Tech company takes legal steps against unbothered e-Learning

Tech company takes legal steps against unbothered e-Learning

Senior staff reporter

Friday, November 22, 2019

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A legal battle is brewing between technology company GeoTechVision and the Government, over a multimillion-dollar contract for the Tablets in Schools programme, which went sour when e-Learning Jamaica terminated the agreement in September.

The board and management of GeoTechVision says it is disappointed with the lack of response from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, to its call for his intervention in the dispute, as well as three other ministers of government.

“GeoTechVision is now left with no recourse but to direct its attorneys to take all necessary legal steps in the courts to compel e-Learning Jamaica to conform to the provisions under contract to engage in stipulated dispute resolution mechanisms to settle any disagreement which may arise in the course of the contract,” the company said in a statement.

GeoTech's Information Communication Technologies Project Manager Stephen Wedderburn told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the company has also tried to meet with e-Learning directly, since the termination notice was issued on September 16, but the agency “basically rebuffed all attempts”.

According to GeoTech, it also wrote to the Public Procurement Commission, which indicated on September 20, 2019 that it had referred the matter to the Integrity Commission.

News of the impasse emerged last month after e-Learning severed the US$16-million 11-year contract with the company, on the grounds that it had not delivered on the agreement to provide over 19,000 devices for the Tablets in Schools programme.

GeoTech has, however, strongly refuted the claims that it did not honour the contract, and defended the integrity of the tablets it has been providing to the programme.

The company had attempted to file an ex parte injunction in the Supreme Court on October 18, blocking the government agency from recalling the performance bond on the contract, but the filing was dismissed and the bond for US$616,000 has since been recalled.

Chief executive officer of e-Learning Keith Smith told the Observer yesterday that the matter is now over, as far as the agency is concerned.

“We have nothing more to comment on, we have taken the action we needed to take and moved on. We have no further arrangement with GeoTech,” Smith said.

He informed that e-Learning last week advertised a new request for proposal for the procurement of 40,000 tablets over the next three years.

“GeoTechVision has acted in good faith and e-Learning Jamaica's purported termination of the contract is without merit. For our part, we have done everything possible to accommodate requests made by e-Learning Jamaica in the interest of moving the project forward,” GeoTechVision Managing Director Valrie Grant lamented in the statement.

The company had asked for an independent evaluation of the quality of its tablets and the withdrawal of the termination notice issued by e-Learning Jamaica.

“The real question remains as to why the Government of Jamaica has refused to engage despite all our attempts to bring a resolution to this situation,” the management remarked.

According to GeoTechVision, as per the contract with e-Learning, it has the 19,305 tablets in Jamaica, some since July, ready for distribution to schools.

“We believe that the unfair and unmerited termination attempt could have been avoided if all the facts were known at the policy level, and that we could have, right now, been delivering tablets to schools instead of being on the brink of a legal contest,” said the managing director.

“For e-Learning to try and abandon the agreement is baffling and especially puzzling, since every change of scope and plan, including agreements on delivery dates for the first phase of the project, is documented and explicitly signed off by both parties,” Grant stated.

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