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As Political Witch-Hunt Continues Statistics Sierra Leone Wrongly Targeted

As Political Witch-Hunt Continues Statistics Sierra Leone Wrongly Targeted

29th April 2018

The Inspector General

Sierra Leone Police Force

Police Head Quarters

George Street

Freetown.

Dear Sir,

Subject: Reaction to allegations of Systemic Financial Mismanagement at Statistics Sierra Leone.

We the genuinely concerned staff of Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) have followed with keen attention, the events that have been unfolding since the publication of a letter addressed to you by some so-called concerned staff of SSL. We have noted that the matter is under investigation. But what is at stake is grave for some of us staff who have spent many years in the business of collecting, analysing, reporting and disseminating official statistical data to sit by and keep quiet whilst the hard won reputation of the institution and its staff are being damaged. To blame the more than ten years problem of SSL on the less than one year reign of the Transitional Management Team (TMT) is unfair to group that has worked so hard to restore peace, stability and by extension, progress in providing credible and timely official statistics to assist evidence-based decision making, development planning and monitoring of our development frameworks which include.

Statistics Sierra Leone and the entire staff should be accorded respect and praise for its role in the provision of demographic, socio-economic and spatial data for policy development and implementation. Over the years, SSL has produced data on health and social indictors (2008 and 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey), Labour market and employment indicators (2014 and 2016 Labour Force Survey), demographic, social and social indicators ( 2004 and 2015 Population and Housing Census (2015), poverty profile (2003/2004, 2011 and 2018 Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey), Monthly Consumer Price indices (Inflation figures), estimation of the Country’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP) and Gross National Product(GNP). These indicators formed the basis for monitoring progress in the welfare of the people and the impact which government’s intervention programmes have on the lives of people.  The institution also produced digitised maps which are used by researchers in conducting sampled household surveys. SSL has provided support to other institutions in data management and dissemination. For example, during the Ebola epidemics, the institution was called upon to provide technical assistance support to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the compilation of disease surveillance data. This effort guided the tracking of people that contracted the disease, those in treatment centres and those that have recovered from the disease. Also, the institution was called upon to provide data on the population in the flood and mudslide affected arrears in Freetown. The institution supported the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on delimiting boundaries for wards and constituencies and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development on the redistricting exercise which resulted in a new region, two more districts, 190 Chiefdoms.

The institution has collaborated effectively with several institutions both MDA and multinational organisations in accomplishing the above mentioned outputs and have received raves of review for good work especially the recently concluded 2015 Population and Housing Census. The institution is at an advanced stage of commencing the next Demographic and Health Survey which in multi-donor funded and implemented.

The assumption that the institution has been systematically looted means the above data collection exercises and its activities have not been carried out in full in the past. This we find difficult to accept. There is no way one can produce credible data without spending on the activities that lead to the output/report. Those familiar with data collection activities will attest that the implementation of statistical activities, especially those that are multilaterally supported are guided by a steering committee and technical committee which provide policy and technical direction towards the conduct of such activities. In addition, there is a technical adviser who serves as an independent arbiter to oversee the overall implementation process. Any statistical activity that is carried out has sub activities which include , household listing exercise, a pilot testing, recruiting and training of data collectors, field data collection, data entry, analysis of data, report writing, and dissemination of the reports. In accomplishing the activities catalogued above, the institution hires staff, print questionnaires for paper assisted personal interviews (PAPI) or buys tablets for computer assisted personal interviews (CAPI), depending on the method of data collection; buys fuel for field work, maintenances vehicles, sometimes hires vehicles, pay for publicity activities, provide food and transportation for training of staff, pay data entry staff, pay report writers and for dissemination exercise. One will agree with us that all of these and many more requires money and their conduct can be visibly verified. We all know inflation figures are out on a monthly basis, we all know 2015 PHC was done albeit with issues, we all know DHS 2013 was done, the 2016 Labour Force Survey; we all know MICS6 has just been completed. The list will go on. Quite apart from this long list, other office operations which include the provision of stationery, lighting, communication, staff medical, maintenance of assets,  supplies and services.

Information tells us that the $5,000,000.00 (Five million dollars) mentioned in the allegations was the total budget for the entire 2015 Population and Housing Census which activities started in 2013 right through to 2017 when the thematic reports were produced and published with support from UNFPA and other partners. The Census exercise involves the cartographic mapping exercise (May 2013 to June 2014), the pilot Census( April 2014), the recruitment and training of field staff ( March 2014 for district staff ), the data collection( July 2015), the data editing and processing( 2016), the report writing ( 2016 summary of final results), dissemination of final results ( May 2017) the thematic report writing ( April 2017) and the dissemination of  thematic reports  which was slated for January 2017.

The question on many well-meaning staff’s leap is, was the Census not done and reports produced and audited? We are made to understand that certain activities were paid for directly by donor institutions. These activities include, the payment for the technical assistant, which included the Chief Technical Adviser, the data processing expert, the communication experts, purchase of over 100 computers and servers, workshops, furniture for data processing, printing of the census reports and other IEC materials.

Forty vehicles were purchased by the government, through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation for the data collection activities the 2015 PHC. Twenty-nine of these vehicles were initially received by SSL. Fifteen of them were transferred to the Ministry of Finance. The balance 11 should be with the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.

SSL budgeted Le8bn for the conduct of their activities in 2017. These activities include several data collection activities and the day-to-day administration of the institution. To date, information tells us that the institution received only half of FY2017 funds amounting to Le4.3bn in tranches between July and December 2017. The remaining half amounting to Le4.3bn was not received. Both technical and financial reports on the use of the funds received have been produced and the financial reports audited by the internal auditor. With the government’s austerity programme coming into effect in 2016, funds inflow as with many other MDAs has been low, slow and a difficult process. This has been the trend to date.

Out of the five hundred million Leones received for the reanalysis of 2015 PHC data to incorporate the two newly created districts, about two-thirds of this amount is being used to finance the operations of the office currently hence the current S.G is able to pay electricity bills, paint office, repair his office, buy water etc. We are made to understand that the SG has quickly learnt that with the current status, without a transformer, EDSA cannot provide the required wattage to operate the institution’s equipment. He has therefore authorized for the purchase of fuel to run the generator as before in a bid to continue the work of the office.

The S.G was recruited effective January 2018, by the past government and commenced work on the 3rd April 2018, which was the eve of the coming of the new government. He has been updated in full on the status of data collection activities, operations and finances. Our information indicated that the SG is not only briefed on the finances on a daily basis, but already a signatory to the accounts maintained by SSL. The current S.G has engaged in several meetings with UNFPA, World Bank, African Development Bank, SLRTA, Ministry of Information etc. He has also received the Internal Audit Report for the period of the TMT. To say he is not aware of what is happening is just not true. But alas, those who are at the top think they can only stay at the top in the new dispensation of H.E Brig.(Rtd) Julius Maada Bio by rubbing mud on those they perceive to be potential replacement. Oh God help Salone!

In our view and opinion, this is one of those old fashioned witch-hunts that occurs in institutions were people are always ready to destroy other people to gain their way. It is true that for long there has been these anonymous letters published against the institution and its staff without cross-checking the facts or at least hearing the other side of the story for fairness.

You may recall that another letter was written to your office alleging that 2015 PHC funds have been misappropriated and that the offices were about to be set ablaze by the directors. Subsequently police presence was requested for the institution, which was approved and provided until recently. In another instance it was alleged that 2013 DHS funds amounting to Le800 million was stolen, the reports produced and rejected by partner organisations. Another lie geared towards destroying the hard won respect of the institution and senior officials.

Sir, how could the operations of the office be carried out, how could the entire census be conducted and reports produced if funds meant for these activities were looted as alleged by ill motivated individuals? More so, we understand SSL follows all institutional processes including filing financial and technical reports, and auditing of the reports as required by law. These reports are discussed in council meeting and the requisite governance and oversight functions of the institution are carried out.

Thank you for your contribution to Mama Salone.

Statistics Sierra Leone

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