Parliament has faulted the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) Uganda for failure to expand the National backbone Infrastructure to provide Internet to government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Officials from NITA-U were on Tuesday appearing before Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) who were looking at queries of income and expenditure arising from the Auditor General’s report.
The MPs say that although NITA-U extended the contract of Soliton Telmec of six billion shillings to provide internet services for the National Data Transmission Backbone (NBI) for 10 years, they have failed to expand the services and the contract was renewed without consulting the Ministry of ICT.
According to the Auditor General’s report for financial year ended June 2016, NITA-U signed a Memorandum of Understanding with 74 Ministries, Departments and Agencies for the provision of bandwidth services, but only 54 MDAs are benefiting.
The report also says although NITA-U anticipated to collect 6.6 billion shillings from the provision of internet services, only 4.9 billion wascollected.
According to Anita Among, the Vice Chairperson of COSASE, NITA-U failed to extend the services upcountry and some crucial Government offices which made several MDAs incur internet costs.
Some of the affected institutions were; Auditor General, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Judiciary, Uganda Revenue Authority and Uganda Human Rights Commission. According to Among this made Government to incur more costs.
In their explanation, NITA-U said that in the financial year 2015/2016, 2.2 billion shillings was budgeted for the extension of data transmission on the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) to the MDA sites but considering the limited resources, this couldn’t be achieved.
James Saaka, the Executive Director NITA-U says that the matter results from the non-realisation of Non-tax revenues. He also says some Government agencies are failing to pay for the internet services despite being supplied.
Anita Among tasked NITA-U to avail the list of the Agencies so that the matter can be followed up and money recovered.
In July 2012, Cabinet approved a strategy of Realisation and Harmonisation of ICT services across the country. The Strategy required Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Local Government to use the National Data Transmission Backbone as primary vehicle for data transmission and advocated for the bulk procurement of internet bandwidth among others.
Saaka defended the extension of contract explaining that the contractor wasn’t able to reap his profits to run the services on behalf of the Authority in time.
The authority was also querried for providing telecommunications services without a licence contrary to Section 22 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013.The Act provides that a person shall not establish a telecommunications station, provide telecommunications services or construct, maintain or operate telecommunications apparatus without a license issued by the Commission.
Francis Atoke, the Solicitor General who was also present at the meeting, failed to explain why he approved the extension of the contract in total disregard of the concerns raised on failure by the contractor to extend services.