Arusha. A call has been made for the government to adopt sustainable Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) across its systems to enhance efficiency, transparency, accountability, and value for money.
The call came on October 24, 2023, during a discussion organised by three organisations – Institute for Public Accountability, commonly known as Wajibu, Restless Development, and Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) – at the ongoing CSO Week in Arusha.
During the discussion, experts pointed out several issues with the government’s adoption of ICTs in service delivery, including the systems’ failure to meet user requirements, leading to their early abandonment, interoperability problems across systems, and insufficient oversight from the country’s ICTs’ authorities.
Experts’ observations on the applicability of ICT systems in government come at a time when the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), in his 2021/22 report, shows that between 2018 and 2021, Tanzania lost about Sh2.87 billion because several ICT systems were abandoned or replaced by other systems.
CAG noted that the acquired systems were no longer serving the purposes in a manner that enhanced efficient public service delivery.
During the discussion on October 24, a program manager with Wajibu, Mr Moses Kimaro, described this CAG’s observation as just “a glimpse” of the problem.
“We see several systems that have been abandoned, such as [Tanzanian National e-Procurement System] TANePS, which has been replaced by [National e-Procurement System of Tanzania] NeST,” Mr Kimaro observed.
He also pointed out that the accounting system known as EPICORE was replaced by the Government Payment System (MUSE), questioning the necessity of the changes made.
TANePS, introduced in 2016 and fully adopted in 2018, was developed by a Greek company, European Dynamics, and cost the country US$1.7 million, not to mention maintenance costs that Tanzania had to incur as the developer fully owned the system.
In his 2019/2020 report, CAG highlighted several issues with the system, including the failure of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to receive intellectual property rights and ownership of source codes.
CAG also revealed that PPRA did not even have access to the TANePS server and database, putting the usage at risk of unauthorised access.
In his report, CAG also revealed that the Tanzania Port Authority (TPA) incurred losses of about Sh5.6 billion for contracting unqualified contractors who failed to deliver the required ICT systems.
Experts also questioned the quality of the developed systems as they pointed the lack of proper control in developed systems, which sometimes allows for unauthorised access.
For example, the 2020/2021 CAG report shows that staff at the Ilala municipal in Dar es Salaam embezzled about Sh10 billion by manipulating the revenue collection system, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
Lack of clear vision
In his analysis, Mr Kimaro associated these shortfalls with the lack of clear vision and strategy on the part of government authorities when developing the systems.
“What is written in the requirement document is not what is seen in the development of the systems,” he observed.
Contributing to the discussion, Mr Jackson Muro, Executive Director of the community-based organisation CEDESOTA, pointed out the need to build the capacity of decision-makers who use or authorise the adoption of various systems in their offices to solve the identified challenges.
“There is a capacity gap on the part of our decision-makers,” Mr Muro noted. “It is important for the relevant ministries to find ways through which they can fill these gaps.”
It was recommended durig the discussion that authorities should strive towards ensuring integration and allowing interoperability of government systems to improve their functionalities, a task that the e-Government Authority has been credited to do through its Muungano Network project, which looks to integrate systems.
Participants also suggested that the government should go beyond raising awareness to include ensuring accountability by publishing detailed information and analysis behind its key decisions and also ensuring more data is availed in machine-readable format.
The E-government Authority was also advised to conduct regular backstopping and assessment of government organisations by ensuring that it employs and retains adequate talents.