilance and Lokayukta, there has been no response.

Response to Allegation 5:

ITG has already given satisfactory responses to queries received from the Vigilance Department and office of the Lokayukta.

Shri Prashant Kunkolienkar of M/s Computronics (who was one of the convenors of the Press Conference) had himself purchased the Tender document but failed to submit the bid on time. At no point did he protest any of the terms and conditions of the tender and nor did he or any other party that purchased the Tender document seek changes or additional time.

In fact, the timing of this Press Conference especially after the orders have been issued (orders were issued on 15th Nov’13) and maximum deliveries to schools are nearly completed smack of vested interest to merely scuttle the scheme and is full of malice.

B - PRODUCT RELATED ALLEGATIONS:

Allegation 6:

Warranty provided for Tablets is 1 year as against 4 years which is generally provided. Tablets would have to be thrown out after 1 year.

Response to Allegation 6:

All manufacturers provide standard warranty of 1 year on Tablets including the same Lenovo A-1000 Tablet that is referred to on Flipkart (Please Refer Annexure 1).

Life of any mobility device is not expected to be more than 3 to 4 years and the Tablets from reputed manufacturers like LENOVO and ACER which are amongst the top 5 brands in India are expected to last 4 years without any issues. Hence it is expected that student will use the Tablet along with the e-content provided for next 3 years at least.

Additional warranty of 3 years can be purchased individually by the parents at a nominal extra cost from the suppliers.

Allegation 7:

Tablets provided do not have 3G connectivity and requires Wi-Fi facility.

Response to Allegation 7:

Tablets are intentionally called for without 3G facility by ITG so as to ensure that the young minds of students are not exposed to undesirable content on the internet. Besides 3G comes at a cost to the parent and Govt. does not want to burden the parent with a recurring cost.

Tablet per se DOES NOT REQUIRE Wi-Fi for its functioning as the e-content is preloaded and already available on the Tablet itself. The Tablet is a fully functional device and does not require Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity for its functioning.

However, Wi-Fi facility is provided on the Tablet for the student to use internet resources under parental guidance at home.

This is in fact one more reason why predominantly web-based content which is reportedly available for free is not preferred as against preloaded e-content from reputed providers.

 

Allegation 8:

E-content is available for free on the website of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)

Response to Allegation 8:

What is free is not necessarily the best and the Govt. is desirous of offering the best resources to the students for optimal benefit of the student.

An example: Linux as an operating system is available free of cost and yet over 90% of the PCs in the world use Windows which comes at a substantial cost.

The so called free content is predominantly web-based and not in multi-media format and the student is required to be connected to the internet for accessing the same. As most of the households and schools do not have internet connectivity, it was decided to opt for preloaded e-content from reputed content providers with vast experience and necessary experience.

Additionally, the e-content asked for and provided by the Govt. is multimedia content with support services. The e-content and support services include the following:

-          Subject-wise multi-media content for Std V to VIII valid for 4 years

-          Additional curriculum for Konkani extra to be developed.

-          Online subscription accounts giving access to Virtual classrooms, Question Banks, Tests etc. valid for 4 years.

-          Changes/alterations suggested by Education Dept. to adapt the e-content to Goa standards to be made free of cost.

-          Teacher Training to be provided.

-          Two helpdesks to be maintained one each in North & South Goa.

-          Replication of encrypted content plus Licensing to be included in scope

The proprietary e-content has been evaluated, approved and recommended by a Panel of subject experts constituted by the Directorate of Education.

C - PRICE RELATED ALLEGATIONS:

Allegation 9:

Govt. is buying the Tablets at Rs. 9,500 + Taxes + Memory Card cost + e-content + case

Response to Allegation 9:

Govt. purchase price inclusive of all taxes for  Tablet + 16 GB micro SD Memory Card + Foam leather case with integrated keyboard + Screen protector + Headphones + e-Content of 4 grades valid for 4 years + online subscription account for virtual classrooms valid for 4 years  

All of the above for Rs.9,950/- (inclusive of all taxes).

Brands supplied are LENOVO and ACER which are rated as amongst the Top 5 brands in India and the world.

Allegation 10:

Same Tablet (Lenovo A-1000) is available on Flipkart for Rs. 7,200/-

Response to Allegation 10:

Flipkart price as on 5th January 2014 is Rs. 8,200/- with jacket cover and screen-guard (Please Refer Annexure 1). Please note that this cover does not include a integrated keyboard.

In addition to the Tablet, Govt. is also providing the following items:

16 GB micro SD memory card + e-content for 4 grades (Std. V to VIII) valid for 4 years + online subscription account for virtual classrooms valid for 4 years + Headphones

Notwithstanding the above, what is most important is the price at which the product is available as on the date of submission of the tender or on the date when the rates are accepted.

Annexure 2 shows a screenshot of the Flipkart price of Rs. 8,690/- for the same product as on 15th Dec 2014. In fact, as on the date of issue of the purchase order by ITG, the price for the same product on Flipkart was Rs. 8,990/- and this was for the Tablet with case and screen guard and did not include all the other items being provided by the Govt.

To preserve the sanctity of the tender, the rates as on date of acceptance of the tendered/negotiated rates are what counts.

Similarly, if due to changes in US Dollar exchange rate, the rates were to go up (as had happened in case of the last Cyberage Laptop Tender), the supplier bears the “loss” due to this increase. Any benefit or liability arising due to market forces after the rates are frozen are to the account of the Supplier.

Tender requirements v/s Online portal procurement:

1. Online sales are on advance or on cash-on-delivery payment terms where as the tender stiplulates payment after  45 to 60 days. Payments could get delayed beyond this period and these costs add up to the supplier.

2. Suppliers have to provide a reasonably substantial amount by way of Earnest Money Deposit which entails a cost.5% of the total quantity ordered is required to be maintained as imprest stock with the supplier’s Authorized Service Provider / Service Center.

3. Bank Guarantee to the extent of 10% of the order value has to be submitted by the supplier during the warranty period.

4. Logistics cost for distribution and delivery to each student in even remote locations and maintenance of service and support staff increases overheads.

5. Stringent penalties to the extent of Rs. 100/- per day for failure to service on time (turn around period is 2 working days) are mandated. Online portals take no responsibility for service and support.

6. Prices quoted can vary dramatically (especially for hardware) because of fluctuation in US dollar rate on a day to day basis. From the time a price is finalized, any variation in the purchase cost of the supplier from the manufacturer is at the risk of the Supplier/Bidder. This includes both liability (in case Dollar goes up) as well as benefit (when dollar drops down).

7. Prices once quoted by a supplier have to be kept valid for 90 days or more – so suppliers have to insulate themselves from this risk as Govt. decision making can take time. Online portals on the other hand can change prices at will and there is no binding to adhere to any price.






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