ISLAMABAD-The Higher Education Commission has failed to complete its flagship programme ‘Transformation towards Smart Universities Project’ in the stipulated time owing to administrative negligence inflicting gigantic financial loss on the national kitty.

The HEC had launched the programme in 2015 by allocating more than Rs2.5 billion to equip around one hundred public and semi government universities with the facility of WiFi. According to the main contract done in 2015, the equipment installation had to be completed in September 2018.

However, the official sources said that so far the HEC has equipped only around 50 universities with the WiFi facility while Rs2.5191 billion was allocated for SUP.

The HEC had awarded the SUP project to the international IT Company CISCO with their local partner Commtel.

The sources said that the total amount allocated for the two phases of the project was around $80 million, which has not been utilised within the time and HEC had to amend the main contract with the service providing company just after one year of the launch of the programme.

The officials informed that after the amendments cost of the project was also increased upto Rs2.8 billion but still the installation of the project in all universities is pending.

They also said that though HEC was legally bound to impose financial penalties on the service providing companies for delaying the project, it kept releasing the amount to the companies in each quarter of the year.

“The HEC is ‘generously’ providing the money to companies instead of making them accountable just to avoid financial loss,” said the official.

As per the contract, the project deployment was to be done in three years while the company had to provide support for next five years for the project.

Documents said that the IT Company in first year of the contract had to install WiFi in 32 universities, 32 in second and 34 in last year; however, it provided the facility only in 08 universities in first year.

The documents also revealed that after failure in meeting the target in first year, the HEC made amendment in the main contract of the project in December 2016 and reduced the number of universities from one hundred to fifty.

“Surprisingly, though number of the universities was reduced, the cost of the project was not reduced,” said an HEC official. According to the copy of the amended contract the amount of the project remained the same.

The documents said that HEC made another violation in the project while awarding Provisional Acceptance Certificate (PAC) to the service providing company without the civil clearance form from the university to the company.

“It was universities mandate to issue civil clearance form certificate along with Provisional Accepting Test Certificate after being satisfied with the services provided,” said the official.

The official added that the HEC also didn’t hold the Joint Technical Committee meeting regularly to evaluate the performance of the company and impose penalties on them while the amount was being spent.

The documents said that HEC made the second amendment in the contract in 2017 and increased the amount to Rs3.0475389 billion but failed in equipping 100 universities with the modern IT equipment.

The documents also said that HEC had to impose 10 percent penalty on the company failing in complying the contract but it didn’t while the project kept delaying.

Sources also said that HEC was to be facilitated with the Academy and Certification centre Building, digital library and training the teachers in IT services as per the contract by the bid winner company, but it failed getting benefits of the contract.

The HEC in its written response of the elaborated quires sent by The Nation said the Smart University Programme was launched in 2015 with the objective to equip universities with advanced Wi-Fi and enabling users to freely access internet.

A total of 63 Universities have been facilitated with Wi-Fi connectivity under this Programme. Out of 63, 36 sites were equipped with Cisco Equipment in Phase-I.

The universities’ concerns have been taken into consideration before offering them contract for installing WIFI. Currently, 70 professionals from universities have been trained. As per the contract there are three levels of training i.e. beginner, intermediate, expert.