Acer school PC deal sparks controversy

It is clearly the biggest PC deal so far this year and it hasn't escaped a scandal. The former general manager of information technology at the Victorian Department of Education Employment and Training (DEET), Paul Doherty, has been implicated in allegations of a gross conflict of interest.

Acer Computer Australia has secured a direct deal to supply 21,000 Veriton PCs to DEET in Victoria. With a street value of around $35 million, the contract will see Acer deliver around 20,000 PCs to Victorian schools in February and March under the DEET initiatives "Bridging the Digital Divide" and "Modernisation of ICT in Secondary Schools".

Allegations of foul play surfaced after Acer was awarded the contract in December. At the time, Doherty had resigned from DEET to launch a reseller business with his three sons. Learning With Technologies was registered with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) on December 19, with Doherty as a director.

The new company was then chosen above a number of existing Acer resellers as one of five select dealers authorised to supply additional PCs to Victorian schools.

According to Michael Cefai, Acer's national education and government sales manager, these dealers had the opportunity to pick up "thousands" of orders in flow-on business from the 30,000 PCs expected to be sold into secondary schools this year.

Doherty said that although he continued to head DEET's IT division into December, he had removed himself from the tender process in early November, citing a conflict of interest. He told ARN the allegations were a "beat-up" by one of the failed tenderers, and said the tender process was conducted in full accordance with Victorian purchasing and procurement processes. He declined to comment further.

For ARN's full exposé, including Acer's plans for an industry-wide forum to source more local content in major government contracts, see this week's issue, out now.