The Nigerian government will spend N19 billion on computer software in 2022, according to the budget proposal for the year submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly.
The amount is spread across nearly 200 offices, and is bound to be a lot higher as it does not cover computer and software expenditure by the armed forces and dozens of government offices whose budgets are not submitted as part of the whole to the National Assembly.
Some offices not listed in the government’s general annual budget document include the Central Bank of Nigeria, Customs Service, NNPC and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). Punch reported on Monday that the tax office, FIRS, plans to spend a whopping N2.04 billion all by itself on computers alone, and another N1.3 billion on “office stationery and computer consumables.”
Rising software spending
The huge figures help raise the budget’s total deficit to over N6 trillion. At a time of low government revenue, they reflect how the country is made to bear the burden of increased spending on items that are ordinarily vital for government operations, but whose costs are made higher, in part, due to fragmented purchases by agencies that have little or no consideration for cost-reduction or value.
As countries continue to respond and recover from public health uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spending on IT products by governments around the world is expected to rise next year to $557.3 billion, an increase of 6.5 per cent from 2021, according to Gartner Inc., a Stamford, Connecticut-based technology research and consulting company.
Gartner said in an August forecast that the disruptions caused by the pandemic have also reinforced a key digital government tenet, which is that “public policy and technology are inseparable.”
Many governments have over the years put in place processes that take advantage of bulk and discounted procurement of software to save cost. In 2016, the United State government issued a new policy that tightened the reins on wasteful software purchasing by its agencies.
The policy made it mandatory for agencies to appoint officials to centrally manage their software buying. Agencies were also required to continually update inventory of software licenses to track usage and remove redundant applications. The policy aimed to “save taxpayers’ money and deliver more value for the American people.”
There is no indication the Nigerian government has made efforts to streamline its spending in a similar manner. The lack of coherence sometimes leads to apparently inflated rates for computer services and packages.
In 2020, PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Kogi State government claimed it spent N150 million on a software to track coronavirus cases. The company contracted by the government confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the package sold for only N300,000. Amid public backlash, the government later claimed the actual amount it spent was N890,000, without explaining the whereabouts of the huge balance.
Also, in 2015, Works and Housing Minister Fashola Babatunde said a IT firm developed his personal website for N78 million, but the firm initially denied being paid the amount. It subsequently clarified that less than N10 million was paid by the Lagos state government for the website.
Nigerian government’s top 10 software spenders in 2022
|Nigeria Immigration Service||4702149860|
|Federal Ministry Of Works And Housing||1155460014|
|Nigeria Airspace Management Agency||1033091529|
|National Emergency Management Agency||734211867|
|Federal Ministry Of Finance, Budget And National Planning – Hqtrs||684500000|
|Office Of The Head Of The Civil Service Of The Federation – Hqtrs||580000000|
|National Identity Management Commission||557307022|
|National Social Investment Office||545000000|
|State House Headquaters||470795521|
|Federal Ministry Of Health – qtrs||439436140|
It is not clear the nature of computer packages the Nigerian government seeks to acquire and why they cost that much. But the budget proposal shows that 196 government ministries, departments and agencies have lined up to buy assorted software packages next year, according to details of the budget collated by PREMIUM TIMES.
Some of the biggest spenders will be the Immigration Service, which alone allocates N4.7 billion for software — 24 per cent of the government’s total amount. A spokesperson for the service, Amos Okpu, did not provide details of the planned expenditure when contacted weekend.
That office is followed by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing with N1.1 billion, the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency which proposes N1 billion and the National Emergency Management Agency, which will be spending N734 million.
Other top software spenders are the Federal Ministry Of Finance, Budget and National Planning with N N684 million, the office of Head of Civil service with N580 million, National Identity Management Commission with N557 million, and the National Social Investment Office which plans to spend N545 million.
The State House will spend N470 million of “computer software” — the ninth highest amount.
If the new amount is approved by the National Assembly, then the State House would have spent N723.5 million on software in the last five years.
The president’s office spent N54.8 million on software in 2021, N24.2 million in 2020, N45.7 million in 2019 and N120 million in 2018.
Meanwhile, internet services at the presidential villa will cost N67 million next year, the same amount the government spent on internet in 2021, 2019 and 2018. In 2020, N45.9 million was allocated for that purpose.
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