The Presidency and 12 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government will spend the sum of N11 billion on computer software this year.
This is according to the provisions made in the 2023 budget, recently passed by the National Assembly and signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While other agencies are planning to acquire software this year with millions budgeted for it, the 12 MDAs and the Presidency constitute the top spenders on software this year.
Top spenders: The provisions which came under the ‘acquisition of non-tangible asset’ line item showed that the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, will spend the largest amount on software in 2023 as it budgeted N9 billion for the asset. This was followed by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, which is to spend N920 million on software acquisition this year.
According to the signed budget, the State House under the Presidency is to acquire computer software with the sum of N237.2 million, while the Office of the Vice President is to buy software worth N96.6 million
Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) is to spend N239 million on the item this year.
Further analysis of the budget document showed that the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) is to spend N200 million on software, while the Ministry of Works and Housing budgeted N174.9 million for the item.
The Ministry of Education plans to acquire software valued at N169 million. In the same vein, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) budgeted N159.6 million for the non-tangible asset.
The Ministry of Defence is allocated N150 million to spend on the acquisition of software this year as its Information and Culture counterpart budgeted N93.5 million. The Ministry of Transport is to spend N40 million on the asset, while the Communication and Digital Economy Ministry budgeted N18 million.
Concerns raised: The annual ritual of budgeting billions of naira for software upgrades continues amidst serious concerns by Nigeria’s ICT stakeholders that this aspect of the budget by MDAs constitutes a major channel of siphoning public funds.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) recently acknowledged the loopholes this kind of budgeting creates, and noted that its IT projects clearance system for MDAs is helping to block some of the loopholes whilst saving the government billions of naira yearly.
The Agency also noted that billions of naira are being pushed by MDAs through Information IT projects because they are too technical to be scrutinised by the National Assembly during the budget defence.
Still a conduit pipe: Although Nigeria’s ICT regulator said it is now monitoring MDAs’ IT projects to ensure they are not being used as avenues to siphon public funds, industry stakeholders believe there are still loopholes being exploited through software budget. 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.”
Preference for foreign software: 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 are 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.