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No equipment delivered since 2007 deal

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 14, 2009) – Antech Computing has been given another month to provide SB$4.9 million [US$703,000] worth of computers it owed to high schools in the country.

The local computer firm was awarded the contract in 2007 but to date has yet to provide the supply. It has already collected the $4.9 million.

The Ministry of Education has given the firm until the end of last month to provide the supply or face legal action.

However, the ministry’s under-secretary Timothy Ngele said the minister has given the company another month.

Mr. Ngele said minister Mathew Wale met the company’s boss before last month’s deadline, during which Antech requested an extension of the deadline.

"Antech said they have no storage facilities for the computers which was why they did not provide all the computers, but we told them to leave the problem to us," he said.

Ngele said the ministry has decided to provide storage for the computers, but Antech still fails to provide the supply within the given time.

Minister Wale last year told parliament the project funds are very hard to trace because they were paid directly from the Central Bank into Antech Computing’s bank account.

This was reportedly done at the direction of former finance minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is now the Minister for Environment and Conservation.

Mr. Lilo, who has close association with Antech Computing, has been previously accused of influencing the tender process that resulted in the contract awarded to Antech.

The computer project was purposely to provide computers to schools with forms 6 and 7. This is to ensure students learn computer before leaving their schools.

Taiwan, which funded the project, had earlier offered to provide the computers direct to schools.

But Lilo insisted they provide only cash so that it could be injected into the local economy.

Documents showed the funds were transferred directly from the Central Bank to Antech Computing’s bank account.

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