If you have come this far as a Nigerian then you will know by now that we have a 2017 budget and in spite of worries, the President presented a 7.2 trillion Naira/$23b budget recently to a joint session of the National Assembly recently.
Well if you want a quick breakdown, see the breakdown from BudgIT below;
That said, how did 2016 go with respect to ICT spending? For starters the 2016 budget which could not get Nigerian out an inevitable recession was valued at 6.07 trillion Naira and if you must know the initial proposal was pegged at $38 per barrel of oil and again you should know that oil is Nigeria’s biggest source of foreign exchange and has managed to stay low for the better part of 2016. This also means that the government had to rely on other sources of revenue like taxes and development of other sectors to make up for the budget deficit.
But to effectively increase revenue from other sectors, they have had to invest to ICT related services to monitor the flow of revenue. Notable among them was the investment in software that allowed the Federal government operate a unified account knows as the Treasury Single Account (TSA). Before now, government agencies were allowed to operate different accounts in commercial banks of their choosing including the revenue they collect but under the new law, they are mandated to transfer funds to the TSA and as the President Buhari puts it, this is to fight corruption.
Well back to the ICT spending of individual agencies, we sent an email to BudgIT and they sent us back an email with a breakdown of what individual agencies spent on ICT in the fiscal year 2016. In some cases, budgets were as low as 200m Naira/$630,000. So here’s a link to a breakdown of the 2016 appropriation bill and of interest to us is the capital expenditure of ministries. So for example, the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was allocated a 25b Naira/$79.3m but their ICT spending in the same period stood at 660m Naira/$2m and lest I forget the 25b Naira does not account for grants the ministry receives from foreign donors.
For a government that has touted ICT as a way to combatting corruption, individual ICT spending of ministries and agencies is still too small. Let’s take the ministry of Defense as another example. They have had to fight Boko Haram insurgents both on the battle field and technologically and for that they got a 294b Naira/$933m for capital expenditure and out of that amount, 1.4b Naira/$4.4m was spent on ICT related services in the ministry and of course we don’t expect them to give you us a complete breakdown on specifics for national security reasons but 1.4b Naira out of 294b Naira is still in no doubt a pinch of salt even in the defense ocean. Now let me add that ICT spending includes telephone bills, software/hardware acquisition, ICT consultancy, IT based stationary and general IT maintenance among others.
Now the current administration is not the first to emphasise ICT spending and probably won’t be the last. From 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule, there has been a deregulation of the ICT sector to allow for more private sector participation and the difference since then has been clear. To say the least, Nigeria now has an over 100 percent tele density and is now talking about connecting 30 percent of the population to broadband services by 2018. But much of that like I said has been as a result of private sector funding and while the public sector agencies have made progress, it looks like this progress is still slow. Many of the government institutions have refused or have been slow to adopt electronic processes like archiving, document management systems among others. Many argue that they prefer the status quo because the civil service is still largely made up of non-tech savvy staff while others argue that it is because of corruption, it is much easier to destroy paper trails than electronic ones. While the president has personally invested in software to make federal financial reporting easier, other agencies have been slow to adopt technology to make life easier. There was a policy especially by the last administration mandating that all agencies transfer management of their websites and emails to Galaxy Backbone which is a company saddled with the responsibility of managing government ICT activities but statistics show that less than 30 percent of agencies have yet to comply with that directive and speaking of websites, user interface is still largely poor and as for accessibility, that’s something for another time.
I hate to be the barer of bad news but it doesn’t look like they are ready change that even in 2017. First of all, we don’t know if the oil income will be stable enough in 2017 and let’s assume that goes well, are minds ready to change with respect to ICT in government agencies? That remains a question I think we will all have to wait to see but I suspect we will be writing almost the same thing in 2017. Thanks to the team at BudgIT for all they do with respect to making us understand government budgets better.
See more on the ICT spending of Federal agencies below;