Islamabad - The Higher Education Commission has requested the Planning Commission to procure additional laptops after the completion of Prime Minister’s Laptops Scheme Phase II so that the amount saved from the funds can be utilised, an official said on Thursday.

The documents with The Nation states that HEC – the sponsoring and executing agency of PM’s Laptops scheme – has requested the Planning Commission to utilise the expected saving of Rs1429.70 million for procuring additional laptops for students.

The amount will help in procuring 25,000 to 32,000 additional laptops after the completion of the project. The documents said that the savings will result in 6-8 percent more physical scope without any financial burden.

The official said that the matter to procure additional laptops was referred to the Project Steering Committee who recommended that savings can be utilised to procure additional laptops. The document said that per unit cost of 200,000 laptops in the first tender for first two years was Rs44, 956, while the in 3rd and 4th year it reduced to Rs44, 486 including taxes.

The project included procurement and distribution of total 400,000 laptops and against the target 200,000 laptops have already been distributed, said the official.

The official added that contract for 200,000 has been signed, Letter of Credit for 100,000 has been opened and the LC for remaining 100,000 will be opened upon receiving of remaining funds of Rs5287.238million.

The official said that total 535,786 students applied for the scheme year 2015-16 and 2016-17, while 2000,000 laptops were distributed. 150,000 laptops were assembled locally in the country.

Details said that out of the total approved cost of Rs21,335.498 million of the project, around Rs16,048.026 million have been released and Rs 14,977.661 million have been utilised so far.

However, in 2015, Transparency International-Pakistan has raised objections over the transparent process by the HEC for the distribution of 400,000 laptops.

The international watchdog observed that HEC had failed in effective implementation of the laptop scheme assigned after students reportedly accused the HEC of irregularities in distribution of the laptops.

The Transparency International raised several objections over the process of laptop purchasing and questioned the purchasing of 400,000 laptops worth Rs20 billion in advance for the next four years.

Transparency had also mentioned that the second phase of the scheme was launched without completing the distribution of laptops handed over in the first phase.

The transparency had withdrawn its support for the second phase of the scheme raising its concerns.

Talking to The Nation, Chairman HEC Prof Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said that transparency’s each concern was addressed and the laptops were distributed on merit.

He said that candidate eligible for the laptop is finalized after the confirmation from three different levels including the concern educational institute, HEC and government. He said Transparency International had questioned the cost of a single unit being purchased but now the local company is involved in assembling of the laptops. Chairman HEC also said that not all the laptops have been distributed yet but the process is underway. “A large number has been distributed while a less quantity is in pipeline,” he added. Rector International Islamic University (IIU) Prof Dr Masoom Yasinzai said that overall the laptop scheme contributed positively in the higher education sector and helped students taking benefits in their study programs.

He said that the laptop scheme and the up-gradation of the laboratories at the universities were two different schemes with different objectives.

The National Program for Provision of Laptops was launched for the bright and talented young students studying at the public sector higher education institute, Govt Polytechnic Institutes and Govt Graduate and Postgraduate Colleges of FATA and ICT.

The project objective is to promote outreach of youth to information and communication technologies (ICTs) as well as to bridge the digital divide within the communities throughout the country.

The Planning Commission declaring the proposal given by HEC for procuring additional laptops as viable has commented to recommend it to ECNEC for final approval.