NGOs criticise state IT projects

TWO non-governmental organisations turned to Prime Minister Robert Fico, asking him to adopt systemic measures regarding state IT solutions.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

Ethics watchdog Fair-Play Alliance (AFP) and Slovensko.digital platform ask the ministries of interior, transport and education to stop and re-assess four big IT projects worth altogether €300 million that are currently underway. The projects may be overpriced and they may result in purchasing disadvantageous solutions, the SITA newswire reported.

The ministries again chose the path of procuring big IT projects which are carried out quickly, lack corresponding public studies and bind the state for many years, according to AFP.

“Making decisions on such huge amounts seems to be irresponsible and flippant,” AFP head Zuzana Wienk said, as quoted by SITA. “There is a risk that we build skyscrapers en masse, though we could build only five-storey buildings or a neighbourhood of small houses.”

Though we are starting a new programming period, it seems we have not learned from mistakes from informatisation projects carried out during the previous period, said Ján Hargaš of Slovensko.digital. He pointed to the missing documents that should accompany the projects.

“It seems to us that the IT purchases by ministries are uncoordinated and that the informatisation does not have a master,” Hargaš said, as quoted by SITA.

Slovensko.digital plans to prepare studies of the projects that would determine whether we need big centralised solutions or if several smaller solutions would be better.

“It is necessary to publish the studies and enable discussion which would show whether the objections of experts are relevant,” Ľubor Illek of Slovensko.digital said, as quoted by SITA.

The projects in question concern the system of construction at the Transport Ministry costing €44 million excluding VAT. According to NGOs, there already is an alternative solution to effectively deal with the construction agenda which the state already bought and financed via EU funds. Another project procured by the Transport Ministry is called Atlas of Passive Infrastructure and should cost €48 million excluding VAT. The Czech Republic has a similar project, whose price amounts to one tenth of the sum planned by Slovakia, NGOs said.

They also pointed to Edunet project procured by the Education Ministry to install internet connections for all schools. There is, however, only one company with nation-wide internet coverage in Slovakia, according to NGOs. Moreover, also small companies would be able to secure better and cheaper internet connections.

The last project concerns the system and operation of automatised fines procured by the Interior Ministry, which should cost €140 million excluding VAT. It should last 16 or 21 years. The project, however, lacks any study which would confirm its advantageousness and secure financing from EU funds, as reported by SITA.

Both NGOs thus sent a letter to Fico, asking him to adopt systemic solutions to prevent the projects from being overpriced and the potentially useless investments. They also call on the government to appoint one institution which would be responsible for state IT projects. Moreover, they ask for not allowing the procurement without quality studies which would compare alternative solutions and would be a subject of public discussion, SITA wrote.

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