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Editorial: How corruption is denying Liberians of census

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Weah administration has no interest in conducting national population and housing census before the 2023 presidential and general elections. The reason is very simple. Funds provided by donors and friendly governments have been siphoned.

We have gathered reliably that due to endemic corruption, the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-information Services (LISGIS) has shifted staff around, forcing a foreign consultant to quit. Besides authorities, there are now finding their own consultant that would dance to their tone.

Nimba county District#8 Representative Larry P. Younquio, a professional demographer, who is responsible for population issues in the House of Representatives, has expressed lack of faith in the process, because of the way LISGIS is proceeding.

As we speak, the head of the Institute Francis Wreh is reportedly sick and has left the country to seek medication abroad.

But the reality is even prior to his ill health, the census, which should have been held since 2019, has been postponed thrice with audit reports and staff from within indicting senior officials of the entity for corruption.

The estimated cost for the census is US$20 million with the Government of Liberia expected to contribute $3 million, while UNFPA and other partners provide the larger portion of the census budget.

President George Weah in February 2020 wrote the Liberian Legislature and requested for the census to be deferred to 2021 due to financial constraints. The exercise was expected to have kicked off in March that same year but again, it did not.

Project coordinator and deputy director-general for statistics and data at LISGIS, Mr. G. Alex Williams had highlighted withdrawals of money from the census account by key officials, including director Wreh without explanations. He was left alone to cry his cry without getting attention.

With barely 14 months to elections, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the government’s plan to conduct census is heading to a mess, as the writings on the wall clearly indicate.

If the census is dragged to 2023, elections year, Liberians should expect nothing but a bogus exercise that would lack technical and professional ingredients to make it credible and reliable for future use.

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