THE EFFECT OF E-GOVERNANCE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY IN INLAND REVENUE SERVICE
1.1 Background of the Study
Technological advances have changed the way people go about their daily activities. Whether we are checking our e-mails or texting or sending messages with our phones, mobile communication is growing, and our ability to navigate the World Wide Web is improving dramatically. We use the internet to shop on-line, do banking transactions, book for our flight tickets and make payment on-line, check the weather, do research on any subject and connect with network. You may wonder what this has to do with public administration. As Internet usage grows, and the use of technology in general grows, so too does the use of technology and Internet by government (Onuigbo, 2015).
The integration and adoption of electronic government (e-government) to provide services by government is rapidly gaining ground across the world. E-government if properly used has the potential to empower people to overcome development obstacles, address social problems, and strengthen democratic institutions. However, for a country like Nigeria to gain from the benefits of e-government, technology must be implemented and used effectively (Achimugu, Chukwurah & Ochala, 2013).
E-governance, which is a paradigm shift over the traditional approaches in Public Administration, means rendering of government services and information to the public using electronic means. This new paradigm has brought about a revolution in the quality of service delivered to the citizens. It has ushered in transparency in the governing process; saving of time due to provision of services through single window; simplification of procedures; better office and record management; reduction in corruption; and improved attitude, behaviour and job handling capacity of the dealing personnel in the developed countries (Monga, 2008).
In Nigeria, very little or nothing has been heard about government readiness to adopt e-government and therefore join the global trend of rendering effective and cost efficient services to the people on the on-line web platform. In this vein, Ifinedo (2008) revealed that Nigeria is just beginning to understand the importance of such a concept in governance. Hence, Nigeria has a very poor e-government ranking. Nigeria according to him has an e-government index ranking of 0.243 as against the world average of 0.414, meaning it is yet to be positioned to harness the limitless opportunities available in e-government to reinvent governance that is accountable and transparent in its public revenue management (Achimugu, Chukwurah & Ochala, 2013).
Owing hugely to widespread public demands for transparency in governance and the global outcry against corruption, accountability is now of serious concern in many countries including Nigeria. One of the critical issues dominating public sector management in Nigeria, as Addison (cited in Ejere, 2012) rightly observed, is lack of accountability and transparency.
Lack of accountability in the public sector creates opportunities for corruption with its attendant negative consequences. For instance, through corruption the commonwealth of Nigerians is being diverted by a few, leaving the nation at a loss. Due to the poor culture of accountability, corruption has become a way of life in Nigeria; to the extent that it is trite to say that officials are not only corrupt, but corruption is official (Ejere, 2012). The scandalous revelations of large scale corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government officials have made public policy analysts and scholars such as Nkwe (2012), Kaaya (2011) to call on the government to think out of the box by adopting e-governance as a way of addressing the lack of accountability in the Nigerian public sector.
Whether in fact the use of e-governance correlates with public accountability and transparency in Lagos State and Nigeria positively or negatively in practice, is an empirical question that remains open. Hence, the undertaking of this study will therefore explore the effect of e-governance on public accountability with a special reference to Lagos State Inland Revenue Service (LSIRS).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Despite the popularity, potency, and precision of e-governance, it is yet to be judiciously adopted and explored in the Nigerian public sector. A visit to the government departments in Nigeria is a nightmare; it is characterized by a lot of paper work, long queues, bureaucracy, cramped spaces and a lot of frustrations. With the growing demands of citizens and changing global rules and regulations, the Nigerian government as a matter of necessity must explore a transparent and accountable medium to deliver its statutory mandate to its citizens at the right time and quality.
The link between e-governance implementations and public accountability is generating some interesting debates. Many scholars have argued that e-government is still a new phenomenon. That it is still very much unclear and complex how it can promotes public accountability (Cuillier and Piotrowski, 2009; Petrakaki et al., 2009). On the other side of the swing, analysts and political watchers counter-argued that e-government has spin-off effects, and that the more ICTs are used for government businesses, the greater the impact on revenues, transparency and accountability (Nkwe, 2012; Kaaya, 2011; Bellamy and Taylor, 1998; Ebrahim et al., 2003). Consequently, there is a need to develop frameworks and guidelines to provide in-depth understanding for this phenomenon and to assist the Nigerian civil service on whether to or not adopt e-government in its bid to achieve greater accountability.
The current structure of the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service across boards lack the capacity for revenue base data collection and analysis; lack register of revenue customers and information system; poor collection and analysis of performance data, lack performance evaluation against targets; poor method (being cash-based only) of generation; poor internal control and financial reporting; lack a documented action plan for improving its collections; poor internal organizational arrangement for revenue generation; lack of transparent accounting among others (Eze, Omole, Onyinka & Okonji, 2004).
Many of the studies on the impact of e-governance on public sector management were done outside Nigeria. These studies particularly focus on corruption as a dependent variable. Research on e-governance and public accountability are very few. In Nigeria, most of the available studies about e-governance such as Achimugu, Chukwurah & Ochala (2013), Agwu (2014), and Onuigbo (2015) largely investigated factors hindering the adoption of e-governance. These researches were also theoretical studies whose findings were subjectively based on researchers’ personal opinions. It is noted that the past studies did not give adequate attention to the relationship between e-governance and public accountability, as well as relating it to the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service; hence, this study was undertaken to fill the identified gap above by investigating the relationship between e-governance and public accountability with a special reference to the Lagos State Inland Revenue Service (LSIRS).
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine the connection between e-governance and public accountability. Other specific aims are;
a) To investigate the relationship between e-governance and public accountability.
b) To find out the effect of electronic payment system on transparency in taxes and levies collection in Lagos State Inland Revenue Service
c) To explore the effect of e-consultation on improve states’ internally generated revenues in Nigeria.
d) To examine the correlation between e-information and corruption in the Lagos State public sector.