The issues that have slowed down Positivo-GBH can be tied down to challenges in acquiring spare parts required in the repairing and maintenance of Positivo laptops, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Education in Charge of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Claudette Irere has said.
Irere revealed this on Monday November 1, while addressing members of both chambers of parliament as part of the team of Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente to shed light on the status of the country’s education sector.
Positivo-BGH, a Latin American firm set up shop in Kigali in 2015 following a deal with the Government to manufacture computers locally.
However, over the course of their tenure, Positivo-BGH has constantly come under scrutiny for what some say are substandard laptops.
MPs Gamariel Mbonimana, Frank Habineza, Christine Bakundufite and Valens Muhakwa all asked questions pertaining to the quality of Positivo-BGH laptops which they all said were substandard and consume both time and money when they have technical issues.
In particular, the MPs wanted to know why laptops that are distributed all over the country have to be brought to Kigali when they develop a problem.
In response, Irere related the challenges that come with Positivo laptops to a new car brand on the market that is yet to be mastered by the majority of the country’s mechanics.
“Positivo falls in that category. It is a new brand and there are no technicians with the right skills and abilities to do the required repair and maintenance. On top of that, there is no access to spare parts on the local market,” she said.
She told the MPs that the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), the Ministry of ICT and technical colleges had tried to put in place repair centres where Positivo tried to provide maintenance and repair training but the issue of spare parts has become a stumbling block.
She said that as a result, MINICT and RISA were reviewing the agreement with Positivo-BGH and trying to see how the issue of spare parts can be dealt with.
This is not the first time the issue of the effectiveness of Positivo laptops has come up in parliament.
In September this year, Members of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) challenged RISA to expose whoever that is responsible for potential loss stemming from defective Positivo laptops.
The Committee’s request was based on the Auditor General in his 2018/2019 report which raised concerns over an agreement signed between RISA and Africa Investment Smart Distribution (ASID) for the distribution of Positivo laptops to specific parts of the country where they were most needed.
Government procured laptops from POSIVO GBH – which locally produced the gadgets – following its contractual commitment, and then handed them over to ASI-D in the form of stock on credit for sale.
ASID had an obligation to payback the government after selling laptops.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of RISA, Innocent Muhizi, the move was in line with engaging the private sector in the distribution and sale of computers in the country so as to scale up access to laptops to many Rwandans especially students.
However, review of available documentation revealed that the government is at risk of losing funds amounting to Rwf4.7 billion.
These funds relate to 19,449 laptops distributed by ASID and 7,246 defective laptops returned to RISA, the AG report revealed in his report.
Through the review of availed documentation, the audit identified 7,246 defective laptops worth Rwf1.35 billion.
These defective laptops were to be repaired by Positivo GBH. However, an inquiry made with management revealed that these laptops had not been repaired at the time of the audit in June 2019.
The AG’s report suggested that POSITIVO BGH delayed to repair them for a period of 384 days, and that these funds may be lost if these laptops are not repaired or replaced for use.
According to Muhizi, an assessment carried out in 2019 on the computer stock found that 12,000 of the 19,000 computers were safe, and they were given to Rwanda Education Board (REB) for distribution in schools.
MP Christine Bakundufite said that if the computers were checked to establish their state within the warranty period and they were found to be defective, POSITIVO should compensate for them.
“More than a year elapsed but those laptops were not yet repaired. What happened for the computers to take all that time without being repaired? And, who is responsible for that Rwf1.4 billion loss?” MP Bakundufite wondered.
Muhizi replied that the issue was due to the fact that the detection of mechanical defects required specialised equipment and testing lab which were not available in Rwanda.
The Managing of Positivo GBH Zoran Gordic, has previously told this publication that some of the misunderstandings stem from the consumers who expect a lot from computers that were originally designed for children.
“We have the capacity to produce any kind of computer depending on who the consumers are, depending on the target market. The implementation of this project didn’t fail because of our low expertise in producing quality devices,” he noted.
Under its initial agreement- signed in 2014 -, Positivo was to manufacture 150,000 computers annually costing the Government a whopping $35 million.
However, there was a problem when the Ministry of Education couldn’t raise all the funds required, even with the support of other stakeholders forcing the two parties to renegotiate the deal. Subsequently, the number of new computers manufactured each year was reduced from 150,000 to 40,000.