Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10th December 2021:
As day one of Sierra Leone’s midterm census comes to an end – hailed by the government as a success, opposition political parties say the midterm census is an absolute waste of money and a misplaced priority by the government.
Today, the Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPPP) issued a statement, strongly condemning the government and accusing it of intransigence, despite warning from the World Bank of serious technical difficulties with the planning and delivery of the census.
This is what the COPPP press statement says:
“The Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPPP) notes with concern the decision of the Government to proceed with the mid-term census in spite of the numerous issues surrounding the project.
“On 7th December 2021 the World Bank decided to stop giving technical assistance or funding support to the mid-term census. Their reason for doing so is very clear:
“…several critical action points require further technical work to be satisfactorily addressed including evaluation of the pilot census, the field operation plan for the enumeration, and ensuring enumerators are adequately trained. All these outstanding actions are necessary and must be addressed prior to commencing data collection to minimize the risk of inadequate and poor data quality. There is insufficient time between now and December 10, 2021 to satisfactorily address all pending actions.”
“From the very start, COPPP has been warning against the Government’s apparent haste to conduct this mid-term census at all costs. The World Bank has made it clear that very critical actions of a technical nature which should have preceded the start of the census were not taken and this has increased the risk of inadequate and poor quality data. The World Bank is in fact saying that it is pointless wasting money on a poorly prepared project which is bound to produce worthless data that may even turn out to be unusable.
“If, in spite of all these warnings from experts, our Government is bent on going ahead at top speed with its census, it confirms our suspicion that their interest is not really about obtaining quality data. The mad rush by Government to conclude this census reveals why this census is so important to them: in our view, the mid-term census is a tool to be used for gerrymandering before the next elections.
“This country has never been so divided over a census. There have been violent confrontations and protests in Parliament, protests in local councils, protests by political parties, all clearly indicating that the climate is not conducive for the conduct of a census. Yet, the Government is bent on going ahead to count. There have been arrests and invitations by the police of senior political leaders for expressing their opinions about this “census on steroids”. But nothing, not even the probability of failure, can make this Government stop and think.
“COPPP would like to inform the public that Government’s insistence on continuing with this census against all odds may end up being one of the most wasteful enterprises in recent times. As is suggested by the World Bank, the huge amounts of money being spent on a census that experts have already projected to be a failure due to technical inadequacies could have been used for other urgent necessities, such as hospital equipment and consumables.
“Our position therefore remains unchanged about this mid-term census:
“There are too many unresolved technical problems about the mid-term census and Government’s insistence on conducting it without addressing these issues will most certainly lead to poor data quality and a failed census.
“All indicators are showing that the main object of the census is to find numbers that would necessitate boundary delimitation before the next election
“Considering the level of controversy that the census project has caused and the divisions it has created in society, the situation is not appropriate for the conduct of a census that requires maximum cooperation from all citizens.
“Although the President has the authority by law to call for a census at any time he so wishes the citizens also have the right to express their opinions about his decision. Even laws can be challenged; otherwise there will be no repeals.
“The recent attempts to intimidate political leaders by arresting or inviting them for questioning and the use of threats by Government Ministers are unacceptable and will not be of any effect if the people are resolute not to participate. Coercion will not work because in a democracy the powers of Authority do not cancel the freedoms of the Citizen.
“We therefore call on the Sierra Leone Police to stop the harassment of political leaders and their supporters.
“We warn that in the event of a total failure of the project all those involved in making decisions for the conduct of the census ignoring all the technical and expert advice received against it, will in future be held to account for the extreme wastage of public funds that they would have caused.
“We reiterate that this mid-term census is not good for our country at this time.”