E Gorvernment a Veritable Tool for the Stepping Down Corruption in Nigeria
An average Nigerian citizen is scarcely aware of the activities of the government he is part of. The main focus of this paper is on the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in public administration businesses of Nigerian government. This paper aims at bridging the information gap that exists between the government and the public, which is capable of reducing corruption. In the course of this study, causes of corruption were identified as well as the benefits and challenges of E-government application. Key words: E-government, Information and Communication Technologies, Corruption, Internet.
A few years ago, the popular slogan within the ICT society has been “the world is becoming a global village”. Going by the remarkable landmark recorded in the ICT world today, one can rightly say that the world is already a global village. Most nations of the world today use the internet as their major source of information generation, collation, and dissemination.
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The benefits accruing from the application of this technology is enormous and Nigeria cannot afford to be an exception. ICT has continued to make waves since the advent of computers in the 1950s.
The increasing application of computers and other information technology (IT) related products in almost all facets of human life, has also contributed to the high growth of the ICT sector. ICTs involve the capture, processing of data and the dissemination of the resultant information using computers and its allied equipment and accessories to the masses. It is worthy to note that despite this rapid growth in the ICT industry, some developing countries including Nigeria are yet to achieve an appreciable level of computerization in their dealings.
Opara (2007) stated “Nigeria has started but is still groping for the formula that will enable her achieve the optimum in IT”. The information society we live in, relies so much on computers and indeed the internet to enable us gather and disseminate information more quickly and easily too. The knowledge and ideas embedded in information Technology environment are the engines that drive the economy (Enyi, 2007). UNDP (2004) defined corruption as the misuse of public power, office or authority for private benefit through bribery, extortion, influence, peddling, nepotism, fraud, speed money or embezzlement.
There is no gainsaying the effects of corruption on Nigeria and Nigerians. E-government on its part refers to “government’s use of ICT to work more effectively, share information and deliver better services to the public (Sub- hash and Christine, 2003). This mode of governance is highly beneficial as it makes administration easier and restores public confidence on the government. Various regimes of Nigerian government have identified corruption as the bane of Nigeria’s economic growth and development, and have initiated policies and programs to curb it (Okeke, 1996).
These efforts have usually failed because information and communication technologies have not been given their proper place in the fight against corruption. That makes this paper imperative as it highlights the linkage between ICT and Governance. Causes of Corruption in Nigeria There are many factors that have been identified as the major causes of corruption in Nigeria. For the purpose of this paper, however, emphasis would be laid on those factors that can be linked to poor attitude towards ICT application. In this context, the causes of corruption in Nigeria include; Poor Electronic Accounting System
This is the poor use of computer to perform accounting tasks. Most government agencies do not adopt this technology in their accounting processes. Where this is done, it is not linked to the internet (global network of computer networks). This almost makes it impossible for the public to hold the government officials accountable, which in turn encourages corruption. Poor Electoral System Election is the process by which leaders emerge. In the political history of Nigeria, many elections have been conducted and each of them heralded by so many complaints of irregularities.
According to Agena (2007), Nigeria’s electoral process over the years has never had the people’s confidence, little wonder there have been numerous complaints by politicians at each election. Osaghea (1994) posited that “for there to be sustainability in the democratic process, the state and its operators should be credible in the eyes of the people”. Inefficient and corrupt electoral process breeds corrupt leaders. Oath of Secrecy Information experts has identified oath of secrecy as a major setback in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
This works by restricting the public from accessing certain information tagged “classified”. Subhash and Christine (2003) have it that “Until a few years ago, most countries still had strict national secrecy laws. These have been repealed in favor of the freedom of information laws in U. S and much of Europe…secrecy laws are still in effect in many of the developing countries”. Most of the corrupt practices witnessed in Nigeria were perpetrated under the cover of oath of secrecy. Slow Dispensation of Justice The Nigerian legal system is characterized by very sluggish and corrupt legal processes.
Both citizens and non citizens most times prefer suffering injustice to seeking redress in the courts. A situation where litigation lingers for years does not favor the anti-corruption crusade. Lack of National Database Lack of functional national database that could contain information about the government, its departments, agencies and businesses has been identified as a factor that encourages corruption in Nigeria. It is in Nigeria that a person will commit a crime and get ousted in government services, only for that person to go to another level or agency of the same government and get recognition, appointment or business.
Such encourages corruption. Inadequate ICT Training for Citizens Most citizens of Nigeria do not have sound IT knowledge. For such people, if they come in contact with fraud on the internet they may not be able to recognize it or may not know what next to do. Effects of Corruption in Nigeria The following are some of the effects of corruption in Nigeria. * Liquidation of state owned enterprises * Discouragement of foreign investors * High level of poverty * Lack of confidence in government by the people * Creation of bad image for Nigeria which the citizens suffer abroad. High cases of brain drain Benefits of E-government * E-government could enhance quick and accurate dispensation of government operations. * The nature of E-government makes it important that there is strong leadership and political commitment among different government ministries and agencies * It can lead to transparency provided the legal framework supports free access to information * E-government can be used as an entry point to ensure interaction among government departments. Implementation of e-government
We will highlight the process of implementing e-government vis-a-viz the identified causes of corruption in Nigeria as stated above. In order to make government officials accountable, the federal government of Nigeria has prepared the platform with the establishment of Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crime Commission(EFCC), the Code of Conduct Bureau, and the recent Fiscal Responsibilities Commission(FRC). These commissions were created to supervise and control government spending.
Creating the commissions alone is not enough to stop the corrupt practices perpetrated by officials of government in Nigeria; rather functional websites for these commissions should be developed and hosted. On these websites, all government transactions should be posted for public consumption, with little or no restrictions. This will enable any person anywhere in the world to have access to information about the execution of budget, public contracts, payment orders, financial and employment data of all staff and retirees of government.
Also to be posted to the website are the regulations and guidelines that govern the provision of services, inventory of government assets, and liabilities and all information necessary for the control of socio-economic expenditures. For valid elections to take place in Nigeria, electronic voting system becomes imperative. Electronic voting system according to Iwu (2005) “is one of the general forms of automated methods, which employs computer technology devices to improve several aspects of the electoral process”. The electoral process includes registration of voters through announcement of results.
Nigeria would have had near perfect election in 2007 if Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had allowed results to be returned electronically through the commission’s website which ought to have been made available and accessible to the public before the election. The automation of the legal process in Nigeria will help in no small measures to remove the obstacles that impede the legal process. Real-time report systems, where a stenograph machine is coupled to a computer system and the reports of Court proceedings generated with aid of a software (CASE CATAYST), could be a great asset to the judicial arm of the government.
The beauty of this automated system is that it saves Court’s time where Judges write volumes. The software has the capacity of recording voices, such that it becomes impossible for one to deny facts during a trial in Courts. Since the reports can be relayed to any connected computer and to the internet, it will reduce corruption among the judicial officers. Designing a database for the government which can be viewed through the internet, will be of help. Database is a large amount of information held in a structured way so that it is easy to find what one wants as quickly as possible (Hall and Smith, 1991).
This database can hold information about government officials, contractors, and business partners and linked to the internet so that at any point in time, information about any of these people can be accessed. Provision can be made for the update of information in the database. Whenever an official commits a crime, it will be recorded against him in the database table, likewise, when he makes a remarkable achievement in office. This will make the government officials to sit up and shun corruption. E-government cannot function properly without the citizens being e-compliant.
Introducing ICT skills at all levels of education and organizing ICT training for all workers in Nigeria, can go a long way in making the citizens have sound knowledge of ICT which is the backbone of e-government. Challenges of e-government The application of e-government in the anti-corruption crusade does not go without challenges. Under listed are the possible challenges; * The cost of acquiring ICT and training of officials by government establishment is enormous.
Overlapping functions and lack of cooperation among government departments in the area of exchanging information, use of common data, hardware or software. Selection of appropriate software and hardware can also pose a problem due to emergence of new technologies. * Due to large audience to the website, security of information may be at risk.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been used as a strategic tool for modernizing structures, processes and the overall functions of public administration. Many governments all over the world are posting crucial information on the internet thereby interacting electronically with their citizens. Nigeria government and people cannot afford to be left out in this electronic boom.
Based on the findings and discussions, the following recommendations are made; * The federal government of Nigeria must be prepared to take the bull by the horn. She should show total commitment to the e-government project by providing adequate financial, human and legal support for the success of the project. * The federal government should embrace e-government without reservation and also direct her ministries, parastatals, and agencies to develop and maintain functional websites which should be made accessible through the internet. The oath of secrecy law should be abrogated and replaced by the freedom of information law.