A Welsh council that came under fire earlier this year for allegedly rushing through a PC procurement deal has confirmed that none of the laptops it acquired are in use yet.
In April, ChannelWeb reported that Nottingham-based VAR XMA had clinched a deal via the Value Wales procurement framework to provide Torfaen County Borough Council with over 8,600 laptops, after submitting the lowest-priced bid.
The computers were purchased as part of an ongoing project in Monmouthshire and Torfaen to improve IT access for Key Stage 4 students in both areas.
The deal was queried by several suppliers who competed against XMA to secure the contract. Each one claimed they had expected the council to order around 400 laptops based on the original tender, and had priced their bids accordingly.
As a result, these firms wanted to know why the council had not carried out a second tender once it had established the actual volume of PC units needed.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by ChannelWeb, Peter Durkin, deputy chief executive of Torfaen County Borough Council, explained: "There was insufficient time to run another mini competition [tender] when the requirement to purchase the significant number of notebooks was known on 16 March 2011."
However, a council source, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed the laptops had been sat in a storeroom "gathering dust" since they were purchased.
"There are teachers in Gwent that are desperate to get their hands on these laptops," the source said. "Instead, they are just sitting in store rooms months after purchase."
In a statement to ChannelWeb, a Torfaen County Borough Council representative confirmed that none of the laptops were in use at the moment, but will be by April 2012.
"An innovative Learning Management System is being procured by a tender at this moment and the laptops will be distributed when the software is ready for installation," the statement read.
"The pilot phase will commence in the new year, with a timetabled roll out across all schools from April. This is set out in the project plan."
A channel source, speaking to ChannelWeb on the condition of anonymity, said he found the council's approach to procurement perplexing. "I do not understand why they purchased the laptops first, because they will have had no idea what this software's hardware requirements are."
"This demonstrates an outrageous waste of public sector money," said another council source.
"They bought 8,000 laptops in so much of a rush back in March that they did not have time to run a second tender, sure in the knowledge that they would not be required until at least the end of 2011."
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