In mid February 2010, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) representatives attended a workshop in Mombasa, Kenya. The Workshop was about Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), which MoFED had planned months earlier.
IFMIS, which is expected to raise efficiency, effectiveness and transparency in financial sector has “successfully” finished its pilot phase, after two years. The pilot project, which consumed USD 19 million, had been running under close supervision of MoFED. Since last September, the project has been moving to implement the system in selected ministries, federal agencies and regional bureaus.
IFMIS enables public institutions to use a single system with extensive facilities from one physical source. It will have a common database where information on payrolls, human resources, revenues, and customs will be stored and retrieved. This will enable MoFED to improve the quality of the nation’s financial decision making by generating timely financial information. That is why MoFED is now working to expand its
application of IFMIS to more public offices. A total of 700 end users will be trained in series of trainings from September to November, 2012. The end users will implement the system in their respective offices after October, Tagel Mola, Manager of the Project said.
Item classification and coding (with NATO & UN standards) is one of the major changes that IFMIS will bring, according to a brochure published by MoFED.
“IFMIS upgrades the whole financial system in the public institutions,” said Kibatu Seifu, 27, one of the key users who looked busy providing trainings to purchasing experts. “It makes everything easy and effective to operate and monitor”, he added.
The supply, installation and technical support task of IFMIS has been contracted to Oracle; a US based multinational computer corporation, and its partner Transnational Computer Technology (TCT). The former delivers its latest version of Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) while the later works on implementing the system. The quality of the project implementation is monitored by The International Monetary Fund’s East Africa Regional Technical Assistance Center (AFRITAC-East), which is a multi-donor institution based in Dar es Salaam , Tanzania. AFRITAC provides technical assistance in economic and financial management to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda through a core team of international experts.
“We have been receiving good project monitoring services by consultants from AFRITAC– East. They already established a good quality assurance system,” IFMIS Project Manager at MoFED said.
Despite all these ambitions and positives, IFMIS seems shrouded in huge scepticism. The challenges reflected by participants at the regional workshop on IFMIS in February 2010 seem inevitable in Ethiopia. In that workshop, which was organized by AFRITAC-East and World Bank, different African countries which had been implementing IFMIS listed a range of problems they were experiencing. The lowly developed telecom infrastructure in the region was raised as a major challenge. This same regional problem is a challenge in Ethiopia, rather, in its worse version. This poses a critical challenge to the success of the project.
“We are working on it with Ethio Telecom,” Tagel told Ethiopian Business Review, hoping things would improve.
Uninterrupted power supply is also another infrastructure that IFMIS needs for successful implementation. This is particularly important because IFMIS requires centralizing financial system of institutions. This functions effectively under uninterrupted power supply and reliable internet connectivity. Once these infrastructures are guaranteed, which in Ethiopia seems less likely, stakeholders might see the benefits of the system. With all the challenges that surround it, IFMIS is here with the potential to revolutionize the management of public finance.