MONROVIA – Despite initial hiccups characterizing Liberia’s 2022 National Population and Housing Census, it picked up quite phenomenally and ended on a good footing. The final report is due to be released next week and the man who stood in the gap towards the successful conduct of the exercise is assuring Liberians and international partners that the 2022 Census is one of the best ever done anywhere consistent with global standards. The Analyst reports.
Amid insinuations in some quarters that the outcome of the 2022 National Population and Housing Census was in limbo, the Acting Director General of the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services(LISGIS), Mr. Lawrence George has said that contrary to such reports, the outcome of the exercise will be published next week having gone through all the various stages required for the information to be released and described it as “being acclaimed as one of the best and this digital nature was never breached. It met all attributes of the 2020 rounds of censuses across the globe, data was captured live, transmitted real time”.
Speaking exclusively to The Analyst yesterday, the hardworking LISGIS chief who took a swipe at those who were peddling with the information which was meant to undermine and discredit the entire process, said for every stage the report of the census was submitted, it received overwhelming approval and praises were showered on every individuals and institutions that participated in the process.
“I can safely say to you that the enumeration exercise was conducted and concluded before the January 15 deadline set by the national legislature and the provisional result was slated to have been released before the President’s SONA but it is required that the results are presented firstly to the steering committee of the census which is made up of the partners and donors. That was done, they are satisfied with the products and the go ahead was given to meet the next level.
“That next level will be the Board of Directors of LISGIS. This Monday, the Board of Directors granted the approval. Next level is the Census commission and efforts are made today to have the President and the census commission review the report before its publication next week.
“So whoever came here and insinuated that the process was marred by irregularities, I don’t know their basis of their assessment to know the irregularities and the assertion was wrong because the evidence is there to prove otherwise since the gadgets on the field have to be synchronized and transmitted to the central database after which the provisional results were collated. So we have a provisional result which is available. Partners have seen it and given approval to it”, Mr. George stated.
He said the provisional results should have been published on February 14, 2023 but because the Vice President, who was out of the country and wanted to be present, asked to hold back the result until she returned. “So the postponement was at the request of the VP who has been working with the LISGIS.
Mr. George who addressed virtually all the key issues surrounding the census exercise discounted stories making the rounds that LISGIS was still indebted to most of the ad hoc staff recruited during the process and stated that the payment of staff, who included the enumerators and supervisors were largely completed but could not say LISGIS was not completely obligated to people outside because project of such magnitude will not be possible to exhaust all claims on a single day.
“What I am saying here is the payment schedule has taken into consideration all the individuals who we should pay with the exception of individuals who have issues with mobile money numbers, and those have been corrected and those corrections are yielding the payments of individuals.
We will have individuals who will claim because we had a process that hired over 17,000 persons and the systematic payment to them have been made by the UN System not LISGIS. All the individuals who should have been paid by LISGIS through the government arrangement have all been paid.
Mr. George berated some ad hoc staff who were deliberately to undermine and frustrate the process by taking the first installment of their payment and decided not to do the job for which they signed contractual agreement with LISGIS.
“Some of the individuals after receiving the first 25% payment, which was the advanced payment and receiving the tablets, decided not to go on the field. So it was obvious they took 25% payment and there was a balance of 75% payment they were to receive after doing the work but they refused to do the work”, he said.
He said the obvious act of sabotage which would have impeded a significant part of the process could not happen because of the complete electronic nature of the exercise. He said from being a system which was viewed daily, where capture of data was transmitted to the dashboard, it was easier to locate the areas where the enumerators did not visit.
“By the close of the enumeration phase, it was discovered that in Montserrado alone, there were 491 out of 9,000 plus enumerators who did not go to their enumeration areas to work. So management decided to use a process called mop up where technicians were now sent into those areas to ensure that the enumeration was done.
When that was completed, you had data transmitted and it was at that point that people started speculating that something was going on wrong but nothing went wrong’, he said.
Asked what was his impression of the exercise, the Acting LISGIS boss who said he was excited that the process was over gave a pass mark on the project, grading it with a very high mark.
“The exercise was very, very fruitful. Fruitful, in the sense that we had 97% coverage and we have today, the results and we are going to announce them next week. The process has to be exhausted and we are not going to be pushed into doing the wrong thing”, he said.
Responding to a question what was vital about the census and what is next after the announcement of outcome, he said what was vital has to do with the fact that despite all the initial setbacks, it ended successfully and there are other post – census exercise that will be done which will further add credence to the results
“What is vital about the census is despite its rough starting, the hiccups that attended at the commencement of the census, the execution was done in line with international standard and this is verifiable and for the fact, there is a post enumeration survey and it is internationally acceptable. It is an international best practice that if you conduct a census, you go back, this time to hire technocrats outside of your institution who come to look at the coverage. So the post enumeration is slated for the next couple of weeks.
“While that is taking place, there is also thematic analysis of various themes of the census leading to the provision of the final results”, he said.
In conclusion, Mr. George cautioned media institutions in the country to desist from all speculating journalism and seek the facts in the national interest as LISGIS has nothing to hide as what has been completed has been completed as per the schedule. He said at the end of the day, it will be recorded that LISGIS produced the best census outcome in the country, being the first ever in the country’s history to conduct a digital census that meets international best practice.
The 2022 census was the fifth ever conducted, having done so in 1962, 1974, 1984 and 2008.