Liberia: LIGIS Boss Backtracks on Comments that US$1 Million Given to UNFPA; Says It’s a “Slip of Tongue”

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MONROVIA – Prof. Francis Wreh, Director General of the Liberia Institute of Statistic and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) has told the Senate that his earlier comments about transferring US$1 million to UNFPA for the conduct of population census was a “slip of tongue.”

The LISGIS Director General comments comes in the wake of a FrontPageAfrica publication that revealed that contrary to claim that LISGIS transferred US$1 million, only US$700,000 was given the implementing partner by LISGIS. FrontPageAfrica’s publication was based on a tipoff by a source within the UNFA.

On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the LIGIS boss reacted to the FrontPageAfrica’s under the headline “US$300k Lost in Thin Air”, terming it as “erroneous, unfounded, unsubstantiated one intended to tannish the hard-earn reputation of the institution that has striven in working with other development partners”.

He, however, further stated that his disclosure at the Senate last week was a slip of tongue.

Prof. Wreh: “By the slip of tongue, we said the US$3 million government promised to give is somewhere around 0.15 of the total cost of the census, but it’s actually 15%. We also stated that US$1 million was transferred. The actual money that was transferred to UNFPA was US$700k and the balance US$300k which was given in Liberian dollars equivalent was deposited in our census account because the UNFPA said they don’t accept Liberian dollars. The amount in the tone of LD$ 48million is being deposited in our Census account for census operation.”

Professor Wreh’s reappearance on Tuesday was a mandate from the Senate’s Plenary for him to reappear with the Finance Minister Samuel Tweah to explain reasons for request to delay the census beyond its scheduled date.

At his earlier Senate appearance, Mr. Wreh said the government promised his entity US$3 million of which US$1 million was given in partial fulfilment of the agreement between the government and the UNFPA for the conduct of the delayed population census.

Article 39 States: “The Legislature shall cause a census of the Republic to be undertaken every ten years.”

A census was last conducted in 2008, in keeping with Article 39. A new census should have been conducted in 2018, but was postponed by a joint resolution of the Legislature due to economic constraints.

Recently, the Plenary of the Liberian Senate mandated its Committee on Autonomous Commissions and Agencies to advice the August body on a request from the President of Liberia, George M. Weah seeking approval for the third postponement of the conduct of National Census which was slated for March 2021.

The communication from President Weah to the Senate which was read on Thursday, June 3, 2021 indicates: “During the 2020, I requested a joint resolution of the Legislature, mandating the Executive Branch of the government to conduct a National Census by further extending the 2018 Census from December 8, 2019 to March 8, 2021, which was granted. However, on March 3, 2021, I received a communication from the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-information Services (LISGIS), the institution clothed with the constitutional mandate to conduct the National population and Housing Census of the Republic of Liberia informing me that there exists a need for further extension to conduct the census at a specified date preferably March 20, 2022”.

The President further noted that LISGIS has informed him that staff that were trained from February to March 2020 to conduct the geographic planning (GP) which is a precursor to census enumeration, were not deployed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 that also halted so many things worldwide, and affected the census activities, including ordering of logistics internationally, while supply chains, transportation, and some factories disrupted.

President Weah: “LISGIS believes that the preferable date of March 20, 2022 will afford them ample time to conduct a nationwide Geographic Planning (GP) for a period of at most 10 months. The GP will delineate boundaries of newly created cities, clans, districts and or boroughs etc., across the Country and update the Country’s administrative database.

The President stressed that based on LIGIS request, the GP will provide information of the number of enumeration areas across the Country that will serve as the basis upon which enumerators will be recruited for the main census enumeration,

“The preferable date will also provide sufficient time for the conduct of a pilot census and other activities and to inform on the need for improvement or recalibration of the methods and tools to be used for the main census enumeration,” President Weah said.

He also acknowledged that government attaches great importance to the conduct of the Census, noting that data collected will inform the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evolution of the government’s developmental agenda.

“In consideration of the aforementioned, I kindly request a joint resolution of the Legislature, mandating the Executive Branch of government to conduct a National Census by further extending the 2018 Census from March 8, 2021 to March 20, 2022.” President Weah concluded

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