Early Warning Signs … Beware of Fake Census Data
Recent developments at Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) have given enough signs that things are not working well. Field staff for the census cartographic field work and even the Demographic Health Survey are being trained on the job by a senior staff of SSL, Sonia Jabbie, which is said to be very unusual and absurd.
This is basically because recruitment was done in favor of family members of SSL management team and those of the wives and girlfriends. It is alleged that those who paid 50% of their earnings to Mr. Statistician General and cronies were welcome.
The people in the region argued that those deployed in their districts are perfect strangers who neither spoke the local language of the people nor knew the terrain. These were enough reasons to suspect that the field staff may not do a thorough job and would report data that does not reflect the true picture of the districts.
Adverts were put out at regional levels but short lists and a final list do not reflect the adverts. It was reported that in June this year, payment to field staff for the DHS was done by UNFPA instead of SSL administration as is usual the case.
UNFPA, it is reliably learnt, has also indicated handling future payment to field staff and any other payment in respect of DHS activities.
SSL has implemented UNFPA projects for a very long time and the latter has often had trust and confidence in SSL handling their finances. Never before now has that institution lost confidence in SSL to the extent of actually doing payment of staff for a project implemented by SSL.
The action by UNFPA may not be unconnected with recent audit report relating to handling of UNFPA project funds where massive misappropriations of such funds were unveiled. Project funds are to be utilized for the purpose for which they are intended.
The situation at SSL is a clear indication of massive misuse of donor funds which may result in the donors taking over the disbursement of the project funds.
UNFPA has set the pace that donor funds are not meant for misappropriation and if the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) does not intervene at this early stage, the alleged misuse of both Government subventions and donor funds is bound to continue unabated.
The attention of the ACC is drawn to situations like this that require investigation and corrective measures if only to save SSL from collapse.
The attention of the Government is also drawn to the recommendations of the DfID Consultant, Dr. Pepper’s report on his recent assessment of SSL.
If those corrupt members of the SSL management team are not investigated and brought to book, SSL risks losing all donor support especially when plans to conduct the next census are underway.
Government and the ‘powers that be’ must realize that the interest of SSL and what the office stands for, supersedes all others, and that noble institution must not be sacrificed for a handful of rogues whose primary interest is to fill their pockets and sacrifice the ideals of the office.
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