Sierra Leone’s information powerhouse, Stats SL has again become the hub of attention for development and donor partners under the auspices of Professor Osman Sankoh, current Statistician General and Chief Executive Officer.
Stats SL, an all-important institution was being plunged into a big mess, and thus, emitted fatigue from donors almost, a reason why at the tail end of management of the preceding era, financial obligations could not be timely honoured to local contractors and service providers. But an insider says business is no longer as usual under the New Direction Government.
Mallam O, as he is affectionately called, has demonstrated practical commitment to the elevation of Stats SL for the common good of Sierra Leone with his propounded ‘bongology’ being the guiding principle to landing on targets in his administrative strides. Those who interact with him say he embodies national enthusiasm with an undiluted loyalty to raise the bar of her native land in a hurry, but amid efficiency. His down to earth lifestyle and mania to help his peers and students to achieve their goals are exemplary for other Sierra Leoneans to emulate.
It is said that Mallam O’s display of competence and excellence clearly came to head during a technical committee meeting to review preliminary poverty figures generated by the Sierra Leone Integrated House Survey (SLIHS) where a team from the World Bank, Oxford, including those of 10 MDAs and some NGOs, started to determine that Stats SL was again growing importance in the generation of national official statistics. Subsequently, Stats SL was quick to bag the top proactive disclosure of information compliance award (Gold) for being the only MDA to proactively disclose all information as stipulated in the Right to Access Information Act of 2013 and also to have fulfilled all 22 disclosure benchmarks well in time.
Then in 2019, a message came in from the Director of United Nations Statistics Division/DESA, Stefan Schweinfest, electing Mallam O as Sierra Leone Statistician General to serve on the United Nations Statistical Commission. The United Nations Statistical Commission was established in 1947, and it’s the highest body of the global statistical system. It brings together the Chief Statisticians from member states from around the world, and it’s the highest decision making body for international statistical activities especially the setting of statistical standards, the development of concepts and methods and their implementation at national and international levels.
The correspondence dated 14th May 2019, states: “I would like to bring to your attention the election of Sierra Leone as a new member of the United Nations Statistical Commission. As you may know the Economic and Social Council held its Coordination and meeting on 7 May 2019 and filled the vacancies on the Statistical Commission. Sierra Leone was one of the newly elected countries. Your membership term is for a four-year period beginning 1 January 2020. Please accept my warmest congratulations.”
“From your previous participation in the Commission sessions as an observer, you are aware that we post all relevant information on the Commission website at http://unstats.in.org/unsd/statcom/commission.htm. If you have any specific questions, related to your membership, please do not hesitate to contact us.”
In conclusion, Stefan Schweinfest states: “We are certainly looking forward to working with you at your office on our common challenge to further develop the global statistical system.”
It was also during this time or thereabout when the Mallam O administration grabbed to its advantage a whopping $18,000,000 grant from the World Bank to fund a host of statistical activities over the next 5 years, transform Stats SL building into a multi-floor modern office complex, make data collection more efficient, and strengthen analysis and visualization. With this grant, research field sites for a comprehensive health and epidemiological surveillance system to be used to assess human capital development would have been also established, and the national statistical system strengthened to involve universities, schools, MDAs, civil society organizations and NGOs in the drive for credible data for national development.
It is said that to be innocent is to be not guilty, but to be virtuous is to overcome our evil feelings and intentions. It is the edge and temper of the blade that make a good sword, not the richness of the scabbard; and so it is not money or possessions that make man considerable, but his virtue. It is undeniable that the love of country produces good manners, and the less we satisfy our individual passions, the more we become virtuous. Those who have not risen to the levels of virtuousness and patriotism are not likely to rise to higher levels.
True to the foregoing, Mallam O, who always attaches official probity and the care for workers as some of the hallmarks of his ‘bongoism’ ideology, has exhibited a virtue and great love for the wellbeing of his native land that many people lack in. First to be heard in history, he honorably returned a per-diem to be re-deposited into the Consolidate Funds after accomplishing his task before the stipulated period, as well as honoring three of his former workers retiring from duties at 60. The three retirees were given a pomp farewell with certificates and plaques awarded for meritorious service.
Apart from all this and the countless visits made to Stats SL by numerous MDAs of the Sierra Leone Government for information sharing and partnership memoranda of understanding over the period, on 6th February, 2020, Stats SL hosted a high-powered delegation from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) from the United Kingdom that was in the country on a four-day working visit.
Official sources confirmed that the UK ONS came to Sierra Leone sequel to more than a yearlong relentless engagement with them by Mallam O, who capitalized on the need for cooperation and teamwork by the two of a kind as the main strategy.
During its stay in Sierra Leone, the delegation reportedly held talks with the management cadre of Stats SL to understand the work of the institution in order to identify areas where and how the UK Office of National Statistics’ could fit in. The delegation further did an assessment, and at the end, got a broader understanding of not just the difficulties faced by Stats SL in generating official and credible statistics, but also its priorities, challenges and future plans. This visit leaves Sierra Leoneans with great hope and expectation that the country will in due course, benefit immensely from the Statistics Office of the world’s most powerful nation.
Meanwhile, as recent as early this month, the bongo Professor sat on the 51st Session United Nations Statistical Commission held in New York from 3rd to 6th March, 2020, in honour of the correspondence by the Director of United Nations Statistics Division/DESA of 14th May 2019. This year’s Session discussed reports by the Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDG), the High Level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as a report of the Friends of the Chair group on the future of Economic Statistics, and a report by the Bureau on a more coordinated and coherent structure and functions of groups operating under the auspices of the Statistical Commission, among many other things.
According to Stats SL Communications and Public Relations Division, on Monday 2nd March 2020, a high level forum focusing on the concept of data stewardship and the changing role of National Statistical Offices and Chief Statisticians was also organized and in both of these sessions, Stats SL was proficiently represented and made meaningful contributions.
“We are happy with the strides we have taken to revive and turn Stats SL into one of the beacons of Central Statistics Offices in Africa”, Professor Osman Sankoh is quoted as musing, and concluded: “We know that we still have some way to go but we are happy as a leadership with the tremendous efforts we have made in converting the institution into a dependable one that will be enviable for producing credible data and we are here to showcase Sierra Leone and its statistical competencies to the whole World.”
The Stats SL PR Division suggests Sierra Leone’s sitting on the Commission will open unexplored doors for the use Official Statistics not only in Sierra Leone but in the entire African continent. It is also hoped that this tenure will position Stats SL into a winner Central Statistical Office that will be first-rate in the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of accurate, clear, relevant, timely and high quality statistical information on social, health, demographic, economic and financial activities to serve the needs of users whilst also guiding government and the general public to make informed decisions.
It was at this 51st Session of the United Nations Statistics Commission Mallam O was unanimously elected as the Rapporteur for a 4 year term (2020-2023). He will now be responsible for the reports of the Commission’s Sessions during the period under review.
Mallam O said, “I feel great and blessed for the opportunity but the country is more important! I must therefore thank the Sierra Leone’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations which pushed through the nomination for Sierra Leone to be elected based on its conviction that we have competent staff at Stats SL to represent the country. My Management, Council and I will Interact more closely with national statistics offices of other countries to identify best practices in the diverse areas of our work, see what we can learn but also help those who are behind Stats SL because we are also good in certain areas.”
Meanwhile, the World Bank is expected to sign a grant of $30,000,000 (thirty million dollar) to Stats SL for more development packages to be rolled out by the Statistician General, whose obsession to boom Sierra Leone with boons seems ever full of go.