£800k extra added to £1m mountain of IT kit left in storage
10:53am Friday 4th January 2013 in News
A COUNCIL which has £1 million worth of school laptops gathering dust also has another batch of IT kit stuck in storage worth almost £800,000.
Now a Gwent AM is demanding a Welsh Government inquiry after the revelations.
The networking equipment was bought by Torfaen for Newport council as part of a troubled schools computer initiative – which has become the subject of a row between the two.
Torfaen claims Newport council withdrew from the project, leaving more than 2,400 laptops bought in March 2011 with nowhere to go.
But Newport said it never committed to the iLearnWales scheme, did not approve a joint bid for £9 million in Welsh Government funding made by Torfaen council and had no involvement in the procurement process.
A Torfaen spokesman said: “The ancillary equipment, including wireless access points, network switches and firewalls, were purchased to enable the use of laptops within Newport schools as part of the iLearnWales digital learning project.
“This equipment was purchased at the same time as the laptops and was intended for use in Newport schools until their withdrawal.”
At least 605 networking items, bought in March 2011 and including hundreds of Cisco Systems network switches, add to the 2,424 laptops which have been unused in storage for more than a year.
The items were meant to be used to link up the laptops to their schools but are also in storage pending a decision by the Welsh Government on their future.
The unused equipment, worth £786,000, was purchased from Intrinsic Technology and XMA.
Torfaen council hopes the equipment can be deployed in its own and Monmouthshire schools – the other partner in iLearnWales.
This new information came to light following a Freedom of Information Act request by Hannah Breeze of CRN, an online business to business IT publication.
Other networking kit bought for the project has been installed in Monmouthshire and Torfaen schools.
Torfaen said no other equipment has been bought and stored for Newport council and for the scheme.
A Newport council spokeswoman said it had no involvement with the procurement of the 8,600 laptops or any other associated equipment undertaken by Torfaen in March 2011.
Call for inquiry into ‘fiasco’
LINDSAY Whittle, Plaid AM for South Wales East, said the iLearnWales “fiasco” is so serious local government minister Carl Sargeant should act to find out what went wrong and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Mr Whittle said: “Torfaen and Newport councils have very different stories, so the minister needs to bang heads together and hold an inquiry into this fiasco.
We are living in austere times and this whole episode with laptops and other IT equipment stuck in storage damages the public sector as whole.”
He said money which should have been spent on improving children’s education has been wasted, and would be raising the issue in the National Assembly.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The Welsh Government is working closely with Torfaen County Borough Council and Monmouthshire County Council to ensure that public funds are being used appropriately.”