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Education, Laptops and Controversy

In 2012, the PML-N provincial government in Punjab ran a campaign distributing over a hundred and ten thousand laptops (portable computers). The government claimed to have been consistent in only awarding 'talented' students purely based on 'merit' (Tribune).

The facilitation was widely endorsed by supporters of the political party (and certain others) while it was contended against by many. A major allegation was noted that the government officials gave special favors to the contractor who enabled the supply of the machines. The Punjab government distributed 110,000 laptops to university students across the province allegedly to counter the rising popularity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan among the youth just one year before the 2013 General Elections (PDF)

However, a special audit conducted by the government’s own wing – the Auditor General’s Office – pointed out serious corruption in the scheme.

Moreover, according to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Revenue (Revenue Division) Notification No SRO 655(1)/2007 dated July 29, 2007, Special Excise Duty is exempted on computer hardware including laptops, notebooks, PCs mainframe and other peripheral units and parts thereof. However, an examination of the record revealed that the contractor was paid Rs 200 per laptop as excise duty whereas it was exempted by the government of Pakistan as per the above notification causing a loss to public exchequer valuing Rs 22 million (PDF).

Documents available with Pakistan Today reveal that the price of one laptop was shown as Rs 20,000 as approved by the Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) in October 2011 for a dual-core Dell machine. However, two months later, the PC-I of that scheme was revised and the laptop price was increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 37,950 per piece without changing the original specifications (PDF). Such a change is worthy of being questioned as the price nearly doubled in a matter of few months, that too after the demand was generated.

This caused a net loss of around 2 Billion PKR to the public exchequer (Over 20.5 million USD as per the conversion rate then).

Moreover, the project to enhance IT labs in Punjab schools, a project of the School Education Department was rolled up and Rs 2 billion in finances were diverted to the Higher Education Department (HED) for the laptop scheme without any provision under the rules (PDF).

Such implications, proven allegations of corruption force one to reconsider the impact and effectiveness of such schemes. These laptops must have benefitted a lot but infrastructural developments In the educational sector were compromised at the same time majorly challenging the effectiveness of such giveaways being administered by a government.




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