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Govt agencies owe NITA Ghc13m for Internet services

BY: Caroline Boateng
Minister Of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful
Minister Of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful

Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) owe the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) GH¢13 million for Internet services provided.

This is because those agencies have assumed that they do not have to pay for data provided by another government agency, in this case NITA, when they use it.

The Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, made this known yesterday at an information technology (IT) industry forum organised by the ministry and NITA in Accra.

The maiden edition of the forum is to start consultations with partners in the sector on the full implementation of the Electronic Transaction Act, 2008 (Act 772) as the government progresses steadily to digitise operations across all sectors.

The forum was on the theme: “The new NITA”. It brought together public and private industry players in the IT space.

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Hindrance

"You all assume that you are not required to pay for Internet services provided by NITA and complain very loudly when the services go off.

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"The current outstanding debt owed by MDAs to NITA amounts to GH¢13 million," Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said.

She added that the state of affairs was hampering NITA in its functions of deploying and managing government IT infrastructure.

The Communications minister said MDAs ought to make provision for the payment of data services in their budgets, just as they made provision in their budgets for the payment of utilities.

"Guess what...data is as much a utility as water and electricity," she added and encouraged all to pay up on their debts to enable NITA to provide better services.

Regulations

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the forum paved the way for consultations in the sector as laid out in the act.

Subsequent meetings would have to be organised by industry players, with the ministry and NITA merely as observers.

Since the passage of the National Information Technology Act 2008 (Act 771) and the ETA 2008, no guidelines had been drafted to operationalise them for full implementation and Mrs Owusu-Ekuful pointed out that NITA was set to fully assume its functions.

In line with that, the operational arm of NITA would be separated from its regulatory arm by the end of the year, the minister said.

Enforcement

Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said her ministry was working with the Ministry of Finance, the Auditor General’s Department and Public Procurement Agency (PPA) to ensure that the regulations were enforced.

“We intend to reduce the duplication and waste that have characterised procurement of ICT services in government ministries, departments and agencies, primarily because nobody exercised oversight responsibility over the sector,” she said.

Additionally, she said, no government institution would be permitted to procure a data centre until the space in the National Data Centre was used up.

“There is plenty of space there to house any servers you need and it can secure your data better than you currently do,” Mrs Owusu-Ekuful added.

She said the measures were important because of the pressing imperative to secure the data and information resource of MDAs as the government sought to digitise and link up its business better.

Bold steps

The Board Chairman of NITA, Dr Abdulai Mohammed-Sani, in his statement commended the government for its bold steps in the sector.

The acting Director General of NITA, Dr David Gyewu, in his remarks said NITA took data from outside suppliers who had to be paid and, therefore, the debt owed by MDAs was a drain on their operations.

Other challenges mentioned were the agencies’ inability to retain skilled staff because of low remuneration.

Mr Gyewu said on their part, NITA was ensuring the building of the capacity of its staff and was also engaged in discussions with partners to secure licensed software for government business.