The 15 computers that were seized from the Enmore/Hope Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) on March 31st by the eGovernment Unit had been donated since 2010 and had last been used in 2013, according to the clerk of the council.
The clerk, who declined to be named, told Stabroek News on Thursday that the computers were used by students of the computer centre up to early 2013 when the last batch graduated. The clerk said that the students had received certificates and pictures at their graduation at the Enmore/Hope Primary school. She said that personnel from the ministry of finance at that time were present at the graduation.
Seizure of the computers by the eGovernment Unit of the Ministry of Public Telecommunications with officers of the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) in tow has prompted condemnation from the council and the opposition PPP. The computers were donated by the Caribbean Development Bank-funded Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) and the council has maintained that the government has no power to seize the computers. The Public Telecommunications Ministry has said that it acted because it had learnt of a plan by the council to sell the computers. This has been denied by the Chairman of the Council, Mark Mahase and the Deputy Chairman, Mohammed Dawud who both say that there was a discussion about what to do with the computers because they were not functioning but that no decision had been made to sell. The involvement of SARU officers has also raised concerns. Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has written to SARU on behalf of the council demanding the return of the computers.
The clerk said that due to the NDC’s lack of funds it had stopped giving classes. She also said that the volunteer teachers who were there at the time eventually left to teach at other schools. The clerk noted that some of the computers were in working order, while some had come from BNTF in a defective state but were immediately fixed by a technician. She noted that in August 2016, the NDC had penned a letter to BNTF seeking advice on what to do with the computers which were then in a bad state. In September 2, 2016 BNTF had replied stating that it had handed over the computers formally to the NDC and the NDC was required to maintain and operate the computer centre.
APNU+AFC councillor Deochan Singh has maintained that there was a plan to sell the computers and he had accompanied the eGovernment team and the SARU officers on the day they turned up to seize the computers. The only other APNU+AFC councillor on the council, Pastor Claude Smith also says that there was a plan to sell the computers. The other councillors represent the PPP/C.
Smith said that Singh was the one who raised the state of the computers with the council, since he had wanted to recommence Information Technology classes for the youth in the community. He said that the PPP/C councilors moved to a vote on whether the computers should be sold and the APNU+AFC councilors who opposed were obviously outvoted. According to Smith whenever a decision is usually made, the majority councilors would quickly call for a vote, knowing fully well that they would win easily.
Smith told this newspaper on Thursday that the computers were used under the previous NDC. This new NDC which was elected at the 2016 local government elections did not use them. Smith said that Dawud, was someone who usually repairs computers and has an internet business, but he was unable to say whether the computers were going to be sold to him. The APNU+AFC councilor said that it was not confirmed at the NDC meetings whether the computers were going to be sold to the vice chairman but they (APNU+AFC councilors ) knew it was going to him since he had a computer shop.