By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance were alarmed, yesterday, over the disclosure by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, to procure unspecified computer equipment for N2 billion in 2023.
It was also the case the with the N1.5 billion earmarked for training, another N1.3 billion budgeted for furniture and fittings and another N5 billion set apart for a piece of data gathering technology.
Chairman of the commission, Sanusi Garba, who appeared with his team to defend the performance of his agency on the heels of the consideration of the Meduim Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, and Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP, from 2023 to 2025, gave out the figures on the inquiries of the lawmakers, who demanded the details of the proposed expenditure.
A member of the committee, Stanley, had raised concerns about the N3.5 billion proposed for computer equipment and training, saying a similar amount was spent in 2022. He, therefore, inquired to know if Nigerians were getting value for their money.
He said: “Looking at your projections for 2023, you have about N2 billion to spend on computer equipment. In 2022, what do you have for computer equipment? Also in 2021, what do you have because we are going to be lending money to fund this budget or if you are not going to spend this money, it could be a revenue for the government.
“What part of this can you suspend: N2 billion for computer equipment and about one point something billion for training. What is the value money in spending this N3 billion in 2023? If you did something like that in 2022, why 2023 again?”
In his response, the chairman, Garba, said the computer were necessary for data aggregation from the feeders, adding that spending N5 billion on IT was even grossly inadequate.
“In utility regulation, information is key. We do not want to be relying on information that is coming from our licensee. So, we are investing heavily in technology, so that we have credible information about quality of service.
‘’Without technology, you wouldn’t know that our feeders in so, so places are out, let’s say for 48 hours, people are in darkness. Over the next years, we will be investing heavily in technology for data aggregation.
“In 2021, the budget for computers, not just hardware but software, was N1.5 billion and we are spending N2.5 billion in 2023 and N1 billion in 2025 and we will be done with this.
“For example, 33kv feeders, 11kv feeders all over the country, we would want to be in a position to see what is happening in all the feeders directly from the commission, not relying on the DISCOs telling you we supplied this and that in so, so location.
‘’So, N5 billion in technology today is really nothing. If you say, we don’t spend the money, it becomes a surplus.
“Going deep into the technology side may not be appropriate, given the limited time. We are investing heavily in servers for data aggregation from all the feeders in the country. And then, the software itself, we are talking to funds like Oracle and so on for the enterprise resources we are putting on in the commission itself.
‘’We are putting ERP. We are going to have a meter management system where we see what is happening all over the country.
“Spending N5 billion on IT is absolutely nothing. Let me give you an example, a case of a DISCO recently spending over N2 billion on simply customer management system. Now, we do not manage feeders but what we are interested is harvesting data from what is happening out there. N5 billion is nothing. That’s why I offered to bring the feasibility studies for you.”
On projections from 2023 to 2025, the commission said N22.4billion was proposed for 2013, among others.
Also tasked on the proposed N1.3 billion for furniture, a commissioner in the team of the commission’s chairman said it was to enable them complete the partitioning of the offices.
He said.: When we moved into the building in 2018, there was no partitioning, no finishing. So, we had to start furnishing the building and doing partitioning and we have Julius Berger doing that.
“It’s something we are doing and we are likely going to finish by 2023. So, that’s why it looks as if it’s very huge actually.
“And we also have forum offices across the country, which we are furnishing right now. That’s the reason the amount is a little bit high.”