MPs oppose NITA-U merger with ICT ministry

MPs oppose NITA-U merger with ICT ministry
MPs say NITA-U is doing a good job independently.

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Lawmakers have opposed a government proposal to dissolve the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) and transfer its functions to the Ministry of Information, Communication, Technology, and National Guidance.

The National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (Amendment) Bill, 2024, was part of a series of bills aimed at implementing the government’s policy to streamline government agencies and reduce public expenditure, a decision made by the Cabinet in February 2021.

The government’s rationale for merging agencies was to enhance efficiency, eliminate service duplication, and curb unnecessary government spending.

The House Committee on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), responsible for reviewing the Bill, recommended retaining the Authority’s mainstreaming, arguing that there was no overlap in mandates between the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance and NITA-U.

The committee highlighted NITA-U’s financial contributions through the issuance of licenses, permits, and the commercialization of the national backbone infrastructure, citing approximately Shs 200 billion collected over the past decade and a projected Shs150 billion over the next five years.

Deputy Chairperson of the ICT Committee, Tonny Ayoo, asserted the committee’s support for agency rationalization but emphasized the Minister’s failure to demonstrate the financial burden imposed by NITA-U on the consolidated fund.

“The Ministry was tasked with policy or strategic leadership and supervision of the entire Ministry while NITA-U was mandated to regulate and coordinate and regulate ICT services in Uganda in the context of social and economic development,” said Ayoo.

Ayoo justified keeping NITA-U as a semi-autonomous government arm, emphasizing its role as the sole IT business implementing arm of the government and the consolidation of government Information Technology efforts.

“The committee recommends that NITA-U is retained as a semi-autonomous arm of government and the Bill for dissolution of NITA-U be rejected by the whole House,” Ayoo said.

In supporting the Committee’s stance, Jane Pacuto (NRM, Pakwach district) provided a breakdown of revenues contributed by NITA-U, including Shs18 billion in 2019/2020, Shs 21.1 billion in 2020/2021, Shs 25.5 billion in 2021/2022, and Shs 45.5 billion in 2022/2023. She further projected NITA-U to collect Shs 53 billion in 2023/2024 and Shs 75 billion in 2025/2026.

She added, “NITA-U is projected to collect Shs 53 billion in 2023/2024, and Shs 75 billion in 2025/2026.”

Also Read: ICT minister directs NITA-U to reduce internet costs

Bugweri County MP, Hon. Abdu Katuntu, criticized the government for not conducting a study on the rationalization process. Ministers of State for ICT and National Guidance, Godfrey Baluku, and Public Service, Wilson Muruli Mukasa, failed to convince members that mainstreaming NITA-U under their ministries was justified.

Minister Muruli Mukasa requested additional time to gather evidence supporting the mainstreaming of the agencies, seeking the Speaker’s indulgence for the delay.

“We have agreed with the Minister of ICT that we go back and gather all this information and come back. I beg the indulgence of the Speaker,” said Muruli Mukasa.