- but Statistics SL slams report
January 16, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
An independent research institute has disclosed in its recent report that if swift action was not taken, the ongoing National Population and Housing Census will create serious problems, as “there are a lot of credibility challenges including seeming political interference”.
The report, titled “The credibility of the 2015 Census in Sierra Leone, will all heads be counted?”, was launched yesterday by the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) after what it said was serious examination into the processes leading to the 2015 Population and Housing Census, which they said could germinate the seeds of renewal for Sierra Leone.
The report speaks to the fact that since independence, Sierra Leone’s regional voting pattern and ethnic mobilization of voters by the two leading political parties (APC and SLPP) means that any reduction in population size of one region or district could translate into reduction of seats and electoral outcome for one of the two parties, noting: “It was vividly observed that some officials of Statistic Sierra Leone are fully conscious of the political dynamics of the country but have allowed strong partisan interest in the census process that favoured the ruling All People’s Congress (APC).”
Executive Director of IGR, Andrew Lavalie, said by allowing one political party to take an edge in the process will undermine the credibility of the census. He said one of the most crucial issues in the population census was reflected in the political mobilization of the District Census Officers who were responsible for the implementation of the census activities in the district.
“According to their job description, the District Officer should ensure that the census process is transparent and that enumeration is complete in his or her designated district. A person occupying that position must therefore be non-partisan or should not have special interest in performing the curtailed role of data collection and management of the census,” said Lavalie.
“Background checks on the staff revealed that Statistics Sierra Leone has given absolute control to officials of the ruling party to manage the data collection and census management process. District stakeholders interviewed identified 9 out of the 14 district officials as active ruling party politicians who can potentially introduce party political bias in the process. For example, in Pujehun district, Sheku S. Tarawally was the APC parliamentary candidate for Constituency 87 in the 2012 election.”
Lavalie continued: “Raymond Saidu, who heads the Bo district process, is also APC candidate for Constituency 73 in the 2012 election. Mohamed S. Kamara, the District Officer in the Port Loko district contested for APC parliamentary symbol for Constituency 49 in the 2012 election; Sana Samura in Koinadugu district is the former APC district party chairman.”
Lavalie also stated that their investigation further revealed there was a big professional gap in the management of the institution, and that ineffective mapping and pilot census was another greatest challenge in the process.
“As a matter of urgency, the entire management of Statistics Sierra Leone and the Census Management Team should restructure in line with earlier recommendations by Dr. Pepper, and the former Statistician Council,” he urged and concluded: “The cartographic map updating process should be revisited to ensure that every household is accounted for appropriately. The appointment of the district census officers should be reviewed to make way for appointments of a credible cadre of qualified, non-partisan and technically competent personnel from across the country.”
However, reacting to the report, the Public Relations Officer at Statistics Sierra Leone, Samuel Serry Jr., said they were aware of the report and will respond to the allegations made therein, “especially when most of them are basely and unfounded”.
“We have the facts to present to the people of Sierra Leone. Statistics Sierra Leone, as an institution, has done its best to ensure that the census process is transparent and credible,” he said.
He added that he was upcountry on official assignment and that the institution will come out with a comprehensive position in response to the allegations made by IGR in its report.