House panel to meet today to examine free laptop scheme 'irregularities'

A seven-member Legislature House Committee is all set to begin scrutiny of the state government's free laptop scheme, which has become mired in controversy.

The committee, headed by Congress MLC K C Kondaiah, will review the process followed by the Department of Higher Education in purchasing laptops for college students. The committee was formed after members during the recently-concluded Legislative Council session in Belagavi flagged "financial irregularities" in purchasing laptops.

MLCs Ivan D'Souza, Ramesh Babu, Raghunath Rao Malkapure, Sharanappa Mattur, Arun Shahapur and R Prasanna Kumar are members of the House committee, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Tuesday.

In his 2017-18 budget, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced free laptops for 1.5 lakh engineering, medical, polytechnic and first grade college students at a cost of Rs 300 crore. The scheme was earlier confined to college students from SC/ST communities.

Malkapure raised the issue of irregularities, citing a letter purportedly written by IAS officer M N Ajay Nagabhushan highlighting that the government's decision to procure laptops through four packages instead of a single tender would increase the per-laptop cost.  Nagabhushan wrote to the chief secretary about this last month after he was transferred from the post of commissioner for collegiate education. The officer had also raised objections to the manner in which funds were releaed to the Bengaluru Dr BR Ambedkar School of Economics in Bengaluru.

Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddi has denied any corruption in the procurement of laptops for students.

 

 

 

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