The failure of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to pay for internet data usage and services has crippled operations of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA).
NITA was established by Act 771 in 2008 to implement Ghana’s Information Technology (IT) policies and lead the e-Ghana project for improved efficiency in government institutions.
However, the agency, according to Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, was unable to provide services as mandated, due to non-payments by MDAs which currently amounted to GH¢13 million.
Speaking at the opening of a one-day IT Industry Forum in Accra yesterday, she stated that NITA was ‘financially crippled’ and was no more in a position to continue providing the services it was mandated to do.
“Almost all the MDAs including district assemblies, the security agencies, Accountant’s General Department as well as many others are indebted to NITA.
It is a worrying situation for NITA and threatens it mandate to provide IT solutions to the public sector,” she said.
“At this point, NITA cannot shoulder the burden any longer. We need the agencies to help us just as we help them to improve efficiency in the delivery of their services,” she explained.
In order to deal with the challenge, the minister noted that the ministry was in discussions with the Ministry of Finance to make upfront payments for the MDAs for their use of internet data and IT related services.
Additionally, the ministry has communicated to all the MDAs to make budgetary allocations for data usage and IT services, just as it was done with other utilities, to avoid irregular payments, she said.
As part of government’s digitisation agenda, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful, said the ministry was in the process of establishing a government IT infrastructure network to connect all MDAs, post offices, health facilities, schools, police stations and other public buildings.
Rural connectivity project, which would connect all rural areas, make internet accessible in every part of the country and spur digital inclusion, was also in the offing, she explained.
So far, 69 districts in four regions including Greater Accra and Volta, she said, have been identified for the first phase of the project with funding already secured, adding that the Ministry of Communications was engaging the Ministry of Finance and World Bank to extend the network nationwide.
Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, in a statement read on his behalf, stated that digitisation was one of the six pillars of the public sector and systems reform strategy which has been outdoored for implementation.
A budget of GH¢3 million, he said, has been allocated to NITA to help in the implementation of the digitisation arm of the strategy and reiterated government’s commitment to promoting digitisation to improve efficiency, accountability and transparency in the public sector.
Dr Abdulai Mohammed-Sani, Board Chairman of NITA, said lack of sustainable funding and the existence of legacy debts due to external partners and internal customers was challenging to the agency’s operations.
Operationally, he stated that lack of infrastructure, human and technology resources as well as skills and training were impediments to the agency’s mandate to provide IT services.
?BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS