Socialize

FacebookYoutube

THE CHANGING FACE OF STATISTICS SIERRA LEONE

Immediately after independence, the new administrative machinery in Sierra Leone had, among her priorities, the establishment of a statistical institution to collect, collate and analyze reliable and up-to-date data for Government and development partners. It was also mandated to coordinate all statistical activities in the country. As a result, in 1963, the Central Statistics Office was established as a Professional Body to cater for qualified and trained staff in the areas of Mathematics, Economics, Demography, Statistics and Data Processing to carry out the task outlined above.SSL

The office had maintained its professional stance and conducted series of censuses in 1963, 1974 and 1985 following strictly the rules governing census procedures. Statistics Sierra Leone was born in 2002 and the 2002 Act that brought the changes was closely guided by the 1963 Statistics Act. To make the institution more professional, the restructuring process swept away dozens of staff members who could not match the new requirements. The 2004 Census and the first Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) were held under those strict professional conditions. Censuses and Surveys like the Demographic Health Survey are extremely expensive undertakings and often, Government would need the assistance of development partners to fund them. Secondly, the statistical institution billed to spearhead those activities  must be well structured and have the capacity in terms of qualified and trained personnel, equipments and an organizational structure that will sail the census  and surveys through to a successful conclusion. One could argue that the four censuses conducted so far were every well organized, professionally handled in all their various phases and hence produced results that were readily accepted. This could also be said of the first ever Demographic Health Survey conducted in this country in 2008. Under the leadership of a level headed professional and supported by experienced and qualified staff, the survey was acclaimed as very successful.

Unfortunately and fortunately, the country is now faced with two extremely important activities to be undertaken within the next two years: a Demographic Health Survey to be conducted this year (2013), for which  preparations are underway and a Population and Housing Census to be conducted next year (2014) for which preparation are also being made. Two serious questions need to be answered in relation to the above:

First, with its resent structure and personnel, has Statistics Sierra Leone the capacity to undertake such activities? Second, has Statistics Sierra Leone a level headed, professional and forward-looking Statistician General who would provide leadership and direct such important activities?

In an attempt to answer the above questions, one would categorically states that SSL hasn’t the capacity as of now to handle big tasks like the DHS and Census.  The institution lacks the category of staff that is needed.

At the moment, SSL will boast of no Demographers who are crucial in census operations and this commentator stands to challenge the Statistician General (SG) to prove the ascertain wrong or right. The exodus that followed his ascension to power due to his policies accounts for loss of experienced field staff that the office is suffering from. This commentator has never seen a census being conducted without Demographers.

That office can also boast of only one or two trained and qualified statisticians.

Those with the mighty titles of Statisticians, senior statisticians or the principal Statisticians are titles only and no professionalism behind them. Maybe Mr. Statistician General would want to throw light on this important issue.

 

In all of these, how professional is the Statistician General himself? He wrote a Masters Degree in Computer Mechanics and came back from China where he got the qualification with a set of tools, invariably to repair computers when they broke down. He may have repaired a number of computers at Statistics Sierra Leone, but believed that not to the knowledge of the editorial team of this medium. He was Director of Data Processing for over ten years, but never handled any data processing work whenever censuses or surveys were conducted. That was the only sector where a consultant was always needed when censuses or surveys were conducted because the Statistician General, then Director, was unable to handle the job.

Indeed the Geographic Information System (GIS) division has trained and qualified staff who can easily handle their own part of the census operation. That is, provided the Almighty Statistician General gives them a free hand to do their work. There are strong indications that The Director of GIS, a professional who worked on the maps for the 2004 Census and also worked relentlessly on the demarcation of Constituency boundaries for the 2007 and 2012 elections, has fallen out of favour with and has now been set aside.

The successes scored those years when the four censuses were conducted were mainly due to the fact that trained and qualified personnel were made available and census structures were in place way before actual census activities started. For each of those censuses, a well structured Census Secretariat was established with a Census Commissioner backed by strong administrative machinery. A National Census Committee was appointed comprising key state stakeholders and chaired by the Census Commissioner with responsibility to lobby donors and Government to facilitate funding for the census and to provide leadership in advertising the census. Another important committee that those censuses had from the inception of their activities is the Census Publicity Committee whose role was to talk about the census to facilitate the work of the field staff.

Now deployment of staff for both the census and DHS has started. Are those deployed the right staff with the required qualifications or are they nominees from Ministers, SSL Management? Of course the Statistician General has his three sons and their friends without the requisite qualifications fully engaged. SSL is believed to be a family affair of late.

 

In exercise of the powers conferred on him by the President or the Deputy Minister of Finance, Development and Economic Planning who pronounced his appointment, the Statistician General has often boasted at staff meetings that he has absolute authority and has the power to hire and fire at will. In pursuance of that he has eliminated all SSL Permanent Secretaries                          drivers and
District Statisticians from participating in both the census and DHS.  He justified this by saying that the two activities were projects won by Statistics Sierra Leone and any permanent staff of the institution wishing to participate in the DHS and the Census must first resign his/her position at Statistics Sierra Leone. By this, Mr. SG and his cronies succeeded in eliminating staff that are not only committed and accountable to the office, but have adequate field experience and are being replaced by inexperienced and unqualified persons either on commission basis or on the basis of patronage. In the end it is garbage that will be provided and millions of dollars wasted. However, to every rule, there is an exception because Mr. SG and his most  favoured cronies have occupied all the key position in the ‘projects’  without first resigning their position at SSL.

In all its trials and temptations over the years, this is by far the worst management team that the institution has ever had.  This is the first Statistician General that changed the face of SSL from a professional institution to one where appointment to positions is based on patronage and not merit. He has made himself such a monster that his staffs shiver when he shows up.

Another important question to ask is whether Mr. SG went through the right appointment procedure to occupy that all important position. The 2002 Statistics Act provides for the appointment of the Statistician General and states that such appointment will be made by the President of the
Republic of Sierra Leone and endorsed by the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments. Did the President appoint the present Statistician General and if so, did he face the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments? This is a matter that should be investigated because it is a high profile position and cannot be occupied through the back door.

What probably may be driving this man “insane” is the fact that for about two years he has run this institution single-handedly. Statistics Sierra Leone Council that supervised and regulated the activities of the Statistician General was dissolved by Government leaving the Statistician General as the sole controller of SSL funds. The Minister of Finance, Development and Economic Planning or his representative normally supervises the SG in the absence of a Council but the busy schedule of the Minister makes such supervision difficult. Lack of such effective supervision has given the Statistician General a field day and now spends Government money extravagantly.

To wreck the institution entirely, Mr. SG is busy amassing wealth. He is building two guesthouses simultaneously, one after Waterloo at Bolima, off the Masiaka highway and immediately after the Korea Secondary School, and the other in Port Loko along the Kambia Highway by the Bankasoka Bridge (Pictures of these Guest Houses will be published in succeeding edition) As if that is not enough, he ceremoniously opened two houses the same day, his own house and the one he built for his second/third wife believed to be the first lady at Statistics Sierra Leone. One does not need to talk about the giant generator he bought recently to generate power for his newly completed and fully air-conditioned house at Upper Melon Street Wellington. It is so big that all the drivers at Statistics Sierra Leone were not able to lift it, and had to be fork- lifted to his house.

In view of the above and to save the institution from permanent wreckage, the following recommendations should be taking into account.

  1. That Government should re-institute the Statistics Sierra Leone Council with a professional and experienced person as Chairman immediately;
  2. Investigate the mode of appointment of the SG to ensure transparency in the process.
  3. Review the appointment of field staff for the DHS and Census cartographic map updating respectively, to ensure compliance to qualification requirements, regional balance, knowledge of language and  terrain of deployed area, and the non use of students;
  4. Investigate the finance of the office during tenure of office of SG and Management.
  5. Implement in full the recommendations of the DfID Consultant fielded to assess situations at SSL.

One brilliant recommendation is that Government should establish a Census Secretariat to direct the census operations as it was done in the censuses of 1963, 1974, and 1985. This organ should have executive powers headed by a Census Commissioner, who should have total responsibility for the census and reports directly to the President. He should also Chair a National Census Committee with responsibility to lobby Government, Local Authorities and Development Partners and take the lead in publicizing the census. The Secretariat should be backed by strong administrative machinery.

Under normal circumstances, the statistical institution should provide the technical backup for the census but as has been right observed by the DFID Consultant, SSL lacks the qualified staff to provide the needed technical backup. The office cannot boast of any Demographers and Statisticians with adequate census experience to handle its technical aspects. There are Demographers and Statisticians who participated in one or two censuses in this country and who can be available to serve as Local Consultants to beef up the weak structure at SSL. This will attract development partners like UNFPA, DFID, the World Bank, UNICEF and others to jump into wagon again   and ensure that funds provided are properly utilized and not wasted.(Read next edition)

Posted by on 10:39 pm. Filed under Breaking News, NEWS, OTHER NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login