The Kenyan government is conducting due diligence on various manufacturers after denying last week that it has awarded a contract for the country's controversial US$200 million school laptop project to any of the bidding companies.

The controversy surrounding the alleged awarding of the tender to India's Olive Telecommunications has cast a shadow on the country's rollout of the laptop project in schools across the country.

Kenya's Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi has denied that any company has been awarded the deal to supply the laptops. Contrary to the reported awarding of the contract to Olive Telecommunications, Kaimenyi said "the Kenyan government has only send a due diligence team to China to conduct an assessment of companies that have applied to supply the laptops for the Kenyan government's education program."

"The Kenyan government decided to send the due diligence team to China because most of the big companies manufacture from China," Kaimenyi said.

Kaimenyi said according to the Kenyan law, the Kenyan government is required to award the contract to the lowest bidder but he said they have not done so because they want to ensure that the deal is awarded to a company that will implement the project efficiently.

Bidding companies Hewlett-Packard and Haier Electrical Appliances of China accused Olive of not meeting the basic requirements, as stipulated by national regulations.

The controversy emerged after allegations were raised that Olive is not a device manufacturer, but uses Chinese subcontractors to manufacture Olive-branded electronic devices, contrary to the project's OEM (original equipment manufacturer) requirements.

Kenyan rules state that only OEMs may participate in the laptop bidding, a rule that effectively blocks Olive from participating if it cannot prove it is an OEM.

The bidding process also drew criticism and suspicion from Haier after the Ministry of Education officials made public the HP and Haier bids -- complete with pricing and value-added offer -- but kept secret a bid by Olive.

Olive is said to have been assigned top position, as it allegedly pitched the lowest bid of 22 billion Kenyan shillings (US$261 million) compared to the 23 billion shilling bid by HP and 24 billion shilling bid by Haier.

According to Kenyan law, this means Olive should automatically be awarded the tender since it is the lowest bidder.

Despite the controversy and the delay in starting the manufacture of the laptops, Kaimenyi said the project will be rolled out before the end of the first quarter. The Kenyan government plans to roll out 1.3 million laptop computers to schools across the country to promote e-learning.

The Kenyan government cancelled the first bidding process after rejecting a 32 billion-shilling price quoted by suppliers.

In Zimbabwe, a controversy about how bidding for the supply of communications equipment was awarded to Huawei has ended up in court after a local company accused officials from the procurement authority of corruption in the manner in which they awarded the tender.