A Welsh council official has said he remains "totally confident" that 2,400 publicly funded laptops worth £1m will find a home soon, despite the expiration of the devices' warranties nearly nine months ago.
Torfaen County Borough Council, based in south Wales, controversially procured 8,600 laptops in April 2011 from XMA, amid claims from reseller rivals that the process was unfair as the original tender was for the much smaller amount of just 408 devices.
A Freedom of Information request filed by ChannelWeb showed that, of the original 8,600 HP notebooks, 6,200 are finally in use across Torfaen and Monmouthshire as part of the iLearnWales initiative, while the remaining portion gathers dust in storage.
The surplus third of the laptops was originally intended for Newport City Council, which had to pull out two months after their procurement in June 2011, due to "affordability issues", according to Torfaen Council's deputy chief executive Peter Durkin.
Speaking to ChannelWeb, he said: "There were [issues] around affordability for [Newport City Council], as well as [around the] scope of the project and additional issues with stakeholders... We still work with Newport on projects; we are not sulking about it."
The 6,200 laptops which are now in use remained unused for a period of time before their deployment this summer while the council awaited the correct software, which at the time some branded an "outrageous waste of public sector money".
A Welsh Cabinet report from September 2012, seen by ChannelWeb, noted that if a replacement third-party local authority partner is not secured, the Welsh government may require "repayment of a portion of the grant". However, no time frame was established for how long it would allow efforts to continue in locating another partner.
The warranties of all 8,600 devices expired in March 2012, but Durkin dismissed this issue and said "a lot of our stuff is operating without a warranty".
He added that he hopes the surplus laptops can eventually be put to use across Torfaen and Monmouthshire, but conceded that the matter was now out of his hands.
He said: "We are in talks with the Welsh government, which provided us with the grant to assist in [the laptops'] procurement, in order to see how they can best be used in the public sector across Wales; they are not going anywhere else.
"We would love to have them here [in the borough], but there are grant conditions... Public sector finances are bound by regulations which mean that if we want to use the grant-funded equipment for anything other than their specified purpose, we need to get approval, and we are working with them and awaiting an outcome."
The borough's iLearnWales scheme aims to improve the quality of teaching of pupils aged 14 to 16 through technology. Its Digital Valley vision sees some primary and secondary school students able to access new technology such as tablets and recording studios on a daily basis, something it wishes to extend across the region.
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