PUTRAJAYA: There was no breach of agreement as the contract with YTL Communications Sdn Bhd (YTLC) for Phase 2 of the 1BestariNet virtual learning in schools ended on June 30, said Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Mohd Gazali Abas.
"The ministry did not end the contract. YTLC was awarded the contract for 1BestariNet Phase 1 from Dec 13, 2011 until June 30, 2016.
"There were seven extensions of contract before Phase 2 started from July 1, 2016 until June 30 this year. "Therefore, allegations that the Education Ministry had breached the contract obligation and has been unfair to YTLC, as well as claims that Education Ministry has terminated the contract is unfair and false.
“It is not that we are saying YTLC is not good but we want to find the best. To do that, we are using this interim to try other service providers,” he told reporters during a press conference yesterday to address YTLC’s allegations that the Ministry had acted unfairly.
During this six months interim period, the Education Ministry wanted to source for the best internet service provider "so that our students get the best technology, the best services, the best internet connectivity at the best cost.”
Mohd Gazali said YTLC is still welcome to bid for the open tender for the three-year contract for the next phase. He added that the ministry took into consideration the experience over the past eight years working with YTLC when deciding on who will be the internet service providers (ISPs) during the interim period, which began on July 1 and will end on Dec 31.
“We know their strengths and weaknesses,” he said, adding that the Ministry had paid YTLC around RM3.8bil for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of 1BestariNet. He agreed that YTLC did deliver on some of the improvements they promised between Phase 1 and Phase 2. “But we need more improvements moving forward,” he continued.
Mohd Gazali said YTLC was given the contract for Phase 2 through direct negotiation because they were still the best service provider at that point of time.
He added the ministry is using the interim to gauge the services provided by the three ISPs -- Telekom Malaysia, Celcom Axiata and Maxis.
Mohd Gazali said that the major telco companies were invited to a briefing in April on the ministry’s requirements for this interim period and that YTLC was also called.
He added YTLC had been using the communication towers they built in schools, known as 1BestariNet Receiver Integrated System (1BRIS), for commercial use for YES 4G.
There are about 1,000 1BRIS towers located on school grounds throughout Malaysia.
"This would not be an issue if they were contributing to the school’s electricity bill, which shot up to at least RM200 after installing the towers," he added.
He also said that YTLC was only being charged RM10 per month as site rental for 1BRIS when the average market rate for such a site is RM2,000 per month.
He acknowledged that this was the agreement in the Phase 1 contract, but that the ministry wanted to charge more since the towers are clearly not being used just for the schools.
The government stands to earn around RM32.5mil (throughout the six-month interim) in commercial structure rent if they charge the actual rate but, he continued, YTLC did not want to pay this price.
On YTLC’s offer to provide free internet and Frog Virtual Learning Environment (Frog VLE) during the six months, Mohd Gazali said they were only going to give 4MBPs internet speed, which is inadequate for schools.
“They were also asking for us to give them free site rental and electricity (for the communication towers),” he said.
He stressed the ministry was not ignoring YTLC’s offer but that their contract with the ministry had ended.
The ministry, he added, was responding to feedback from schools, teachers and parents that 1BestariNet and Frog VLE was problematic and troublesome.
At the same press conference, National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Aminuddin Awang said the union fully supported the ministry’s decision to allow other telcos to provide internet access to schools for the next six months as a form of “trial phase”.
“The union has received plenty of complaints (about 1BestariNet) from teachers about the very weak internet connectivity in schools," he said.