By Alieu Kondoh

The National Election Watch (NEW) has reiterated its doubt over the commencement of the proposed mid-term census which has been scheduled for April 2021.

This comes after Statistics Sierra Leone announced the postponement of the mid-term census from December 2020 to April 2021.

NEW maintained that the postponement of the mid-term census underscores the demerits of the exercise as earlier recognized and published by them regarding inadequate planning, timeliness, involvement of stakeholders and relevance.

They referenced that a presidential proclamation for the conduct of a mid-term population and Housing Census was made by President Bio and slated for 4TH December, 2020 noting that the following reasons were advanced for the conduct of the first ever mid-term census in Sierra Leone; to plan properly, to ensure equitable distribution of resources fostering economic growth and development. NEW responded to the proclamation by issuing a press statement on July 29th 2020 stating its position and concern thereof.

NEW is concerned with the prioritization of this process now at a time when Covid-19 measures should be occupying the whole planning machinery and resources spent in that direction, questions of non-inclusivity of all voices of the people (political groups, civil society, etc) as befitting democratic governance processes were abound and this announcement falls within that context, ever going trends of government actions that keep casting shadows of doubts on critical governance events and processes as it sets a negative tone to future works,” they stated.

That they engaged the leadership of Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL) in a formal meeting to reaffirm their position, but their concerns did not receive any answer during that engagement.

They also noted that there is no Government Policy Framework to serve as a basis for the conduct of the Mid-Term Census such as the New Direction Manifesto, the mid-term National Development Plan, 2020 Supplementary Budget or a strategic plan for Statistics Sierra Leone.

They pointed out that the outcome of the Mid-Term Census if held in April 2021 will not be available for public use till 2022 when the country will be holding Local Council Elections and General Elections in 2023 and that the outcome of this census will not add any value to the development planning as espoused in the proclamation, recognizing that service delivery should be prioritized, noting that clarity is needed on the required funding for the Mid-Term Census.