Electronic governance project fails to deliver


Despite heavy spending, the much-trumpeted electronic governance project initiated in Musharraf’s regime has failed to achieve its objectives.

The special audit report on Electronic Government Directorate (EGD), a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, revealed that the project had failed to meet its high expectations. Furthermore, the report pointed out severe financial irregularities in the EGD.
The report said the EGD prepared 46 PSDP projects costing Rs 2.5 billion.

Rs 1.14 billion had been incurred up till June 2008 but achievement of the project’s intended targets such as less-paper environment in all offices of the government, centralised database of all government records, networking between each department of the government and movement of files within and outside the organisation through e-services were not visible.

“Several projects were initiated, which either could not be completed or the infrastructure deployed was under-utilised. Consequently, government offices have not leveraged information and communication technology effectively,” the report said.
The report further said that under the federal government data centre and intranet project, Rs 223 million out of the Rs 493 million had so far been spent but construction of FGDC was yet to start.

“Huge expenditure has been incurred on laying fibre optic cables and procurement of hardware, which was not being utilised effectively,” added the report.

It further revealed that under the e-services to chief commissioner’s office project costing Rs 80.4 million, Rs 63 million was incurred till June 30, 2008. However, the report figured out that only two out of the thirty three envisaged modules had so far been developed.

The Electronic Government Directorate (EGD) was established in October 2002 to improve information access and services to citizens by usage of information technology tools and hence transparency in government-citizens interaction.
Audit officials also indicated that EGD split up different projects to avoid approval of higher forums. “39 out of the 46 projects costing Rs 1.22 billion were designed in a way that they remained within the competency of Departmental Development Working Party (DDWP) to avoid approval of the next higher authority i.e. CDWP/ECNEC, requirements of which were more rigorous.

The management divided projects of identical nature in two phases without realising situations where only one project should have been formulated. This weakened the project implementation and also deprived the government from benefits of economies of scale,” the report maintained.

The report further revealed that misused expenditure of Rs 2.91 million was due to a delay in the contract as EGD had earlier given the contract to the second-lowest bidder after the first ranked bidder declined to supply at the quoted price. The bid validity had expired due to prolonged delay in completing the bid evaluation process which caused a loss of Rs 2.91 million (the difference between the first and second lowest bidders).

Audit also figured out instances of leakages and control failures that made realistion of the project objectives’ difficult. “Further, stakeholders were not adequately involved in project implementation despite the fact that such involvement was critical to the awareness, ownership and sustainability of automation initiatives,” the report added.

On basis of the audit findings, officials have recommended that vendors be selected on the basis of cost of service, quality of product and experience of firm through open competitive bidding process, while contract agreement should be standardised.