“No Money, No Work”: Enumerators Boycott Census; Cite Lack of Trust in LISGIS
MONROVIA — Several citizens recruited by the Liberia Institute for Statistic and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) to serve as enumerators and supervisors for the ongoing National Population and Housing Census have boycotted the early start of the exercise.
The census, which has suffered series of setbacks, was scheduled for today, November 11.
But the smooth commencement of the exercise was again marred with multiple issues, prompting young Liberians who were trained to abandon their assigned tasks and responsibilities.
They cited the lack of trust in authorities of LISGIS to pay their previous sitting fees and the remaining amount following the completion of the work.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Frontpage Africa on the Bushrod Island, outside Monrovia, Michael Paul, disclosed that since the climax of their training at the D. Twe Memorial School High School in the Borough of New Kru Town more than a week ago, authorities of LISGIS are yet to pay their “sitting fee.”
He claimed that the sitting fee which was previously announced to be US$10 per day by their facilitators, was unjustifiably reduced to US$5 per day.
He said since then, the amount of US$50, which was promised to be sent via mobile money service by LISGIS, has not been settled.
“To be clear to what is unfolding, those from LISGIS misinformed the President. There is no enumerator on the field and so, today is not a census day. We were trained for 10 days but up to now we have not gotten a dime for our sitting fees. The Presidenr has announced today as a national holiday but nobody on the field. We will not go on the field until we received our money.”
“We have taken two tests since this census process and the last one was this Monday. Though we have not received our sitting fees, we saw listing this morning of our assigned areas.”
Experiencing red eyes from checking account
Authorities of LISGIS late yesterday evening announced the payment of fees to those recruited for the census via mobile money service.
The amount of L$3800 (US$25) was being sent to some of those recruited.
However, many others have claimed that they have not receive the amount.
Paul expressed skepticism that LISGIS will pay those who they recruited for the census.
“Just the little amount for sitting fee of US$50, we can’t receive it, how will they pay the money that we will be working for after the census?”
Enumerators and Supervisors are expected to be paid between US$250 and US$300 respectively following the climax of the entire census.
Paul claimed that some of those who did not make it to the final listing after the training and aptitude test were the ones being paid by LISGIS last night.
“Minister Samuel Tweah said people were receiving sitting fees. I can show you my mobile money account; it’s zero balance. Since 2AM last night, I been searching my mobile money account; See my eyes how its red . There’s no money there. I have not receive a dime. Why is the government (LISGIS) treating us like this?”
He admonished those who will ignored these issues and continue to serve as enumerators or supervisors to also abandon the exercise because, they will not be justly compensated by the government after the entire process.
“Even those people who will force it to work, they will not receive their money, but people who are out and they are not working will receive money because there are too many mistakes. “
Paul attributed the current situation to the alleged failure of the government, through LISGIS to put in place system and measures to curb or prevent the growing wave of hullabaloo surrounding the census.
He said the agency should have hired the services of a reputable institution to aid in processes that would lead to the successful conduct of the national exercise.
He pointed out that those who attended the training initially were different from the others who sat for the aptitude test, turning the entire process into a “who know you” exercise.
“The first listing that came up, there were no center. They took me from St. Paul Bridge and sent me to as far as Morrison Farm. They said where we were trained we should go back there. But different names were on the listing.”
Paul noted that the entire process was also a herculean task for the facilitators who conducted the training.
He said the situation compelled others to return to the facilities were they were trained to form part of the exercise.
He observed that thousands of struggling and less fortunate Liberians are going the extra mile by paying huge sum of money or crediting from others just to form part of the process.
“The money I spent running behind this census just for my name to come out and to sustain myself and family is too much now. And up to now, there is no understanding. How will we go to work when the people at LISGIS can’t live up to their promise”, an elderly woman who spoke on condition of anonymity stated.
Paul pointed out that the lack of proper training for enumerators to log onto the tablets being used for the census is another reason why they have abandoned the process.
” To where I was trained, even some of those who they sent as facilitators do not even know how to train other people. Some people who names appear on the final listing don’t even know how to work. There are too many mistakes and so, LISGIS should do the honorable thing.
Hold them accountable
Paul further called on President George Manneh Weah to play an oversight role by bringing to book authorities of LISGIS if the outcome of the census is not satisfactory.
“If people boycott this census, the head of census should be responsible for that because there is no system.”
He wondered while authorities of LISGIS failed to plan for the census properly eventhough the exercise has been postponed countless number of times.
“According to our constitution, census is after every 10 years. How can LISGIS tell us that since 2008, they were unable to put in place a system and today we are seeing that there is no enumerators on the field.”
Paul predicted that the outcome of the census will not be realistic due to the manner and form in which “those who supposed to do the actual work” are being maltreated by government.
For his part, Augustine Tamba expressed high level of frustration over the failure of the government to recognize their efforts by paying their just benefits.
He said about 25% of their total payment was promised to be given by LISGIS prior to the commencement of the census.
“For me, I am a supervisor and I will not be going in the field. But I cannot go to my center now until I get my money. We are ready to do the job if they give our money.”
Tamba accused the government of being insensitive to the plights of its citizens in the midst of the growing wave of economic hardship in the nation.
“We were told that we were going to receive our money before today. I checked my mobile money account and there is nothing there. Since today we have also been checking on LISGIS website. They should know that we have families and it’s difficult especially with the hardship that is currently in the country. You can’t be working for three weeks without pay.”
He said though many persons may not trend the path of staging violent protests due to the manner and form they are being treated, the failure of government to settle their arrears continue to provoke them to anger.
He maintained that citizens will exercise their constitutional rights to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to pay their “sitting fees.”
Tamba maintained that the government has failed to recogize the significance of the census as evidenced by its failure to put in place the proper mechanisms to guarantee the smooth conduct of the process.
“I love my country and that’s why I applied for the position and I succeeded. I met all of the requirements given by the government but up to now, money has not been given. And we can’t go in the field without scratch card or money in our pockets.We agree that census begins today but who are those that are going to do the enumeration for our people?”
“The information we received is that some of those who were trained for five days were the ones being paid. But I have not received nothing up to now.”
No materials assigned
As supervisor, Tamba claimed that the government has failed to officially assign or turn over to him the materials needed for the conduct of the census.
“Up to now, my center at D. Twe High School is closed. All those who are under me as supervisor have been calling me, and I been telling them were they are assigned. But nobody has turned out because we have not received any money.”
He said facilitators are also mute on whether or not they will receive their money today.
Tamba termed the entire situation as “shameful” to not only the government, but the entire country.
He observed that the opportunity accorded young people to serve in leadership positions are being allegedly abused at LISGIS by some higher-ups.
“Samuel Tweah, the Minister of Finance is the main problem in this country. He talks more than he works. If President Weah continues to sit down and allow him to use him or be telling him that all is well in this country, he should wait for 2023. We are packaging a surprise package for them already “, a young woman who only identified herself as Mercy stated.
The ongoing census in Liberia is long overdued. The last census was conducted in the post conflict nation in 2008 during the administration of ex Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
It has suffered multiple setbacks, ranging from reported acts of rampant corruption, lack of funding, poor planning over the time frame, methods, training of enumerators, among others.
Enumerator Trainings were conducted across the country with the government, through LISGIS failing to provide food, water and sitting fee for those who attended.
Government’s action prompted series of protests in some parts of the country.
Those protests obstructed the movement of motorists and pedestrians and jeopardised normal working academic and other activities.
The realistic outcome of the ongoing census remains threatened due to the unsettled issues raised by the aggrieved enumerators and supervisors, many of whom have already abandoned the process.
Though the day commemorating the start of the census was declared a national holiday by President Weah, hundreds of citizens were seen at market places going about their normal routines or services.
Inadequate awareness on the census, including the dishing out of huge sum of money to one Aloysius Howe by authorities of LISGIS are issues being raised by the locals.
Minister Tweah recently reported that the amount of LD160,000 was paid to Howe, who is one of his closed allies, for a social media public relations service on the census.
The worth for taxpayers monies and donor funds will not be actualized if steps are not taken promptly to address the lackadaisical manner and form in which the census is being conducted.
While President George Manneh Weah is away from the country, the peace and stability of Liberia also remain threaten if measures are not taken immediately to guarantee the payment of fees to the several thousands young Liberians who have been recruited to serve as enumerators and supervisors for the census.
Already, owners of local businesses who claimed that they were hired by LISGIS to provide catering and other services for the trainings of the enumerators across the country, are also planning to stage series of protests in their respective regions.
They claimed that the government surreptitiously cancelled their contracts just few days to the start of the trainings
They further claimed to have spent huge sum of monies towards prefinancing the contracts and want the government to pay for the losses they have accrued.