The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and National Guidance and the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) Uganda, a government agency are feuding over Shs771.5 billion funding from World Bank, Eagle Online has learnt.
On June 02, 2021, the World Bank approved $200 million (Shs771.5 billion) financing to expand access to high-speed and affordable internet, improve efficiency of digitally enabled public service delivery, and strengthen digital inclusion in Uganda.
The new Uganda Digital Acceleration Project-GovNet (UDAP-GovNet) is aimed at supporting the extension of 1,000km of the national backbone fiber infrastructure, an additional 500km of fiber optic network links between towns, mobile broadband connections for 900 government administrative units and service centers in underserved areas, and 828 Wi-Fi hotspots in select locations to support access to online services among rural and peri-urban, underserved and unserved communities.
With $140 million (Shs540 billion) in financing from the International Development Association (IDA) and a $60 million (Shs231 billion) grant, the project would support the implementation of the governments’ flagship initiative, GovNet, which contributes to the objectives of Digital Uganda Vision and the Digital Transformation Program under the National Development Plan III.
According to a source that declined to be named, since the approving of the funding, NITA Uganda and the Ministry of ICT officials have been feuding over the said funding and hence delaying the implementation of the project.
“Every Ministry in Uganda is supposed to have two representatives at the ministry of Finance. The Ministry of ICT officials have been fighting over that money. They want a share of that funding before approving it for NITA Uganda to implement the project but NITA declined,” the source said.
“That money was supposed to be approved last financial year and NITA forwarded its budget proposals however the ICT officials declined to approve it. One of the ICT officials wants USD 1million (Shs 3.8 billion) of that funding while the other (junior officer) wants Shs 100 million. That has delayed the implementation of the project,” the source said.
The source said the leadership of NITA Uganda declined to heed to the ICT officials plea claiming that there is no way they will account for that money because the World Bank is so strict when it comes to issues of accountability.
“This is not the first time that the ICT officials are frustrating NITA activities. This year cut the NITA budget proposal to Shs 60 Billion. They were punishing NITA officials for their failure to give them kickbacks after approving the previous budgets,” the source said, adding that, “That is the practice, when representatives of the ministry approve your budget; you have to bring a kick back. By all means, the government agency has to look for a way of accounting for that money (Kickback).”
The source said the ICT officials are now pushing for the merging of NITA Uganda with the mother ministry. To their dismay, NITA Uganda is not on the list of the 53 government agencies that are set to be merged.
The source said when the leadership of NITA Uganda established that ICT officials cut their budget proposal, they engaged Matia Kasaijja’s (Minister of Finance) son who also works at NITA to have their budget maintained or increased.
Matia’s son engaged his father who later scheduled a meeting with the leadership of NITA. They later met and had breakfast at Kasaijja’s home. The minister accepted their plea and the budget was approved.
Following Kasaijja’s intervention and subsequent approval of their budget, the ICT officials didn’t shy away from asking the bribe claiming that they made sure that the budget was approved.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NITA SPEAKS OUT
When contacted to explain the delayed implementation of the project, Dr. Hatwib Mugasa, the executive director NITA Uganda declined to comment about the matter and urged our reporter to write to him requesting for an interview. The executive Director has not replied to our request since 22nd August 2022.
Florence Mukankusi, the communications manager of NITA Uganda said the money has not been budgeted for use however declined to delve into details.
“My boss is currently out of the country for a work visit so I can’t access his office for details,” she told Eagle Online.
NITA-U is an autonomous statutory body established under the NITA-U Act 2009, to coordinate and regulate Information Technology services in Uganda. NITA-U is under the general supervision of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.
The Agency is mandated, among others, to create and manage the national databank, its inputs and outputs, to set, monitor and regulate standards for information technology planning, acquisition, implementation, delivery, support, organisation, sustenance, disposal, risk management, data protection, security and contingency planning.