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Opinions of Sunday, 24 October 2010

Columnist: Arthur, Gifty

Gov't Statistician Runs For Cover

Gifty Arthur

In spite of the huge shortcomings and allegations of underhand dealings that
have hit the ongoing US$50 million census, officials of the Ghana
Statistical Services (GSS) continue to pat themselves in the back, claiming
that the exercise has rather been encouraging.

At press conference last Tuesday, Dr. Grace Bediako, the Government
Statistician cleverly avoided nagging issues, including huge conflict of
interests that have plagued the census and caused its near collapse with
calls that she should be sacked for causing financial loss to the state.

The carrier bags she has imported from China for the census are still on the
high seas, although the Census is almost over. There are reports that GSS
had to call in head potters (Kayayei) from various markets in Accra, to wash
the bags used in the 2000 census for use by the enumerators.

Mrs. Bediako did not address reports that her outfit deliberately created an
artificial shortage in the number of Census Questionnaires made available
for the exercise to create an avenue for their handpicked companies to also
print some of the question papers.

Dr. Bediako also did not address the late award of the contract to the
printer, Compuprint,13 days to the start of the census- when the printer was
given a mobilizations fee, why her outfit had to halt the printing process
for two days, thus leaving the regions without census questionnaires.

Although September 26, 2010 was long announced as the census date, The
Herald’s information was that the tender was opened on August 18, 2010, with
the contract awarded only on September 7, 2010 but without the final version
of the Census questionnaire.

On September 8, 2010 when the final version of the questionnaire was
submitted, the printer, Compuprint, owned Carl Ernest Vanderpuye, had to
wait for additional five working days on the Ghana Statistical Service, to
get clearance to commence printing but with an order to do so within a
month.

Carrier bags to be used by the enumerators are still on the high seas
although the census is said to be almost over. They were ordered from China,
against government’s directive that all procurements on the census should be
done locally.

Insiders reveal that the bags would be stored and used in the census, which
is ten years away-2010

A software meant to capture the census data and purchased at a whopping one
million pounds sterling is also said to be in the UK, yet to arrive,
although it was long dolled to a consultant, Mr. Yaw Antwi-Adjei, to supply.
He is reported not to have bided for the contract.

There is even dispute about the real price of the software. Market players
described the amount as too astronomical.

The same Mr. Antwi-Adjei who owns Info Builders Ghana Limited, has been
engaged at the Ghana Statistical Services as a consultant on the 2010
census. His appointment has raised many eyebrows as a result of his reported
interest in some of the procurement contracts.

The Herald learnt that there was a popular call at the Ghana Statistical
Service for the 2010 census to be postponed due to ill- preparation, but the
Government Statistician who has widely been described as “dull and
sluggish,” was said to have bulldozed her way through to have census held in
the face of huge difficulties.

The Government Statistician, after the news conference (the usual Meet The
Press), was confronted by The Herald with some of the questions but she
declined to talk, saying that she wants to address them after the census.
She claimed the questions are very destructive and so would want to answer
them after the census.

Dr. Bediako, however, disclosed that the final report of the on-going
Population and Housing Census (PHC) will be ready in 2012 whilst a
provisional report will be out early next year.

At the press conference, she revealed that so far, 90% of the entire
population has been enumerated in the exercise.

According to her, whilst most of the regions have recorded between 92-98%,
and are near completion, the Grater-Accra Region has recorded 85%.

The 2010 Population and Housing Census which has suffered several setbacks
ranging from logistical constraints to boundary disputes, and she emphasized
that the exercise will continue till everybody in the country is counted to
make the exercise reliable.

She said most of the enumerators have completed their assigned enumeration
areas, adding that the few enumeration areas that are yet to be completed
included areas that are currently inaccessible.

These are going to be taken care of by the current mopping up exercise to
have everybody counted.

To make the mopping up exercise very effective and successful, Dr. Bediako
said teams have been constituted in each district to respond to all types of
requests. Also, enumerators within the same supervisory areas have been
teamed up with others who are working within large enumeration areas.

Furthermore, she said teams have been assigned to areas which have been
identified as problem areas.

The Government Statistician pleaded with the public, especially those in
areas where inhabitants have resisted the enumeration process because of
boundary disputes or ethnic issues, to bear with the officials and see the
need to be counted.

She said such disputes could be settled after the Population and Housing
Census and so entreated them to identify themselves with the exercise since
it is for a good course.

The public was further entreated to report about areas which may not have
been covered, or of their own households since such information received
from the public are noted and worked on.

However, Dr. Bediako was not able to tell the media as to how much money the
nation is spending on the exercise since the entire programme has been
extended indefinitely.