Liberia: Senior LISGIS Officials Sacked for ‘Negligence, Unseriousness’

 Acting Director General of the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), Wilmot Smith, and the Deputy Director General for Statistics and Data Processing, Alex M. Williams.  

... The duo dismissal comes as the ongoing census kick-off to a shaky start, leading to public criticism against LISGIS leadership. 

President George Manneh Weah has sacked with immediate effect the Acting Director General of the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), Wilmot Smith, and the Deputy Director General for Statistics and Data Processing, Alex M. Williams.

According to the President's Communication, Smith, and Williams were dismissed “for administrative reasons.” The press statement, issued on Monday, stated that the two Deputy Director Generals were dismissed  for  “Negligence and Unseriousness.”

In the press release, the President urged all those holding positions of public trust to act with diligence and seriousness in the discharge of their duties. Both men are ordered to turn over all properties belonging to the institution in their possession.  

The duo dismissal comes as the ongoing census kick-off to a shaky start, leading to public criticism against LISGIS leadership.  With the new technology adopted for the conduct of the current 2022 census, the process has however been marked by serious failures and challenges, which has slowed the ongoing exercise.

 Since 2008, Liberia has been unable to conduct another round of census, despite the fact that one is planned every 10 years under the Liberian Constitution of 1986. This census is also projected to produce new constituencies in the run-up to the Liberian general and presidential elections in 2023. And the first in many years. 

According to the United Nations Population Division, censuses are important national undertakings to assess the true size of a nation’s population, its growth rate and distribution, the education levels, and determine other social-economic development indicators.

The country’s most recent census registered a total count of 3.5 million. In addition to the 2008 census, three national censuses have been conducted beginning in 1962 (1.1m), 1974 (1.5m), and 1984 (2.1m) respectively. The country, therefore, has reasonable experience in conducting censuses. 

Meanwhile, Weah has designated the LISGIS Deputy Director General for Administration, Lawrence George, to act as Director General while Prof. Francis Wreh is on a leave of absence. 

The President's decision to have fired the two LISGIS  bosses may have been triggered by a verbal outburst and tussle on OK FM on Thursday over the conduct of the National Housing and Population Census.

During the radio station’s morning program, LISGIS Acting Boss, Smith, via mobile phone, encouraged citizens to stay at home and be counted by LISGIS enumerators. Smith said all was set for the team at LISGIS to begin the conduct of the census as announced by the President through a proclamation.

He added that while there have been a series of challenges confronting LISGIS, those challenges were minor and were taken care of, including the deployment of supervisors and enumerators across the country.

However, reacting to Smith’s claims, Williams dismissed the assertions of Boss and alleged that the entire process was marred by corruption and gross incompetence, which he claimed was undermining the conduct of the census.

Meanwhile, it may be recalled, since March, Williams has raised an alarm of census money having been withdrawn and misappropriated. 

However,  LISGIS, Director General Francis Wreh, who is on leave of absence, had refuted Williams’ allegations as a mere campaign intended to derail the image of the institution. He, however, maintained that there is no corruption scandal at LISGIS and assured the public that the census is irreversible and that 21,000 pieces of tablets, power banks, and other accessories for the success of the census are already in-country. 

George, who is now the Acting Director General, also denied the allegation of misappropriation of funds and said Williams was delusional.

Also,. Smith denied Williams’ claim of misappropriation, maintaining that LISGIS is free from corruption and that UNFPA recently concluded the Harmonized Approach to Cash Transfers audit, which was performed by BDO LLP. However, he failed to disclose the audit recommendations. 

“The audit report proved zero traces of corruption,” Smith said. “Government, through LISGIS, has completed the contribution of US$3.7M into the Census Basket fund managed by UNFPA.”