Six sent home over missing laptops
Six staff members of the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) project have been sent home to facilitate a probe by police into the theft of around 150 laptops, the Government Information Agency reported today.
The missing laptops were believed to have been stolen from the project’s warehouse in Forshaw Street, Queenstown over a three-month period.
GINA said that earlier this week, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon told media personnel that while the investigations are continuing, investigators have declined to provide day to day reports on their findings.
“They however, insisted on completion of the investigation before information on the findings are provided to the Management of the One Laptop Per Family programme,” he said, according to GINA.
The police will submit a formal report to the management of the OLPF once the investigations are completed, GINA added.
The news of the theft has come as government recently appointed a new project manager. Margot Boyce has now taken over the responsibility of running the controversial project, four months after her predecessor Sesh Sukhdeo resigned.
The OLPF has been mired in controversy from its inception, and the timing of the distribution of the first devices ahead of last year’s elections attracted criticism that it was an electioneering project. Questions were also raised about the soundness of the judgment behind it and whether it made sense. Critics of the project-the brainchild of former President Bharrat Jagdeo–have argued that handing out computers to families will not necessarily achieve the objective of making them computer literate. There were also the issues of training, maintenance, use of the netbooks and addressing matters like theft.
Controversy was also stirred when it was disclosed that the first set of netbooks were purchased via a financial donation from a Chinese company which had secured a large contract here.
A previous project manager also left under a cloud. Jud Lohmeyer, who said he was amazed at how much money he was being paid to oversee the project, was later accused by OP of threatening to blackmail it.
OP had said Lohmeyer, an ex-consultant/project manager hired to lead the pilot and design for the launch of the OLPF initiative, submitted his resignation after being criticized for poor performance and disclosures from an investigation into his credentials. OP added that Lohmeyer was “threatening” to release information unless he was provided with severance payments. Lohmeyer was later replaced by Sukhdeo who tendered his resignation in early March.
Under the project, the government plans to distribute 90,000 to poor families over a three-year period.