The south Wales procurement saga has taken a new twist today, as a council report reveals that Torfaen and Monmouthsire councils will have to stump up an extra £500,000 to deploy the kit they acquired almost two years ago.
Some 2,400 laptops and £800,000 worth of wireless networking kit has been in storage for the past two years while the councils searched for a third local authority partner to take it off their hands, following Newport City Council's reported withdrawal from the project.
At the start of the week, the Welsh government decided that Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils could deploy the £2m worth of equipment in their schools, but yesterday's report revealed the cost implications.
Despite the councils describing the additional kit as a "bonus" when the decision was made, they will have to pay more than £200,000 each for the hardware, on top of £100,000 in deployment costs. Torfaen and Monmouthshire will take half of the surplus equipment each.
The Welsh government is trying to "claw back" £406,909 of upfront capital funding to minimise the cost to the taxpayer, according to the Cabinet report.
In a statement issued to ChannelWeb, a Welsh government spokesperson said: "The laptops that are now being distributed were meant for Newport City Council who pulled out of the original project. These are now being distributed to other learners within Torfaen and Monmouthshire authorities.
"We are seeking clawback of funds to reflect the withdrawal of Newport council. They are not involved in the clawback process, which is ongoing. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further at this time."
The Welsh government "in principle" agreement with the authorities states that before 31 March 2013, the councils will have to build the laptops, complete wireless surveys on 11 secondary schools, install additional wireless equipment and deliver the laptops to schools.
Torfaen Council described the time constraints as "very challenging".
When questioned by ChannelWeb, the Welsh government refused to disclose what action would be taken if the councils are unable to meet the time constraints. It said the details were written into the legally bound contract which was not available to the public yet.
The Cabinet report cites the tight timescale as a risk, but claims that a strict deployment plan and consequent monitoring will seek to mitigate this.
Some 5,008 schoolchildren in Torfaen and Monmouthshire will be set to benefit from the equipment.
Newport City Council maintains that it never formally agreed to be part of the procurement process and denies that it withdrew.
ChannelWeb was awaiting response from Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils at the time of publication.
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