KAMPALA – The Uganda communication commission (UCC) has expressed concerns over the theft of computers in Government aided schools and called for a collaborated effort with the Ministry of Education and Police to save public property from fraudsters.
The call by UCC officials follow the 2015/2016 audit reports raised by the Auditor General where it was noted that Rural Communications Development Fund has been funding ICT laboratories in schools but when auditors visited the established projects, they discovered that some of the computers were stolen, some desktops were unaccounted for, the laboratories lacked internet connectivity, some computers were uninstalled, others nonfunctional while some schools lacked qualified teachers.
Appearing before the Committee of Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises, (COSASE) Head of Legal at UCC –Abdulsalm Waiswa blamed this on the clique of people disguising as officials from the Commission and ask head teachers for computers in the guise of repairing and end up taking these computers from the schools.
Waiswa told the Committee that the Commission has so far registered 20 cases of theft of the school computers to police and some suspects have been arrested while some computers have been recovered and added that the theft of school computers is being worsened by laxity of school head teachers.
“As a Commission, we are concerned about the loss of these computers and we are in an effort to improve compliance and limit loss and we have a team of investigators and whenever we get these cases, we investigate them and as we speak now, we have four ongoing cases at Buganda Road Court,” Waswa said.
He added: “We have arrested people and we are prosecuting them for participating in theft and also defrauding Head Masters. Some of them go to these rural areas and lie to these headmasters that they are working for UCC, UCC has sent them to pick the computers for maintenance and they ask for money like Shs1m and after familiarizing with these head teachers they come back next week and pick these computers.”
When asked by MPs if the Computers are engraved, Waiswa answered in affirmative saying some of these computers are engraved and this has helped the Commission make some recoveries.
“But the theft are worsened by laxity in school administration who need to be vigilant because ideally if you are the head master and somebody says he works for UCC,” Waswa said.
Michael Tusiime MP (Mbarara Municipality) cautioned UCC to have the computers engraved right from point of order to make it hard for thieves to sell the computers.
Tusiime argued: “I am looking at a way of making it hard to sell these computers especially on the order you make. You see like what happened to drugs in hospitals, try it as much as possible so that it makes it hard for someone to procure something that is branded.”
The director of the Rural Communications Development Fund, Nyombi Thembo informed the Committee that their role is to supply these computers and it Is the role of the education ministry to ensure they remain operational and called for budget support from the education ministry in terms of servicing and maintaining these computers and laboratories.
On the concern raised by auditors of absence of IT teachers, Nyombi said that they have made a decision not to supply computers to schools without ICT clubs because they have realized those with clubs supplied computers tend to remain functional and it has become a policy to retool IT teachers before computers are given to any school.
Nyombi also acknowledged the challenge of internet connectivity but said the Commission is only in position to fund one-year internet connectivity with the Ministry of Education supposed to cater for the rest.
He also said that in a bid to deal with challenge of electricity supply in some schools, UCC has now put an emphasis on supplying computers to schools that use solar power to deal with the problem of unused computers.