July 22, 2024
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The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) are planning to spend a combined sum of N8.7 billion on software alone this year.

This spending is captured in the government-owned enterprises (GOEs) budget for 2024 released by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. While most of the GOEs plan to acquire software this year, the NDIC and FIRS are spending the biggest amount on this item.

Specifically, NDIC leads all other agencies of the government in terms of money allocated for software this year. The Corporation is to spend N5.2 billion on this item, according to the budget plan.  FIRS is also planning to acquire software with the sum of N3.5 billion and it is the second-biggest spender among the GOEs.

Also top among the biggest spenders on software this year is the Nigeria Immigration Service, which plans to acquire the software with N874.5 million.  The Service, which is in charge of the production of the Nigerian International Passport, is planning to upgrade its automated platform for passport acquisition to enable Nigerians to complete the entire process online without visiting its offices for capturing.

Similarly, the National Pension Commission (NPC), as well as the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), have also budgeted N384 million and N255 million respectively for software acquisition this year.

Several stakeholders in the Nigerian ICT industry have expressed concerns over the annual practice of budgeting billions for software by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government without commensurate improvement in their services to the people.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) also confirmed this worry recently, noting that billions of naira are being pushed by MDAs through IT projects because they are too technical to be scrutinized by the National Assembly during the budget defense.

NITDA, however, said it is tackling this problem through its IT projects clearance system, which mandates all MDAs to present their IT projects for clearance before the fund is committed to it. Justifying the need for all MDAs to go through its clearance for their IT projects, NITDA said:

“The realization that over the years, the public funds that were spent on IT Projects were not commensurate with the value derived from such Projects and had also failed to evolve a digitally-enabled public service that will advance the citizens’ yearnings of the digital economy, hence the need to strategically reposition the deployment of IT Products and Services in Public Institutions.

“It is therefore imperative to ensure that maximum value is derived from such huge investment of public funds, especially at a time when the need for accountability, transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness is eminent.”

While the country’s ICT regulator said it is now monitoring all the IT projects of MDAs to ensure they are not being used as avenues to siphon public funds, industry stakeholders believe there are still loopholes being exploited through software budgets. A former President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr. James Emadoye, said:

“Nigerians are very deceiving people. Sometimes, when you read memos written to justify the acquisition of software, you may not even understand it if you don’t have the benefit of hindsight. A memo for the acquisition of software that many companies have in Nigeria will be written and described as special software for one engineering process to convince those who are monitoring them that they need to import it.”

An IT expert, Mr. Adewale Adoye said the country’s economy could have been benefitting from the annual budget for software by the government if half of the money were spent on local software.

“One major problem with the annual budget for software by the MDAs is that the money is not being pumped into the economy. Most of the agencies still prefer to import software even in cases where there are locally developed ones that could do the same thing. So, most of the funds that could have been used to encourage local developers and grow the country’s software industry are going into other countries as we continue to import software,” he said.

According to the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Nigeria loses N156 billion annually to software importation and the institute believes this is being fuelled by MDAs with their penchant for the acquisition of foreign software.

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