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Ministry to seek Bt800m in damages

Committee weighs next move on tablets

AN EDUCATION Ministry committee handling the One Tablet Per Child project will decide today how to deal with the non-delivery of more than 800,000 units by a Chinese supplier, who is facing a daily fine of over Bt2 million plus a risk of Bt800-million damage claims for its failure to comply with purchase contracts.

The so-called Tablet Board is expected to come up with a few alternatives like launching a new purchase and bidding process to seek new suppliers under the same specifications through e-auction, which would take 150 days. However, this option may require the approval of the Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec) if an amount of money allocated but not yet paid to Chinese supplier Shenzhen Yitoa Intelligent Control would be needed to be spent additionally on future procurements.

This option would take another six months, after the ministry's authority to spend this budget expires at the end of March, meaning the entire process would be completed by September.

The second option is to call for new bids with specifications altered, but this step would take around one year. The last option is to reallocate budgets set for purchase of the units for Zone 1 and Zone 2, which cover all Prathom 1 students in the Central and the South, and in the North and the Northeast respectively, to respective primary education offices to handle the purchases themselves.

A ministry source said that the meeting today would officially abort the procurement from Shenzhen Yitoa, and would decide to seize the Bt120-million bank guarantee lodged with it. A lawsuit will then be filed against the firm to demand Bt800 million in damages for non-delivery.

An Obec source said that Jasmine Telecom Systems, which is required to deliver the tablets to Mathayom 1 students in the northern and northeastern regions, had sent a written statement, saying that it was ready to hand over 18,000 units pending inspection by Obec. The Thai-owned public company needs to deliver 402,889 units in all.

To handle procurements in Zone 3, for Mathayom 1 students in Central and the South where auction has been cancelled, the ministry source said it was likely that money would be handed to area education offices to handle the procurements themselves. Supreme Distribution, whose bidding has been cancelled, had made an appeal to Obec, which has been forwarded to caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang.

The source said it was known that Chaturon might allow Supreme Distribution to go ahead with the cancellation.


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