Teachers say they overpaid for poor quality laptops

The Nu 100 mn project of the MoE that bought laptops and desktops for around 3000 teachers comes under fire

The Ministry of Education’s (MoE)  ‘Empowering Teachers’ project which was initiated in mid-2009 and ended in April  this year has created loan repayment and miscommunication problems among three agencies – the ministry, the teachers and the dzongkhag administration.

Through this project, the Bank of Bhutan Ltd (BoBL) financed more than 3,000 interested teachers  to avail a loan of Nu 39,000 each for one Sony VAIO laptop or Nu 28,800 for one desktop computer.

According to MoE officials, BoBL upon the request of MoE agreed to finance the project worth more than Nu 100mn. The bank then agreed with the ministry to recover the loan from the teachers’ monthly salaries.

The monthly payments on the loan, as per the initial agreement was to be deducted from the teacher’s salary starting February 2010 to be liquidated in one year or a maximum of two years.

However, many teachers on conditions of anonymity stated that they were not aware of the interest rates on the loan owing to which the loans that were to be paid off by February 2012  got extended by an additional two months.

A teacher from a remote school in Samdrup Jongkhar said, “Two years were completed in February but deductions of Nu 3,000 a month have been made till April. We don’t know about May as we have not received the salary yet.”

However, the project came to an end in April though BoBL is yet to recover a few millions from the MoE.

Confusion about the interest rates

A teacher from one of the high schools in the capital said that the agreement he signed  while taking the laptop for Nu 39,000 has been violated because  deducations has been increased by two months  taking the “extra amount”  to Nu 6,000.

Kinley Wangchuk, a teacher in the east said, “When they issued the laptops they made us sign an agreement but later on without our knowledge they increased the period of loan recovery from 24 months to 26 months. The project execution was not in keeping with the signed agreement”.

Kinley said he learnt of the ministry’s “clarification” through  Facebook and that there were no official messages from  dzongkhag.

Other teachers claimed that the ‘letter of undertaking’ signed by them authorizes monthly installments to be deducted from their salaries in favor of BoBL, Thimphu. However, it does not specify any interest rates which have caused confusion among teachers who thought the facility was a  government ‘Kidu’.

MoE’s chief procurement officer Mindu Drukpa responding to these allegations said, “The interest rate was not reflected in the agreement signed between the teachers and the supplier but the teachers are aware of it”.

MoE issued a letter dated February 9, 2010 to all Dzongdas initially announcing the interest rate as 7.5% throughout the entire life of the loan. However, it was later clarified sometime in January 2011 that the interest rates were per annum, which made it  15% for two years.

Admitting the mistake, an official from MoE’s administration and finance division (AFD) who requested anonymity said MoE’s only error was the interest rates which was clarified through Dzongkhag finance officials and Dzongkhag education officers (DEO). However, a large number of the total teachers claimed to have not been informed.

Most of the Dzongkhag accounts officers The Bhutanese talked to said they did not receive the clarification letter sent by MoE.

A DEO in one of the western Dzongkhags also said that he has no idea at all about the rectification of interest rates nor the letters sent by MoE.

Officiating accounts officer of Pemagatshel Tashi Gyeltshen is one of the many who said, “there was no letter received regarding the correction in interest rates”.

But the MoE AFD official cited negligence on the part of DEOs and Dzongkhag accountants involved. “I am of the opinion that the clarification letters we sent were not delivered by the DEOs to the teachers”, he said.

Ngawang a former teacher in one of the schools in Wangduephodrang said, “Nothing came from the DEOs in our Dzongkhag and I am not aware of the per annum interest rate.”

Sonam Norbu from a school in Orong, Samdrup Jongkhar said an official from MoE sent a letter to him stating that March 2012 would be the last month for his loan payment but the accounts officers in his Dzongkhag failed to incorporate it.”They kept on deducting the amount from our salary”, he said.

“We don’t know the bank’s exact calculation and neither have we received the refund but the deductions stopped after we personally approached the Dzongkhag accounts section”, he added.

Mindu Drukpa said a lot of confusion was created because “there was no cooperation from some Dzongkhag officials”.

MoE’s chief of administration and finance division Karchung Tshering said that some confusion exists but there are teachers who have defaulted on their payments.

He said many genuine cases have been resolved by the ministry and noted that it is one’s responsibility to make monthly payments for a product one has taken.

Surplus payments made by some teachers

As per MoE records, while some have defaulted on the loans, many teachers have made extra payments.

A primary school teacher in Tsirang said, “The Dzongkhag has deducted double the amount at some point of time though I never defaulted on my loan and now I have no idea of what my monthly payment amount is”.

The AFD official of MoE who spoke to The Bhutanese admitted that there have been no deductions for some teachers while there were extra deductions made on some. He said letters, faxes and emails were sent to the Dzongkhag officials involved but he doubted if they reached the concerned people.

For instance, MoE had instructed Zhemgang Dzongkhag officials not to deduct the monthly payments after the loan was recovered from each teacher  but payments were deducted even after  instructions.

To this the Accounts Officer of Zhemgang, Samdrup Dargay said, “The concerned offices in our Dzongkhag haven’t received any letter or circular of that sort”.

He said when the installments are made for loans, the bank is supposed to provide a clearance certificate upon liquidation or complete recovery of the amount but MoE and the bank have not provided any.

“The teachers who kept personal records of their own did not have any documentary evidence and we have no idea about what would be the total amount for each teacher because of the interest rates and other fees”.

But he requested the procurement officials in MoE to send a confirmed detail on all the accounts which  the dzongkhag received recently.

Meanwhile, MoE is refunding the surplus amounts deducted.

“We have refunded about Nu 0.5 to 0.6 mn as of now”, said Mindu Drukpa.

A teacher from one of the schools in Samdrup Jongkhar who claims to have made extra payments said she cannot avail any leaves nor have the time to travel all the way to the ministry to resolve the issue. She said the BoBL branch in her Dzongkhag wouldn’t entertain her and the Dzongkhag officials involved have asked her to get a clearance from the MoE. “I am confused but I am sure someone has profited from our money”, she said.

A science teacher from one of the schools in rural Samtse also said, “I don’t have the time and I don’t get leave from the school to come to the ministry to settle the issue”.

Paro DEO Ugyen Tshering said he saw only a few such cases and they were already resolved by the ministry.

But MoE has no records of the whereabouts of some teachers who have paid in excess.

Transfer of teachers to other Dzongkhags and other factors added to the confusion

MoE cited transfer of teachers as one reason which added to the complications in collections

The AFD official with MoE said, “Some teachers were transferred to schools in another dzongkhag, some resigned, some were away on studies, some died and some just disappeared” adding that it was the responsibility of the Dzongkhag  administration to update the ministry.

He said the difficulty in tracking the teachers have led to mismatch in the payment records. For instance, a teacher who was transferred from Thimphu to Gasa would have continued making the payments from his salary in Gasa. However, the ministry will have no records of his payments unless complete information is provided by concerned officials from both the Dzongkhags.

Ngawang, a teacher who has been transferred from a remote school in Wangduephodrang to Choden Lower Secondary School in Thimphu is one of many who is facing difficulty in resolving the issue even after approaching all the concerned authorities.

He claimed to have never defaulted on the loan and has the pay slips to support the fact but it did not show on the records of concerned offices like the ministry and the bank’s loan account.

“The payments for some seven months are not reflecting on the records and it’s been more than three months since I have been trying to resolve the issue and nothing has materialized so far”, he said.

Dawa Gyeltshen, another teacher who was recently transferred to Namgay Choling community primary school in Samtse said, “They just wouldn’t stop the deductions from my salary even after the 24 months period and I can’t make it to the capital since I have been transferred to a remote place”.

The DEO of Haa, Sonam Tenzin feels that the project has benefitted many teachers and the miscommunication in his opinion is because the teachers were unaware of the deductable amount.

“I think it is the responsibility of the teacher to inform the accounts officers regarding the deductions,” he added.

Teachers face difficulty in availing other loans because of the credit history

Three teachers from Trashigang and Haa said the negative credit history against their name for which they are not responsible has caused much problems in availing other loans for emergencies in addition to the already imposed restriction on loans because of the Rupee crunch.

Ngawang also said it’s a hindrance for him to get additional loans because of the current issue and at the same time he is liable for interest on the loan which impacts his salary.

“Account officers say I have some Nu 28,000 balance to be cleared which is not true”, he said.

Quality of the product and credibility of the supplier questioned

Some teachers have raised issues regarding the quality of the product. While many said the laptop had a lot of technical flaws like the battery and software, some said it just would not function after a few months.

A year’s warranty was provided by the supplier, Kee Pee Bee Distributors in Thimphu. However, some teachers in the rural areas couldn’t make it to the supplier’s office. Jigme Choden, a teacher with Phuntshothang middle secondary school in rural Samdrup Jongkhar said, “I bought the laptop in 2010 along with some colleagues here but our laptops are already suffering cracks and malfunctions”.

“We are in a remote school, about 70 kilometres away from the Dzongkhag office, so we couldn’t complain in person regarding the loan and the laptop”, she said.

Mindu said the products were checked by MoE’s IT personnel. “Quality wise, it has been checked before distributing and the items specified by the ministry have gone to the teachers.”

He also said that durability of the product can depend on the users as well.  “We observed that some laptops that came back for repair or replacement to the supplier had crumbs of eatables inside the laptop,” he said.

He said the project closed by April 30 but MoE still owes few millions as balance debts to be cleared with the bank. “We may have to pay penalties but we cannot levy that on the teachers”, he said.

The teacher’s strength in Bhutan stands at 7,553 as of 2011.

 

 

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9 comments

  1. This is not only confusing but an alarming issue. Many who are involved try to push the stone here and there, trying to escape from the blame game. Person like me, working in a remote area didn’t realise about all these things until now (after going through this article, thanks The Bhutanese). Yes, as pointed out by the reporter the initial amount of the loan was 39000 and now I almost paid about 45000. What could be the reason? I think in layman’s term, it is called as DAY LIGHT ROBBERY…robbing off the teachers of their meagre salary by the so called EMPOWERING TEACHERS..
    They have not empowered teachers but ROBBED them…Its clear now what has been done is done and I know there is no way out that anything could be done to help us (poor teachers)…If I had known about the changes in the interest rates, in the first place I won’t have applied for the loan..beacuse I thought it was reasonable for 7.5% I applied and now at the end see…who is empowered? Teachers or WHO?
    The bureaucracy is still CORRUPT…A HAPPY TEACHER IS A HAPPY NATION coz teahcers are the NATION builders…

    • Looks like there is problem on financial matters too. I have used the loan amortization systems http://www.amortization-calc.com/ and the total amount to be recovered in 24 months including interest amounts to Nu.42,120.00 for 2 yr loan amount of Nu.39,000.00 at the subsidized interest rate of 7.5% per annum.

      Based on the term period, monthly deduction should be Nu.1,755.00 per month for 24 months. 

      Check the calculation in the above web by filling in required amount and view loan status monthly.

      Cheers!!! 

  2. The quality of the product was and is always questionable.I have read many dissatisfied users complaining about this laptops  in kuenselonline forum.How can MoE officials just say that it was quality checked by their IT staff and blames the users instead.I have personally seen and used that laptop that one of my friend owns,and found that Keee Pee Bee has not supplied the genuine Operating System(OS) software which actually should have.There were no driver software cds included which are necessary for running other functionality  like network driver,chips driver,VGA,sound driver,and many more.If the laptop has to be formatted and installed a fresh OS than from where the users will get all those software? Is the MoE IT staff so dumbo that he/she deosnot have any idea about such software and other necessary items??Or colluded with Kee Pee Bee???Always questionable????

    And for everybody’ s kind information this firm called Kee Pee Bee is known for selling fabricated items most of the time.They usually bring their items from Jaigaon and these guys brings from Nehru Place,Palika Bazar,Delhi who sells all dups items.And sometime this Kee Pee Bee brings from Thailand which again is know for selling duplicate electronic goods.

    At the first place MoE should have asked for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Certificate from all the firms when they floated the tender of such amount.Sadly it did not happen.This OEM ensures that the firm supply genuine items because OEM certificate is given by the manufactures to their authorized partners only.

    Something is fishy here.Poor teachers are  robbed openly.Guru Rinpoche, save them,save MoE…

  3. The ‘Empowering Our Teachers’ program which has implemented a scheme enabling Bhutanese teachers to purchase desktops and laptops on installment based repayments. According to first online letter http://www.education.gov.bt/DSE/empoering%20teachers.htm (copy attached) on the Education website, under the ‘Installment/repayment amount’ info, it is clearly stated that the monthly installment for the Laptop (worth Nu. 39,000) is Nu. 1760/month over a period of 2 years. (Please note that the total payment in 24 months, i.e. 1760 x 24 = 42240, covers both the interest and the cost of the laptop). There was also a remark that the MoE was in the process of bargaining further on the cost of the computers.
    However, in the following letter ‘SIT-EMPOWERING OUR TEACHERS/2009/8323’, dated 26.04.2011, the program claims an additional payment of Nu. 2922 on top of the original agreed-upon amount stated in the aforementioned (and enclosed) document, which is the very reason for this correspondence.
    Moreover, as stated in your paper, the comments given by Jigme choden of PMSS with regard to quality of the laptop, in our school four out of eight laptops bought under the scheme suffer cracks on the same parts viz, on the screen frames nearby webcam camera and mouse pad. further, I heard others laptops are suffering from craks on the same location. Now, shall we conclude that the cracks are due to carelessness?
    We would therefore like to look into the issue to seek the justification for the additional payment and the quality of laptop we are provied with. Eventually, to take chaotic scheme as a lesson for future benefits. ARE THE TEACHERS REALLY EMPOWERED as the scheme is proudly labelled with??

  4. Thakur should be investigated by ACC, may be he took bribe or the secretary…. eveybody should not be spared… what is the use of Geshe prize,,, if this happens in GNH country

  5. Someone has to make the money-what do you expect?

  6. Where is the support that is promised by MoE? Shouldn’t there be an internal query inside MoE?

  7. Following is as per my calculation in relation to the information provided in above article:

    Total Amount (loan) : Nu. 39,000
    Interest rate per annum : 7.5% (= 15% for two years)

    Interest Amount for 2 years
    = 15% of 39000
    = 0.15 x 39000
    = Nu. 5850

    Total Amount payable to loaner at the end of 2 years with 15% interest rate is
    = Nu. 39000 + 5850
    = Nu. 44,850

    Amount payable per month to loaner in two years time (= 24 months)
    = Nu. 44,850 / 24
    = Nu. 1868.8 per month

    Aside from how much a teacher owes to the loaner, I feel the confusion caused among the MoE, District Administration, and teachers is due to the absence of transparency and accountability. I say absence of transparency because during and after the signing of pact, teachers seem to be caught up in perplexity of the understanding they have reached with loaner or MoE or whoever is responsible. Seems like the understanding have been amended as per the whim of superiors and without the knowledge of teachers or any party who felt they were being deprived of the information. And, I say absence of accountability because there are some and may be many other teachers who fell victim to such situation. Due to the difficult and long process they have to undergo the issue was kept to themselves. Nevertheless, there were some who consistently brought the issue to the authority but minimum or no action was taken.

    p.s. My opinion is based upon the information provided in the article above. Of course, a rigorous investigation needs to be introduced for clear-cut justification for all the parties involved in the matter.

  8. this was the article published before the tender was awarded to Kee Pee Bee distributor (2009). 
    The so called tender of such huge budget was never announced in Media calling quotation, it was all a perfectly planned game. 

    http://www.kuenselonline.com/2011/?p=12222

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