2024 Census Delayed by Incomplete Data Collector Payments

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By: Alieu Ceesay 

The eagerly awaited 2024 Gambia Population and Housing Census (GPHC), set to commence on May 25, has not started as scheduled across the country. The postponement is attributed to issues with the multiple registrations of data collectors at various centers and the incomplete disbursement of training allowances to the data collectors. 

Sources near the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS) have informed TAT that officials are diligently working to rectify the irregularities as swiftly as possible.

According to sources, the 2024 Population and Housing Census is now scheduled to commence on either Wednesday or Thursday, pending the completion of payments and the assignment of enumerators to their designated enumeration areas.

This comes after Citizens and part-time employees of the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBOS) are increasingly worried about the delayed start of the 2024 population and housing census, saying it may significantly delay data collection. 

 The Gambia conducts a comprehensive census every ten years to gather crucial data on population, age distribution, housing conditions, and literacy rates. This information is indispensable for government planning, NGO activities, and policymaking. Given the decade-long preparation period, it is reasonable to expect a seamless execution. 

GBoS has faced several issues regarding data collectors’ multiple registrations at different training centers. Some data collectors have registered in more than two or three training centers, making payments very difficult for GBoS staff, who must vet the details of all trained data collectors to avoid multiple payments to individuals registered in these numerous training centers. 

Another source confided to TAT that many applicants shortlisted for the activity have also pulled out, making it complicated for GBoS to find replacements. The source added that officials are working round the clock to address these problems before rolling out the contract to data collectors trained to partake in the 2024 Population and Housing Census.

“I think some Gambians have not done justice to GBoS by registering in more than one training center, which has delayed the mode of paying the training allowances to all data collectors. However, our source revealed that GBoS officials are working round the clock to fix this problem so that no individual is paid more than once,” our source revealed.

One insider who spoke with TAT on condition of anonymity disclosed that the delay in sorting out the training allowances of the trained data collectors contributed to the delay in starting the 2024 Population and Housing Census, noting that many trained data collectors have not yet received their training allowances. 

Meanwhile, Muhammed Eliman Bah sat in his modest office, surrounded by maps and data sets. A recent University of The Gambia graduate specializing in Geographical Information Systems and Cartography, Muhammed eagerly anticipated the 2023 Population and Housing Census. 

Muhammed Eliman Bah

He hoped to contribute his expertise to the monumental data collection and processing task. Instead, he found himself increasingly disillusioned by the unfolding debacle. 

However, Eliman believes that the 2023 census is poised to be the worst in the country’s history. 

“GBoS has had more than enough time to prepare,” Eliman said, shaking his head in frustration. “Yet, the preparation has been abysmal. They had ten good years, but it feels like they started just last month.” 

According to Bah, one of the most alarming issues is the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS) decision to use a Senegalese Computer-Aided Personal Interviewing (CAPI) system. This system stores personal information for every person in The Gambia, raising significant concerns about data security and sovereignty. 

 

“The dangerous part is that GBoS uses a Senegalese CAPI,” Bah explained. “In serious countries, data is the backbone of development. Here, it’s being treated carelessly, compromising the integrity of the entire process.” 

 

Despite the significant lead time, the execution has been riddled with delays and mismanagement. The reference date for Form A, set as June 1, 2024, is already at risk because Form C has lost three critical days. These procedural lapses cast doubt on the data’s accuracy and reliability. 

 

“As a specialist, I know how crucial every single day is in data collection,” Bah emphasized. “Losing three days might not seem like much, but it can lead to massive inaccuracies in the final results.” 

Muhammed’s frustration concerns the technical failures and the institutional culture within GBoS. 

For Bah, the solution lies in restructuring GBoS to prioritize data integrity and professional management. He advocates for a transformation that ensures the institution operates transparently and efficiently, driven by qualified personnel dedicated to accurate data collection. 

As The Gambia teeters on the brink of a potentially flawed census, the voices of concerned professionals like Muhammed Eliman Bah are more crucial than ever. Their expertise and dedication to accurate data collection could spell the difference between a decade of informed development and one marred by misinformed policies.

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